Practice & Ritual

River of Shadows

This is a journal entry I wrote back in Spring of 2016; my journey has since continued, and over that time I have learned to respect and love this sacred river as an integral piece of my spiritual practice.

I have spent a lot of time alone in my own mind over the last ten months. I recognize that, in the past, I had the habit of making sure that I spent very little time alone, most likely to avoid going so deep within myself. This was never a conscious decision, but a decision all the same. Before all of my children were of school age, I had an easy and completely valid excuse. After that, I had a job, which I made sure to use as a replacement excuse. Sure, I had days off, but I didn’t use them effectively. I failed to dig much deeper than the surface of my well being, and so I was able to find solace in little more than a hot bath. More often, though, I would be sure to never allow myself to stay alone for long. I would take a walk to the mall, or make plans with friends, or otherwise distract myself. That was when I lived in a place surrounded by people I knew, and within walking distance of any number of retail outlets to appease my discomfort with silence.

But now the game has changed. I don’t have the luxury of distraction anymore. I am alone for the majority of each day through the week, and although I love the quiet, it has become just as exhausting as the heavily booked schedule I used to keep. I learned quickly that when you spend large amounts of time in solitude, you inevitably begin to face the gateways of your conscious awareness, journeying deeper and deeper until you reach spaces akin to the dark, cold water in the middle of an unfamiliar river with only the moon lighting the way; at first, there’s exhilaration, then you are overcome with a feeling of uneasiness as you realize your own vulnerability, afraid to open your eyes for fear of what you may find to be swimming alongside you.

When you make the commitment to work with your shadow on such a level, I feel that you are unlocking your own personal Pandora’s Box. Memories and emotions that you had long forgotten will present themselves with enough strength to take you back in time. Trauma from which you had convinced yourself you had recovered ages ago will take you to your knees. Forgotten pain that you had locked in a dungeon in the back of your mind will escape and seek you out with a vengeance. You may find yourself sitting as judge and jury, scrutinizing past decisions, reliving shame and sorrow as if you had made them yesterday. Unpacking chests full of guilt and humiliation, inspecting each one until you remember every detail. Turning the pages of imaginary photo albums, remembering family and friends who no longer exist in your physical life, separated either by distance or death. Recounting every missed opportunity, and each unanswered question that you never allowed to escape from your lips.

Not only will your own actions be revisited, but you will also scrutinize your relationships under a figurative microscope, learning more about the people in your life than you may want to know. Your feelings toward some of them may even change. You will see people who surround you in a new light, and be forced to face your true perception of them, with neither ego nor infatuation clouding your vision.

These are the shadows that cry for love. The weight that we hold within our Spirit, denying ourselves the ability to rise above. Poisons that we have voluntarily injected into our Soul, by means of unforgiveness, anger, resentment and judgement. The usual tools of smudging, meditation, connecting and grounding have helped to keep me centered as I move through this time of self-awareness and realization, but they are only comparable to bandages when it comes to healing wounds that have festered, unchecked, for so long.

I am learning that there is no ten-second cure for healing at this level– I can not build a bridge over this river. The only option is to dive in, head first, and embrace the unknown creatures that reside there. They may not be beautiful, but they are of my own creation, and as such, deserve my acceptance. Only by giving love to each and every one can I expect them to carry me to the sunnier banks on the other side of the River of Shadows.

Once you have seen and felt these raw awakenings, as painful as they may seem, they can never again be forgotten. A greater understanding of your own values, needs and tolerance levels will make you acutely aware of what you will and will not allow in your life, and it will be easier to find the spark of your inner fire, with which to enforce your newly discovered boundaries. You will have no choice but to become your authentic self, because you will no longer fit inside the confines of the shell from which you have just emerged. At that moment, your life will change, because you, yourself, have been transformed from within.

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