Artwork by Audrey Niffenegger

Try as we might, there is no inoculation against shadow. No matter how dedicated we are to piety, good health or selfless service, we cannot distance ourselves from the grit and grime of being alive. The shadow will always find a way to enter our lives, but the artfulness is in how we dance with it, the degree to which we follow its lead.

There is a powerful groupmind so pervasive that it is almost undetectable, which advocates for mass inoculation against shadow. It offers myriad activities and substances to keep us from depression, rebellion, anxiety and restlessness. It may even talk about shadow in a homeopathic way, offering us small, safe doses of theory and jargon, instilling the false confidence that we have any reign over chaos.  But until we become truly intimate with darkness, which is to say, respectful of that dangerous and powerful Mother, reverent of her compulsory initiations by wrath and grief, we are only making ourselves more susceptible to her possession.

What is it to refuse inoculation? It is to aspire to our own humanity. Stepping away from the protective, controlled, masked persona to let ourselves be seen as we are.

Just as fire can transform food from its raw form into something digestible, our darknesses are radical transformers. Instead of airbrushing our personalities, we should practice at exaggerating our blemishes, leaning into our stagnancy, wounding and discomforts. If we really want to evolve, all we have to do is be more expressly where we are.

As an Ambassadress of the Darkness, my message to embrace these darker emotions is sometimes misinterpreted as an invitation to wallow in, or let your base impulses run wild. But what I’m really talking about is getting out from under spiritual override long enough to acknowledge the validity of your feelings.  Instead of affirming whatever emotion is arising, override is when we put up resistance to conflictual feelings by telling ourselves we shouldn’t feel that way, we don’t want that pain, we should be more evolved, less emotional, stronger, etc. To inhabit our feelings is another way of saying belonging to the true breadth of our experience. Yessing your conflict doesn’t mean staying in it. It means making a compassionate encounter with your difficult feelings, until they reveal their hidden intelligence.

Excerpted from the forthcoming book on “Belonging” 2017 © Toko-pa Turner (To read more, sign up for Toko-pa’s free newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/jtRaL )

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