“A single event can awaken within us a stranger totally unknown to us. To live is to be slowly born.” -- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
I used to think living a shadow existence only applied to my work.
It extends to our whole life.
As I pondered in yesterday’s post, too often we’re controlled by our egoic tendencies which seek an outward path towards self-actualisation, whereas to awaken to our higher Self (...this isn’t something you pursue -- in case you’re wondering), we have to step out of our shadow life.
For many people (make that the majority) their early childhood, education and success-messaging manifests in having to prove their worth in the workplace, aspire to a happy family life and keep up with the Joneses. Of course, some people eschew the notion of success ‘dynamics’ but that doesn’t mean they’re not (still) controlled by their egoic consciousness that measures their version of success by their non-conformity.
None of this makes sense if you’re immersed in the daily grind where you very often feel you’ve no time to think, let alone pursue a voyage of self-discovery. But as someone who thought success would guarantee happiness, I can tell you that, in the end, you’ll never find peace unless you undertake deep, purposeful shadow work.
Me being me, I’d like to offer a programme of awakening but it never works like that. All you end up doing is supplanting one egoic delusion for another. Indeed, what I’m trying to shine a light on isn’t something that you can practice, drill, rehearse but soul work. Oh sure, things like meditation, contemplation and self-enquiry can open a window to another world but more likely when you’re ready you’ll find your mind is no longer looking for answers. Instead, you’ll come to a place of peace where everything just is. This doesn’t mean you walk around in some delirious haze with an odd-looking smile, but instead there’s a connection with nothing...and everything.
In my case, it started with my hospitalisation, reading a book, meditation, listening to a few spiritual talks, but in the end these were no more than primers to the real event -- collapsing into a vast space where there was nothing to disturb my mind. To be clear, these moments are only partial -- they may last only a few seconds or a day -- but they exist in their full glory.
Only time will tell whether this is just another period of seeking, but in going deeper with my study, writing and self-enquiry, I feel that the path will only keep leading me further into shadow work.
If you want to know how this applies to the real world of work or otherwise, then my honest answer is, I’m not entirely sure. Sure meditation might be flavour of the month now, but from my vantage point it appears a faux mechanism for productivity. Likewise the ‘change-your-mind’ credo. What I’m talking about goes much deeper, and whether and to what extent any organisation is prepared to embrace a regime of shadow work -- not to allow you to run away from your inner demons but to confront them -- who knows. All I know is that until we look within and understand what it means to be at one with who we really are (and part of the larger whole), I’m not sure we’ll ever find true contentment.
PS. Below is one of the best podcasts I’ve listened to in a very long time, which explores the idea of shadow work and leadership. If you’ve got the time, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.