Alchemy of Self-Refinement: The ‘Shadow Self’, Suppression, Attachments & The Middle Way…
I was with the sacred San Pedro cactus walking through the woods in meditation when I began thinking about my journey of self-discovery and the process of transcending disharmony (the alchemical refinement of being). A thought came up about the ‘Shadow Self’ or, what I would define as ‘Disharmonious aspects of being’.
Through the years I have identified aspects of my personality and emotional tendencies which are disharmonious, and have worked to refine them out through disciplines which catalyze neuron-renetworking. To me, the process of evolving ones self, and striving for betterment is a strong drive; I enjoy the discipline and the struggle to transcend habitual tendencies (physical, mental & emotional).
The ‘Shadow Self’ seems to come up a lot in discussions recently. Many ‘New-Agers’ seems to have the idea in mind that we should Accept the shadow self. Accept our disharmony, and even embrace it….This never quite sat right with me. Though until this moment with cactus guidance I wasn’t aware of the proper course of action in dealing with ones shadows.
To accept or to deny both seem to be extremes. The cactus showed me a Middle Way of harmony between the two, which very much resonates with me. In life it always seems that a composite of contrasts is where harmony lies, this principle I learned from Taoism and have only come to affirm it more with each life experience.
When walking through the woods that day I saw that the tendency I always followed was to Look Away from the disharmonious aspects of my mind whenever they arose. I did this out of fear and a petty attempt at denying that these were a part of me. Looking away like this didn’t serve to help me transcend or refine the disharmony, it just brought my perception away from the experience, essentially like turning ones head and looking away from what is disturbing…is the disturbing aspect ‘gone’, or have you just looked away to create a temporary state of sensory peace?
This tactic, which I was doing by default for many years, served only to suppress those disharmonious tendencies.
The dualistic alternative to suppression seems to be the norm in many new-age circles. ‘Embracing the Shadow Self’ I hear people call it…I fear that this can be equally naive and lead to a sense of complacency. If we are apt to embrace aspects of ourselves which are disharmonious, where is the drive to refine, to strive for clarity and peace?
The Middle Way was what the cactus helped me to see that day…
Rather than to Suppress, rather than to Embrace, I was shown to simply Observe these occurrences. Through maintaining a Zen disposition, neither engaging the shadows nor fearing them, I was at the maximum potential for harmony. To alchemically refine the being requires an understanding of the ‘What’; What is it that we are refining? To understand the what, which in this case is the disharmonious shadows, we must study them, we must observe and learn.
Through suppressing it, and fearing the dark side of my perception I made little progress in truly understanding the mechanics of these patterns and also little progress in refining it out of my being. Those who choose to embrace it also will fail to refine it out, as they form an attachment to it and learn to identify with it. Attachment and Denial, dualistic poles of response; both extremes which are not balanced.
Sacred cactus showed me to take each instance where a disharmonious thought or emotion arises as a profound opportunity to better understand the patterns I was seeking to refine. Through this transformation of perception, taking a struggle which incited fear and suppression and transmuting it into a opportunity to learn and grow, I found much peace and potential.
The work to transcend these aspects will take time, but I am so grateful for this perceptual tool which was gifted to me, this insight into how to formulate the process of refining.
-Zach of Eternity