Thursday, April 5, 2012

3-2-1 Shadow Work

I've been meaning to blog for a while now about a class I took over the last few months.

One day in January I was browsing posts on a Mormon Stories group on Facebook, when I noticed a post announcing a class that intrigued me.

The description of the class was very technical, and I knew it would be over my head. But it felt like a good idea, so I emailed the instructor for more information.

The class was held at the South Valley Unitarian Universalists Society, and the topic was "integral spirituality", studying the work of Ken Wilbur on integral theory.

There were several reasons that I wanted to take the class. It would force some scheduled time once a week for Scott to take the kids while I did something for myself. Also, maybe it would help me add some spirituality to my life, which I felt I was lacking with my minimal church attendance and my struggles with reconciling a few of my changing beliefs with the LDS gospel. I hoped it would help me to figure out the right spiritual path for me and my children.

The outcomes of taking the class included making a wonderful new group of friends, attending Sunday services with the Unitarian Universalists a couple of times, realizing that there is so much I don't understand and have yet to learn about religions and spirituality and different ways of thinking about and viewing the world. It made me even less sure of the right path for me and the children, but more sure that questioning and trying to discover the right path for us, and including the children in helping decide their own paths, is the right thing to do.

The class officially ended about a month ago, but last night there was a presentation at the SLC library from the Jung Society of Utah about "shadow work," one of the things we actually discussed briefly in class one week.

We made plans to attend the evening together, meeting for dinner beforehand. We gathered at a Chinese restaurant across the street and caught up on some details of each others' lives from the past month. Of course the meal ended with a fortune cookie, and I found my fortune very fitting:

"Find a peaceful place where you can make plans for the future."

I showed it to my friends, them knowing my struggles and also considering what we had been studying and what we were about to learn more of, one of them found the fortune to be very "serendipitous". I agreed and smiled, thinking of the name of this blog which my UU friends do not know about.

Anyway, as for the workshop itself: "the shadow" represents unpleasant things in our lives or about ourselves that we push into the back of our minds.

In pairs, we went through a three step process twice, once for each person in the pair. It was enlightening.

Here's how it worked. One of us in the pair described to the other about someone that gets on our nerves (identities were concealed as needed). Then, the second partner spoke to the first, personifying the annoying individual as described, specifically the characteristics that are frustrating. During this second step, a shift tends to happen as the first partner sometimes begins to see and understand the situation better from the annoying person's point of view. The third step was the hardest but also the most amazing as the first person then had to find and describe this annoying characteristic within themselves.

After we went through the process once, the facilitator asked if we felt a bit discombobulated. And yes, I did, thinking about the fact that the things that annoy me about the person I described are also things that annoy me about myself.

We switched roles and did the process again. Afterwards the instructor asked if we felt energized, and yes, I did! It was an amazing feeling of being able to recognize the "shadow" in my mind and bring it forward to process.

The very last thing she had us do was to think again about the annoying quality we had focused on, and think about how it could actually be a positive quality rather than just an annoying one. That last step was amazing and powerful, turning weakness into strength. I'm just now seeing a parallel to one of my favorite scriptures that says that very thing.

Some days I am very overwhelmed with the decisions before me regarding a religious path to follow, especially for my children. I feel an urgency to make a decision, that the clock of my children's lives and character development is ticking.

But then moments like this one last night help me realize that it's not so urgent or important to know exactly what to do about that right now, and it is more important to find peace within myself, and with that peace, I think the correct path will eventually unfold.

Everything is okay. :)