Paul Levy, who elucidated the Native American’s notion of “wetiko” as a soul sickness among those who would conquer them and Mother Earth herself, sends the same message, this time invoking Jung, during what seems to be humanity’s final hour, when “archetypal evil, which lies hidden within the dark side of the human psyche,” surges relentlessly to the surface.
And how does one discover his or her own shadow? By observation, an inner commitment to observing the self in action. By waking up in the present moment, over and over again, noticing ourselves thinking, speaking, relating, acting.
“Can you step back from your own mind and thus understand all things? Giving birth and nourishing, having without possessing, acting with no expectations, leading and not trying to control: this is the supreme virtue.” — Lao Tzu, ca. 2500 years ago.
I personally discovered this awareness technique, of learning how to open space within the self, so that I may witness my own “monkey mind,” while reading a book about Gurdjieff by Ouspensky, back in my mid-20s. He talked about the practice of “self-remembering.” I decided to try it out. Would it help to relieve my continuous horrific stress?
The practice: Whatever I am doing or thinking, make it a habit to wake up, NOW! As in: “Aha! I am brushing my teeth. . . . while looking in the mirror . . . and grimacing! ” Or: “Wow! Geez! Now I am hating my father again, obsessing on what he did to me way back then . . .” Or: “I just realized I am walking along the street and the birds are singing and I am so preoccupied with my thoughts that I do not hear them!” On and on. So much to discover when we wake up, moment by moment, to simply notice the movie we have been playing — directing and starring in — since we incarnated here on planet Earth.
And once we wake up? The world is born anew, blooms into continuous surprise. The usual polarities no longer rule. We live larger than that, accepting and integrating both sides of any polarity rather than needing to crush one or the other.
In Green Acres Permaculture Village, we view shadow work as the foundation of living together with others. Starting with the shadow within the self, which arises when we feel anxious, out of sorts, conflicted. Widening to include the shadow between the self and another — which arises in any interpersonal “conflict” (what am I projecting here?). Widening further to the shadow within the group (who is functioning as scapegoat?). Widening even further, to the shadow between the group and the neighborhood — on and on, always noticing: where am I personally projecting an unconscious part of myself onto another — or onto the whole world? What does that part within me look like. When did it begin? How can I accept and integrate it?
A personal example: way back in the 1980s, I saw myself as a “peace activist,” working frantically to prevent the placement of Reagan’s MX “peacekeeper” missile in Wyoming. I was the lonely hero, traveling the state as well as states nearby, speaking with passion to local groups and invariably stirring up trouble. Why did people not realize that what I was saying was true? That what I was demanding was utterly necessary if humanity is to survive the insane doctrine known as MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction)? Why did people recoil in my presence?
At some point, after many months of subtle and noisy altercations with, not just my audiences, but with other peace activists! — a sudden realization poured through: “Oh my god! I am a VIOLENT PEACE ACTIVIST.” The awareness of this glaring contradiction between what I preached and what I practiced slammed into me like a freight train. Overnight, I stopped missionary work, moved into a tiny yurt across from the Tetons, and stared into the fire for four months, encountering memories, dancing in the flames of my own mental and emotional violence. All this, I began to realize, started way way back. In fact, I could not remember a time before both my terror of war and the nuclear blast inside me did not loom like a ticking bomb.
Peace on Earth? Let it begin with me.
Ever since then, I have personally viewed shadow work, or: the taking back of unconscious projections, as possibly the most important practice we can cultivate if we wish to create peace on earth.
Paul Levy is right. The current upsurge of extremely toxic shadows that have hidden for centuries within humanity’s collective unconscious — what Levy has brought into public awareness as “wetiko” — mirrors the upsurge of the shadow within each of our own lives. Rather than blaming anything on the outside for a world gone wrong, let each of us work, here, at home, precisely within the self, to notice, accept, and integrate our own shadow equally as continually and dynamically balancing with our light.
After all, in this material 3D world, every light throws a shadow!
And the stronger the light, the stronger the shadow!
Let us honor and integrate both shadow and light, both good and evil, equally, within ourselves. Let us become whole. Let us rebirth the world.