Why you ask? There’s so much evidence for the benefits – hardcore scientific evidence.
True, I say and I’m a proponent – don’t get me wrong.
I’m not saying mindfulness practices aren’t important – of course they are – essential even. I’m saying that alone, they aren’t enough. Here’s why.
Long before you were able to take up a mindfulness practice, you developed a personality.
And that personality, in the first let’s say 7 years of your life, was deeply impressed by what your caretakers, felt, thought, modeled, liked and disliked.
Did they approve of risk taking? Did they frown on assertiveness preferring “good manners”?
Did they reward savings and question spending? How did they handle clinginess or expressions of anger or desire or sibling rivalry?
Because as a very young person, you needed ( not just wanted, but needed) to feel safe and loved, and you were so vulnerable, you developed traits and behaviors that were approved of. You shunted other parts of yourself into “the shadow”. It was intelligent. It made you feel secure.
These disowned parts could be either “good” or “bad” – didn’t matter. Some got splintered off because having them triggered survival issues – fear of abandonment, fear of losing nourishment, support, safety, approval.
For example, if your parents got upset when you showed generosity and said something like, “You’ll be taken advantage of. You have to watch out for other people. Be very careful.” The quality of generosity in yourself may have gone underground only to live on in your shadow.
Maybe your parents really approved of self-sufficiency and so you tried to be strong, responsible, take the initiative. You may have sent the part of you that needed support, undercover. And when it surfaces in your adult life now, like your generosity, you start feeling really uncomfortable, unsafe- as though your survival depends on staying strong though you know all people need support at one time or another.
The problem is your mind can’t make sense of the discomfort, anxiety, fear because they don’t live in the mind. They live in your body.
It makes sense to your mind that of course, everyone has needs, why not you? Yet your body still connects to the young person’s sense of insecurity when you step away from the approval and love of your Mommy (or whoever cared for you).
And as you grow up, your culture adds to your shadow material. It too approves of some traits and behaviors and represses others. More suffering in twisting to “fit in” and ‘succeed” by the culture’s definition.
And because this shadow operates unconsciously, mindfulness isn’t enough. Mindfulness alone won’t surface your shadow material. You have to set out on the hero’s journey to uncovered and reclaim those parts of you that you lost along the way. The hero’s journey, after facing great obstacles is always a coming home to yourself…the true you, the whole you..
I call it a hero’s journey because as Robert Johnson said, “The process of civilization involves suppressing into our shadow side those traits and patterns that are not culturally acceptable. This sorting process is quite arbitrary. Individualism, for instance, is a great virtue in some societies and the greatest sin in others. But this sorting process is two-edged — some of the pure gold of our personalities is relegated to the shadow because it can find no place in the great leveling process that is culture. Curiously, people resist the noble aspects of their shadow more strenuously than they hide the dark sides.
It takes a concerted effort, true courage to live into your wholeness, fulfillment and authenticity and you can’t do it alone.
Come join with like-minded others in Transforming Your Shadow – a 3 week virtual event where thought leaders and masters provide wisdom, tools and support for this journey home to yourself.
At no charge, you can join in the conversation at www.transformingyourshadow.com