The Healing Shadow

“Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.” ~ Carl Sandburg

“Shadow is a colour as light is, but less brilliant; light and shadow are only the relation of two tones.” ~ Paul Cezanne

“Every man casts a shadow; not his body only, but his imperfectly mingled spirit. This is his grief. Let him turn which way he will, it falls opposite to the sun; short at noon, long at eve. Did you never see it?” ~ Henry David Thoreau

I’ve been sitting with my shadow side lately. It’s hard not to, really, as Winter is a challenging season for me and living in the beautiful Northwest during Winter is even more difficult. With little sunlight to cast my shadow away from me, here she sits right on top of me all day, making everything feel a bit heavy, cloudy. I call it the “cling-on cloud.”

I know I am not the only one. This makes me feel comforted to not be all alone in this and yet sad that those of us who have the wintry blues must suffer so. And if we have experienced a loss as I have recently, and I know others have, the saggy feeling that accompanies the shadow’s attachment to us can make it hard to get motivated and even harder to move — something our body so desperately wants.

What is there to learn during this shadowy time for those of us who feel its raspy voice and heavy heart?  How can we honor our shadow side–the piece of us can throw huge self-loathing fits or hide the fact that we feel like we are the walking dead–and search for moments of light to get us through?

Here are some ideas I have — what are yours?

• Plant something. It doesn’t matter if it is raining out. Plant a flower for instant gratification or a bulb for anticipatory satisfaction.

• Take a walk. Yes, it’s so damn hard to move sometimes. It doesn’t feel possible some days. Tell yourself you will just walk around the block. Baby steps.

• Smell citrus essential oils. The oils from citrus fruits have sunshine energy in them! They are bright, mood boosting, and good for your immune system. Buy a bottle of grapefruit, orange, lemon, lime, mandarin orange, bergamot — whatever suits your fancy. When you feel yourself dragging, take a nice log sniff.

• Get one thing done from start to finish. This can be anything — doing laundry,  washing dishes, cleaning the kitty litter, mending your sweater, writing one page in your journal, cooking brown rice, etc. Whatever it is, commit to doing it and then see it all the way through. (Remember: you must put the clean laundry away after it has been washed and dried. This is hard. I know. You can do it. You’ll feel better than sleeping next to clean crumpled clothes this week.)

• Dance. Play some music. Give yourself five minutes, knowing you can go longer if you feel the groove. Shake it like it’s summertime.

• Draw or paint a picture of your Shadow. No specific art skills needed. Scribble if you want to. Don’t be ashamed of your shadow. Bring him/her into the light through art-making. What does this Shadow have to tell you?

• Take a Tropical Shower-Tea. (This is an adaptation from a friend who takes “Shower-Beers.”)  Brew a cup of tea, place it on the ledge in the shower. Let the warm (“tropical rain”) water soothe you and wash your worries away as you sip your tea — yes, in the shower with you!

• Drink green juice. If you don’t have a juicer, find someone who does (or purchase something at PCC or Whole Foods).  During these dark months we need chlorophyll energy. We need straight-up green life moving through us. Make it yummy. One of my favorite blends: romaine, spinach, celery, cucumber, apple, and lemon.

• Listen to bird sounds. Did you know that instinctively humans know something is wrong when we don’t hear birds singing? This instinct is engrained in us. Birds make us feel safe, at ease.  (Check out Julian Treasure’s TED Talk about this.) If you don’t have your own musical compilation of bird sounds, you might try this for starters.

And now here are a few “Shadow Side” related blog posts, I found interesting:

Are You Ready to Embrace Your Shadow? Part I by Sarah Starr

Embracing Your Shadow Sign by David Zarza

Now: time to take my own medicine. We’ll do this together, okay?  Choose one. Do it. You’ll feel good. Even for a tiny moment — and that’s something, right?

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About Courtney Putnam

I first came to healing work through art and writing. Creating collage art and poetry in particular allowed me to deeply understand the benefit of self-expression in the healing process. But, I also began to see the benefit of bodywork (manual work in the form of massage and energywork in the form of Reiki) as keys to unlocking the emotional stresses we hold in our bodies. I became a Reiki practitioner in 2002, received an MFA in Creative Writing in 2003, received my massage license in the spring of 2006, and became a Reiki Master in 2010. In my practice I bring together these three areas -- the body, the mind, and the spirit (or energy body) -- so others may experience profound and positive change in their lives.
This entry was posted in art, creativity, grief and loss, healing, inspiration, life lessons, personal growth, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Healing Shadow

  1. Juliet says:

    C, you are so talented with words. I’m looking forward to watching the TED talk about birds. (When I used to stay up all night in school, I would try to get home to nap before the birds would start to sing their morning songs. If I didn’t, I would feel exhausted by just the sound of one robin. If I managed to avoid hearing them, then I could keep going without any sleep. SO stupid, I know.)

  2. Thank you for the mention, Courtney! Blog mentions are always appreciated. Awesome recommendations for your readers too, from one Shadow lover to another. You are a blessing!

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