Shadow Work: Remembering the Process
After spending an hour desperately trying to reintegrate parts of my Self that aren’t ready to be revealed, I realized that I’ve been going about this all wrong. I’ve been so determined to reach the goal that I’ve completely ignored the process. The process, learning to focus, maintaining an open and accepting mind, and taking time out for myself to meet my needs are important aspects of shadow work that I’ve neglected to appreciate. The past couple days have not revealed much in the way of repressed emotions, but they have given me the opportunity to establish a new routine, and to prioritize my needs which was why I started this little experiment in the first place. Now that I’ve shifted my focus from the goals to the process, I can appreciate what I’m doing with shadow work even if I don’t reintegrate a repressed emotion.
Today: A Long Awaited Goal Accomplished Not Just a Failed Attempt
Standing on the street, my son wailing and my daughter whining that she was so hungry her stomach hurt, I looked out at the sea of humanity threatening to consume me, my insides churning and my head pounding with frustration, I decided with a dejected sigh that the situation was FUBAR. I whipped out my phone, sent a quick text to my colleague who was hosting a party for the language program at which I work, and told him with sincere apologies after an hour of being lost in the city, I was going home. I hated giving up, but I was exhausted, my daughter was hungry, and my son’s piercing protests were making it hard for me to think, not to mention the hordes of people coming at me in all directions. It was the end to a very disappointing trip.
The day started out lukewarm, neither bad nor good. My daughter had made a new friend at her new play group and my neighbor, the person who introduced us to the play group, said she had a great time. It was my hope that we would have a good time at the party in the big city as well.
Unfortunately, that was not the case. I never found the meeting place even though I had Google Maps and two maps from my colleague. Lost in a seemingly endless ocean of people and weighed down by a backpack, a diaper bag, a baby carrier, and a very hungry six year old; I gave up and went home. It was an hour’s train ride home, and we had had a long day.
On the train, which was standing room only, I got lost in thought going over all the would haves and should haves feeling more and more irritated and upset with myself for not learning to read a map. I had worked myself into the foulest of moods, when I looked over at my daughter, who was hanging off of a bar that was bolted across a window that looked out onto the tracks. We were in the last car where the conductor’s little control center was. My first thought was to tell her to stop what she was doing and be still, but a little voice inside of me said, “Look at your daughter. See her through the eyes of someone who loves her.” So, I put aside my dark feelings about myself, and looked at my daughter.
My daughter was crouched down peering out of the window at the tracks. The sky was hazy and the sun had just gone down. I took a moment to imagine our time in the big city from the eyes of my daughter. How wondrous everything must have been. She wasn’t thinking about how lost we had been, and how late it was, and how we wouldn’t make it to the party. She was in the moment. She was on the train, hanging off a metal bar, looking at the tracks, singing her own made up tune and having the time of her life.
As I watched her doing the things that children do on a train, I realized that it didn’t matter that I did not make it to the party. Yes, it was disappointing, and yes, on Monday in the office it would be hard to hear my colleagues talk about how much fun they had, but it didn’t matter because not going to the party was in the past, and my colleagues talking about the party was an idea of the future neither of which mattered in that moment on the train.
Once I let go of the past and the future and focused on the present, I was able to appreciate my daughter swinging on the bar, and singing to herself blissfully unaware of the other passengers. I could smile and relax, and I could let go of the things of which I had no control.
Like my shadow work, I needed to focus on the process rather than the goal. I needed to be in the moment. Today’s events taught me that the art of letting go lies in my ability to stay in the moment, to be in the present, and to experience the now. I used to think focusing on anything but what happened and what was going to happen was a form of escapism, but now I see that it is just the opposite. Focusing on things of which I have no control only fuels my frustration and allows me to beat myself up by reliving my failures over and over. It may feel productive, but now I realize it is not. The only thing that is real is the present, and when I understood that I felt empowered.
May you find those moments of clarity in times of frustration and disappointment because when we are able to be in the moment we can be free of the negative thoughts that hold us back and weigh us down, we can reclaim our power and find peace of mind.