“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”
– Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon
At a recent workshop I was teaching, I mentioned that I think doing some psychological “shadow” work can propel you along the Andean path toward conscious evolution much faster.
If we are striving as paqos to be the grandest human beings, then we have to address all parts of ourselves, the conscious and unconscious. We both address our “wounds” and empower our Inka Seed by doing energy work, but it seems to go faster when we couple this energy process with psychological or emotional work.
What is the shadow? Broadly speaking, it is that part of you that drives your beingness below the level of your conscious awareness. It is everything within that you will not accept or acknowledge—or that you outright reject—about yourself. But it is also a repository for all of your unexamined and unlived gifts and talents.
Jung identifies many layers of consciousness, one of them being the ego. We are most familiar with the ego—the sense of “I.” Jung calls the ego a “field” of consciousness that encompasses all the “personal aspects of consciousness.” It is your experienced self, your empirical sense of self. The ego can both express the contents of self or repress them.
Two other fields of consciousness are the shadow and persona. As Murray Stein writes in Jung’s Map of the Soul, “the shadow is the image of ourselves that slides along behind us as we walk toward the light. The persona, its opposite, is named after the Roman term for an actor’s mask. It the face we wear to meet the social world around us.”
Your ego is usually deaf, dumb, and blind to the shadow, although your ego uses the shadow. As Stein says, “In adapting and coping with the world , the ego, quite unwittingly, employs the shadow to carry out the unsavory operations that it could not perform without falling into moral conflict.”
The shadow, in one sense, is protective. It saves you from yourself. Your moral and ethical conflicts, your self-condemnations and self-reprisals, your fears and trepidations, and so much more of your “unlovable” self gets banished to your shadow so you don’t have to deal with it and can get on negotiating the terrain of your daily life. But even though your shadow is not perceived or experienced directly by your ego, the content of the shadow often finds its way out into the light of day through unexpected behavior and words. Like most of us, you may sometimes be surprised—even shocked—how you act and what you say. What did that come from? you wonder, referring to something embarrassing or hurtful you did or said. It came from your shadow self.
What you won’t or can’t own within yourself often gets projected out onto others. You may see in others, truly or falsely, what you cannot own within yourself. Any blanket prejudice—against a race, religion, gender, whatever—is usually rooted in your shadow. So are other kinds of behaviors. Can’t stand a blowhard who only talks about himself? Maybe you have that same egotistical quality but are too ashamed to own it. Can’t seem to ever make an appointment on time? Maybe there is a “self” inside that gets its satisfaction from deliberately keeping people waiting. Have a reckless sense of courage and daring? Maybe that is a shadow compensation (a gift, in one way) from a “self” within who is cowering in fear.
In so many ways, that which you call your “reality” is shaped by the projections of your shadow. You can see, then, how important shadow work is to your endeavor as a paqo. One of your goals as a paqo is to be qaway—to see reality as it really is. If you are not exploring your shadow self, you cannot easily realize that goal.
Your shadow also is a bestower of talents and skills. As Debbie Ford, author of The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, writes, despite the truth that our shadow is the repository of what we deny about ourselves, our shadow holds “the essence of who we are.” It holds “our most precious gifts.” When we can bring these rejected or denied aspects of ourselves into the light, we can be transformed.
But this transformation can be a messy process. Jung says it can be a “suffering and a passion that implicate the whole person.” From the point of view of a paqo, it can be both a mystical and shamanic journey or rite of passage: mystical in that exploring the secret aspects of the self can be a liminal journey, at once both disorienting and illuminating; shamanic in that it can feel like a dismemberment of the self or even a death and then a reassembling or resurrection. The payoff is that this work can, in the words of Debbie Ford, “give us the blessing of our entire sel[f].”
As a paqo, you want to live as a whole human being. To do that you must accumulate personal power, realizing that personal power is about accessing more of the self. It is an inward driven pursuit of cleansing the hucha from your poq’po to be more of who you really are. Additionally, accumulating personal power is about being in more perfect ayni, which is an outward driven pursuit. It is always about relating to “other,” whether that other is the cosmos of living energy or a person or group. In this way, doing your shadow work can illuminate a series of core dyads: the inner and the outer, the individual and the collective, the human and the supernatural. These are yanantin energies, the complement of the differences. When you bring harmony to a yanantin relationship, you can better achieve japu, the union of the two into something greater than the sum of the parts. This is the achievement of the fourth level of the paqo path, that of transcending boundaries without erasing them.
In his book High Country: The Solo Seeker’s Guide to a Real Life, depth psychologist David M. Alderman quotes Cal Jung about the value of fostering union with the inner and outer self—the conscious and unconscious selves. As a paqo, you can think of this as a yanantin pursuit that reaches japu. “Through the union of the opposites within us, we are able to discover our true selves beyond what our conscious awareness alone could ever make of us. . . . Through the conscientious union of the opposites within us, the true self emerges spontaneously into the conscious light of day; the conscious ego-based ‘I’ is literally transcended, and in its place arises a real, self-renewing, living being.”
This post cannot teach you the various kinds of shadow work, but you can explore those yourself, as there are plenty of accessible books and I am developing a master class that combines shadow work with the Andean path. However, I hope that this post can help you realize the value of undertaking this work as part of your Andean path, for the bottom line is that you have to walk through your own shadowlands to reach the landscapes of light. . .