October 15, 2016

A Poem for Embracing our Shadows.

Sebastian Unrau/Unsplash

Suffering arrives when we hold on.

We bury pain, resentment, shame and fear, in addition to other “negative emotions,” but you see, it doesn’t go away when we do that. Just like a caged animal, these feelings long to be free.

These emotions are born of our experiences. Our experiences sometimes internalize within our psyche as self concepts—identity. We can inadvertently own other’s treatment of us, or our treatment of others, as the “truth” of ourselves. These internalized concepts then become stories we keep telling ourselves.

We become trapped in a negative self-view.

Oftentimes we tell ourselves we are unworthy, and though a real experience may be at its root, it is not our real truth. For all beings are worthy of love, forgiveness and compassion

We can take on suffering as our identity, or we can see that our negative experiences are here merely in passing—that if we try to hold onto them, much like a caged animal they will claw, chew and dig their way out of us.

This is evident in stress-related illnesses, autoimmune disease, exhaustion and more. Our bodies, as a part of the whole, can take on our suffering when the mind is unable to process and release them. No matter where they come up, the feelings we are trying to bury will come up as they demand to be felt.

How do we release that which longs to be freed? How do we not hold onto or suppress negative experiences and truths?

I believe release comes firstly from validation—recognition that the thought or feeling is actually there: “I am feeling grief.” “I am feeling anger.” “I am feeling sad.” Once we recognize the feeling as present, we can have dialogue with this feeling. We can ask it, “Why are you here?” If we are open to the answer, and we have a heart-centered perspective that doesn’t judge our inner truth, we can sit with that pain, can cry it out, paint it out, write it out—whatever is necessary that doesn’t harm us or another. Then, we can accept it, and through action-oriented release we can accept ourselves.

We cease to be fragmented when we face and love our shadow. We become open to an identity that isn’t steeped in mistruths and judgement.

If we take action and participate in the opening of the gate of our suffering, I think we also free ourselves to become more whole, better able to grow into more aligned versions of ourselves.

We cage our hearts when we hold onto pain and then judge it. What can we release today? What is waiting to be heard? How can we give that part of ourselves the attention and love it needs? How can we release our suffering?

There are no bad emotions; only neglected ones.

If we see we have the power to love ourselves deeply and passionately, light and dark both, I think we can see we are worthy of compassion. We are worthy of love. Pain is here to tell a story. Sometimes it’s a sad story, but just like in a fairy tale, we can find heroes hiding within ourselves. You see, we’re not sponges, but conduits ready to transform this suffering, with forgiveness and love.

It is in validation, feeling and releasing that we are healed.

As within, so without.


Do not fear your shadow.
It is there you hide your truth
From you.
Do not fear the darkness
It is there you find strength,
Courage to fight
The weight of its truth.

Do not fear sharing this weight.
Connection, like thread,
Sews up your wounds
That cut to the marrow
To be seen
In this truth
Heals not only you

Hold space for your own
Wounded heart
Lift it up to the heavens and wail
That they gave such a heart
As this
That feels so deep
Into inky depths
It threatens
To pull you down
And further still
Into your pain

Do not fear your pain
Welcome it home
(Rejecting it fragments your truth)
And feel

Your heart has this strength
For though it was made but tiny flesh
Its fibers weave tapestry
Over scars
A shimmering armor
Not calloused
But shining ready
With light to balance this dark

We are not singular beings.
We dance between
light and dark both
When in the depths of despair
It is this shining, armored heart that
Leads us back to peace
Darkness is the terrain
Love is the compass
Light is the wayshower
To the truth of you

Oh, that you
knew the strength
Of your own
Do not fear your shadow
Show it what it is to dance
With a being of light—
That being is you.


Author: Angel Marie Russell

Image: Sebastian Unrau/Unsplash

Editor: Toby Israel


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