Practical rituals to engage the shadow. Part two.
Diving into the darkness of one’s soul is some of the most complicated and integral parts of spirituality. Where you can meet the closeted shadow, the inner child, the suppressed dreamer, and the wild animal. All who lurk under the surface. Where suddenly, you’re doing more than just battling and holding off demons. You’re befriending and forgiving them. You’re extending a hand to all the bits and pieces of yourself that have been forgotten, stifled, or protected. It’s the process of unleashing the truth within you in favor of freedom and accessing the inner power that comes with being human by nature.
Episode 9: How to do shadow work? Practical rituals to engage the shadow. Part two.
Episode 9: How to do shadow work? Practical rituals to engage the shadow. Part two.
An excerpt from part one…
Okay, so I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “shadow work” so many times on the internet, but no one has ever had the courtesy to drop a definition. So, that’s what I’m going to do for you! This definition is one I’ve created myself, based on what I’ve learned over the years and how I do my own shadow work. I first learned this term from Jessi Huntenburg. She is an amazing resource on tarot and using divination in your shadow work.
Shadow Work: The inner work of facing your demons. Asking yourself why you are the way you are, and then having the courage to actively work against detrimental behaviors and beliefs while also embracing the hidden or shamed parts of yourself. The spiritual and psychological work of dealing with your shit.
One of the most effective forms of shadow work is to tackle demons. This is usually inner work that battles learned, but unproductive and harmful, behavior or beliefs. Most of the time this behavior was learned sometime during our past (including our ancestral past) as a means of survival. But now it’s detrimental to our own or others’ well being.
Some examples of demons we face everyday that manifest as harmful habits or behaviors:
A lot of times, we aren’t even aware that these demons are manifesting themselves into our lives because we are learning them during childhood or as teenagers. And the same demon can manifest itself from different situations, multiplying and compounding itself. Essentially validating its use for survival.
It isn’t until we finally realize that the demon is no longer useful for our survival and instead a toxic behavior that we can make a change. And the good news is that’s never too late to pursue change and self-development.
In order to exorcise the demons out of ourselves, we must face them head on. And we must do more than battle. We also have to come to terms with how they once served us, accept that we grew and housed them, and then let them go. And it’s still not as simple as that. It takes active work everyday to release the demon because essentially, we’re breaking a bad habit.
So what can you do to begin this piece of shadow work? Here is a practical ritual to get you started.
A waning moon is the perfect time to dive deep within the shadows of your soul and come face to face with your demons. Use this simple meditative ritual to help you exorcise the demon. You may want to revisit the demon every few days during the waning moon period until you can begin to break your harmful habit in a mundane way. Before you begin this ritual, you need to already know what demon you wish to exorcise. If you aren’t aware of any, I suggest starting with any limiting beliefs or internal biases you may have.
What to do:
Cast a circle or sacred space as according to your practice. Light your candle and begin meditating, using the flame as a source of focus. Begin to say the name of your demon over and over until you feel like you have a good grasp of the demon in your mind. It’s best to create a persona for said demon.
Close your eyes at this point and begin to envision yourself sitting across the table from said demon. Feel free to take time to explore how the demon had manifested itself in your life if that feels safe to do so. It’s not necessary in exorcising the demon, but it may be incredibly helpful to hold it off in the long run.
Eventually, shake hands with the demon and thank them for their service. Feel true gratitude in your life for how they have helped you for the demon is a creation of your own. It was crafted by your younger self to survive.
Now the time has come to fire your demon. Yes, you are the boss of your life, and your demon is no longer serving it. This is the hardest part.
The demon may lash out, you may feel fear of what could happen once they’re gone, or your younger self may show up to convince you to let them stay.
What you need:
Push past these conflicts. Instead, chant “Thank you, you’re fired” over and over again. Feel the flame of the candle swell up in your stomach as you begin to banish the demon.
Once you feel the energy within you rising to the surface—the demon being pushed out—literally begin collecting saliva in your mouth. Then SPIT! into the empty jar. Spit the demon out. Hastily, but not panicky, pack the dirt and other compost into the jar to seal the demon in. This literally grounds the demon into the jar, diffusing and neutralizing their energy. This is a literal interpretation of the energetic ritual. Ground yourself after the ritual by releasing excess energy into the floor or earth via your feet, knees, hands or forehead. Then journal your experience.
Feel free to repeat this ritual everyday leading up to the New Moon, packing more dirt into the jar until it’s full. During this time you should also be journaling and confronting how the demon shows up in your everyday life. Then, on the New Moon, dump out the jar or bury the contents at a crossroads.
On the other side of the shadow work coin is looking deep within and finding the parts of you that were hidden away in the past to protect or stifle them. Parts that you’ve been told are not acceptable. That won’t fit in. Or that are too much or too fragile for real life. Again, this comes from a place of survival. There was a time when allowing these pieces of yourself out would not do well for your situation at the time. I call these shadows, because they are not demons that manifest and are toxic, but instead genuine and natural parts of ourselves that we push down due to shame or fear.
Some examples of shadows:
At the time you were first developing or coming to terms with these pieces of yourself, you learned that it was unsafe to show them in some way (either through shame or fear), and so you hid them away. Learning to bring them back into light and accept them for who they are is incredible shadow work.
This side of shadow work may seem lighter or easier to do than exorcising the demons. But honestly, a lot of trauma surrounds this side of the work, especially if you still feel shame or fear around these pieces of yourself. You’ll know it’s time to bring them back into the light when keeping them hidden becomes counterproductive to your survival and wellness.
Bringing our shadows back out into the daylight can be a lot of work. It involves addressing that the shadow does indeed exist, accepting that shadow, and then parenting them on how to live daily life as they are. It’s about embracing and encouraging this part of you, while simultaneously resisting the backlash of shame or fear. There is a lot of navigating trauma as well.
This work isn’t easy, but this practical ritual is a good place to start.
As the light of the waxing moon slowly illuminates all that lies beneath, so can you bring to the surface your inner shadows, inviting them to come upward and into the light. This is another meditative ritual designed to help you get to know your inner shadows. It is up to you to learn how to coax them into becoming a part of your identity, but this ritual will get the process started. Before you begin this ritual, you need to already know the shadow that you want to embrace. If you aren’t sure, embracing your inner child is a good place to start.
What to do:
Cast a circle or sacred space as according to your practice. Holding the pillow or stuffed animal for comfort, begin meditating. The comfort item is used to help keep you grounded while you begin to dive into your shadows, as there is the potential to navigate past trauma. If you have access to your heart space, now is the time to enter.
Once you are in your heart space or a comfortable place of calm in your meditative state, invite the shadow to present itself. If this is your inner child, let the inner child present itself in whatever age and gender that feels most sincere to that part of yourself. If this part of yourself never had a physical form, visualize one for them (example: pick the animal that can represent your inner “wild animal” self the best).
Envision your current self and the shadow sitting down across from each other at a table. Invite them to share your beverage, and physically set the empty cup across from where you are at, as if you were setting a place for them. In your visualization, image it resting in their hands, still empty.
Even if this isn’t your first meeting with this part of yourself, it’s important to introduce yourself.
What you need:
Use this time to talk with your shadow side about why you felt the need to protect or stifle them. Then, apologize, and physically fill their cup with half of your drink. This represents an offering of acceptance. Feel free to drink from your cup casually at this point.
Now this is a stopping point. If your shadow side is having trouble forgiving you (aka, if you’re having trouble forgiving yourself), it’s important to let them have time to process it. This is a very weird way to approach this kind of work, but I have found that the disassociation can help you see the shame and fear objectively and how it has drastically affected your life. Again, let the comfort item and beverage be anchor points to the physical realm to help keep you grounded and from spiraling. If it’s time to stop and let your shadow side process and rest, ground yourself by releasing excess energy into the floor or earth via your feet, knees, hands or forehead. Then journal your experience.
Work on this meditation everyday during the waxing moon period leading up to the Full Moon. If it does take you multiple days, keep their cup somewhere safe, still filled, and keep refilling it everyday until they forgive you. Also journal your process, including how you continue to hide your shadow side in everyday life.
Once you’ve reached forgiveness during your meditation, hug your comfort item tight, like you’re hugging that piece of yourself. And visualize pressing their form into yours until it becomes one body. Drink your entire cup, symbolizing how their form fuels yours. Thank them for their time with you, and leave their cup an offering to them and your mutual ancestors. Later, dump the contents into a crossroads.
One thing you may have noticed in both rituals was the journaling process of how the demons or shadows show up in everyday life. This is important because even if you do the inner work of forgiving and accepting your darkest sides, if you don’t make real, tangible changes in the mundane side of life, your outer world will essentially be unchanged.
Making real outer change looks like calling yourself out on toxic things you say or do, creating habit trackers to practice breaking bad habits (like biting your nails or making reckless purchasing decisions), actively opposing the pressures that caused you shame in the first place, or asking your friends or family for accountability and support. These are the changes that will allow you to move forward in the healing process that shadow work begins. It is the mundane work that will be where you see the most progress.
Well, you jump right in! Remember, shadow work is best done in a safe space and time, dealing with topics that you feel equipped to tackle without professional help. The best place to start is always with journaling. Learning about your demons and shadows, who they are and how they affect you is the first step before you can even confront or console them.
And don’t forget: self-care after the shadow work is just as important. Shadow work is exhausting, so be sure to give yourself the time, space and permission to relax, breathe, release, and ride the waves of emotion that come with this deep inner work. It is not a simple task, but it will begin the true healing process for yourself.
Good luck! Please reach out to let me know how you’re doing or if you need help. <3 If you’d like to receive a little love in your inbox every Friday, you can sign up for my love notes newsletter. That’s a good way to get some support without reaching out directly.
Journal prompt: In what ways do my demons show up in my mundane, everyday life? If I didn’t feel fear or shame, who would I be?
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