“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the bluepill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.”
– The Matrix.
How can I become more conscious? What is my shadow? What do I want? These are some things I’ve been pondering. An experience in the past week helped to shed some light.
The weather was warm and inviting and I’d planned a school holiday adventure with Joey. We were scootering from Urunga to Hungry Head where I’d have a swim, while Joey waited, before we rode back. By all appearances things were idyllic. Joey had come along without complaining and we were enjoying the ride and each other’s company. But inside I was plummeting. I felt like I’d jumped off a cliff and was free-falling. Despite being happy and connected to Joey on the surface, inside I was feeling untethered, adrift, and completely alone. And thoughts and memories reinforcing my aloneness kept coming up .. someone I wanted to be close to but felt rejected by, the aikido community I’d distanced myself from. The aloneness I’d sought most of my life was like a whirlpool sucking me into a vortex of despair.
Facing my shadow
I was facing my shadow .. the unconscious state that drives so much of our actions. The night before I had allowed myself to step into the darkness of the unknown. I had taken an action that meant choosing my desires over someone else’s.
For most of my life I’ve felt like I didn’t have any needs or desires. Around other people my way of making decisions was simply to go with what other people wanted. Since they seemed to know what they wanted and I felt indifferent it was an easy default. I was happy (or so I thought) and they were happy (or so I believed). It was a win-win. Except that it wasn’t. Because it was as though around people I ceased to exist, and I could only sense my existence when I was on my own.
So, what had triggered the state of panic that had me feel like I was plummeting to my death?
The night before I’d taken a bold action toward what I wanted, even though I ‘knew’ it would upset my mum. With my 50th birthday approaching my mum wanted to celebrate the occasion with a special family dinner. This meant a trip to Sydney and usually a stay at my mum’s place. Her home is in a great location which she makes as welcoming and accommodating as possible because she loves me staying there.
But given that it was my 50th I decided to let myself think about what I might want to do. And staying in ‘my own place’ and making this a real holiday was what I wanted to do. So I’d gone online and booked an airbnb at Bondi Beach for me and Joey for our three nights in Sydney. Instead of opting for the default and making other people happy, I’d chosen what I wanted.
Resisting the mind and choosing joy
I’d jumped despite my mind telling me that it was a waste of money and I would be causing upset. I’d jumped because this was my gift to me. This was fun for me. And consequently I felt like I was plummeting to my death. I felt alone, hopeless, untethered, lost, and like I didn’t belong in this world. I was catapulted into an existential void.
Our shadow parts are the parts of ourself we disowned or rejected (pushed into the shadow) at a young age because they did not feel safe. These are not ‘bad’ parts of ourself, but rather parts that weren’t accepted or were deemed a threat. But rejecting these parts just pushes them into our unconscious where they control us. Our shadow is a part of our ego that holds us back and limits us under the guise of keeping us safe.
I see the light
Having seen so clearly how unsafe it feels for me to have my own needs and desires, I have gained insight into my struggles around setting up my business. When I look logically at the idea of owning a business, and the fact that so many people do it and I admire and respect them for it – I can understand better why my mind has been sabotaging my efforts, telling me that I’m being selfish and indulgent and that I should go and do work for someone else. It is my shadow speaking, trying to keep me safe by telling me to reject my desires and to help someone else with theirs. Seeing how a simple action like booking accommodation could have me feel like I’d jumped off a cliff, it’s clear how powerful these shadows can be.
Breaking out of the matrix of our old beliefs and conditioning is not easy. It’s not comfortable. And it takes a strong push to take actions that don’t align with our default ways of being.
But breaking out of unconscious, automatic ways of being is part of waking up.
“Give me a child until he is 7 and I will show you the man”
Maybe the motivation, or need to wake up is stronger and more essential for some people than others. Here’s how I see it right now:
The patterns for our life are formed in our first seven years. If that time was easy and pleasant, or if you were naturally resilient and not highly sensitive, those early patterns might serve you and allow your life to flow easily. But maybe you were highly sensitive to the feelings of others, or faced chaos, an unhealthy, dangerous or destructive environment, or a family where you felt you didn’t fit in, and that the patterns you formed were out of alignment with your true self so that life feels hard and not in flow.
If you’re lucky enough that things flow easily, you might just coast along and live a pleasant enough life where nothing short of a major catastrophe could alter your trajectory.
If you’ve struggled with things not flowing so easily, with unhealthy patterns or beliefs disrupting your sense of peace, I see two options. You can live in a death-like state of low-grade misery, enduring life, perhaps with moments of peace and joy, adopting coping strategies that keep you unconscious – like denial, avoidance or addictions to numb the pain. Or you can face the pain, go into the shadows, and learn to become more conscious and alive.
The work of waking up
The following message popped up in an email today and I feel like it forms a nice summation what I’ve just shared:
“This work, the work of waking up more deeply and growing up more fully, is a very high form of activism. Every action you take is infused with your current inner state. States of consciousness are highly contagious.” – Scott Schwenk
Red pill or blue pill. Which do you choose?
If you’re interested in exploring shadow work, Teal Swan has a lot of free videos on the topic. Here is one: Diving Deep (Shadow Work)
The quote at the end came from within a breathwork course/journey I am currently doing on the Commune platform called Abundant Joy