shadow witness

Flowing in optimum levels of happiness: it’s what we all desire deep within.


Intent on flowing in optimum levels of happiness, we commit to flowing in optimal health.

Lasting happiness, the type of happiness we all desire: it’s outside our reach, it eludes us to the degree our health–physical, mental, emotional, spiritual–is compromised.


The practice of shadow witnessing is a core skill.

Those intent on optimizing happiness, those intent on optimizing health: they don’t fail to cultivate it through daily practice.

Those merely interested in optimizing: they miss it as they get carried along on the waves of popular trends.


Our shadow side: it’s that domain of painful, uncomfortable truths about which we un/consciously invent games to avoid facing and prevent others from seeing. Playing these games, all appears good. All appearing good, our position in the social fabric is maintained and even enhanced. The happiness we experience with these games is something like a house of cards.


Our shadow side is a vital aspect of our psycho-emotional constitution. It is a great service to learn to honor its existence and to do the right work in it. Doing the right work in it accelerates personal and collective upliftment. Doing the right work in our shadow permits the development of durable happiness that weathers great storms. Demons are stripped of their wrong ideas, and their angel wings have room to spread.

The mind is polychromatic, multi-faceted, complex, rich. Being so, it’s entirely possible and frequently the case that with respect to one experience we have different reactions on different levels of the self. Sometimes these reactions can completely oppose each other. Thus we are a walking bundle of unrecognized inner conflicts. Such a state limits our happiness.


Some examples:

Surface: in the classroom, a teacher patiently guides a pupil through a math problem with a kind smile on his face.

Shadow: Jeez, kid! this shit ain’t that hard! Come the fuck on, already…everyone else gets it!

Surface: “I read about this virtue called patience and how it benefits all beings to grow in that magnificent light. And you know what? I wholeheartedly agree.”

Shadow: I can’t believe I’m surrounded by all these idiots at work. Uckh, and this government of ours is running this country into the ground…

Surface: A gentleman boards the train every morning suit-and-tied up with a smile on his face and messages of gratitude piping through his earbuds.

Shadow: I f*cking hate this job, I should’ve followed my original plan instead of listening to them…if only I would’ve followed my real dreams and left when I had the chance…

The cop who wants to steal, the president of the thieves’ club who wants to stop stealing; the priest who secretly wants to enjoy carnal relations, the porn star who secretly wants to leave the business behind; hidden guilt at having mistreated our child on the right causing us to overindulge her on the left; etc., etc. We all have the shadow side of our being. Clinging tightly to some ego ideal, we neglect those dark fields of our psyche. Neglecting those dark fields, our minds inevitably become diseased with wrong ideas mistaken for truth. Mind becoming diseased, the body follows inevitably. Mind and body diseased, how can we have anything more than fleeting happiness? Not seeing how we’ve caused our own suffering, we blame Life. Blaming Life and not seeing the origin of problems within ourselves , the cycle of suffering continues unbroken.


A personality flaw, a persistent negative attitude that a person is aware of: this is not what’s being referred to here. Yes, this flaw, this attitude sourced in some immature view of life may cause the person to think, speak, or act in an ignorant,  “dark” way, but because s/he is aware of this inner trend there is the possibility to work on it. Bringing oneself face to face with the material in the shadow side of being happens only when one makes a concerted effort to expand awareness into this area of the psyche.


A few action items:

Recollect the reality that our minds flow in both light and dark, that there are truths about ourselves we can freely admit and truths that would cause us discomfort if brought out into the open. Recognize that our minds are complex, and it is entirely possible for us to have different levels of reaction/response to the same object.

 Reflect on events of the recent past. As your memory goes back in time from one face to another, from one interaction to another, listen for the ripples of activity that indicate the presence of something unresolved. Shine the light of awareness in that direction, radiate goodwill toward whatever that is, and give it permission to come forth in the name of upliftment.

While interacting with others, pay attention to the internal environment of your thoughts and feelings and listen to what’s unfolding below the surface. At an appropriate time, reflect on, clarify, and analyze what you’ve sensed. Have the courage and humility to face unflattering truths.

Be prepared to come into contact with raw, untamed, emotionally charged energies as you plumb the depths of your being. Recognize it to be part of our humanity. Create an appropriate lane for venting, discharging these energies from your system without hurting others.

Don’t shy away from the pangs of conscience. These uncomfortable feelings are a potentially valuable clue to locating a sick aspect of the psyche in need of light and air. Aligned with goodwill, seek to enter more deeply into that place in the name of upliftment.

 Ask in earnest: given this honesty, how can I move forward in the direction of integrity, of win-win for all involved?

Appeal to your Higher Self for guidance, remember that It is never not far away.

Undertake to self-examine with utter honesty throughout each day; develop an attitude of compassionate impartiality in engaging the less developed aspects of the psyche.

Know the white, but keep the black…

-Daodejing, chapter 28.

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