Screw "Shadow" Work. Only Do Joy
A New Moon Ritual for October 6th 2021, the Hunter's Moon
“Just as light brightens darkness, discovering inner fulfillment can eliminate any disorder or discomfort. This is truly the key to creating balance and harmony in everything you do.”
There is a trend in health and wellness right now that promotes ‘shadow’ work as a path to self-discovery and healing. Many teachers and guides are promoting a focus on past capital T trauma. The thinking is that we must face our ‘shadow’ side in order to confront it and become free. Even people whom I have a lot of respect for in the Tarot community will identify themselves as ‘trauma survivors’. I think this is a big mistake. If trauma really did lead to greater fulfillment of joy, I promise I would know it, and I bet you would too. Promoting ‘shadow work’ as a roadmap to joy is not only wrong-headed, it’s dangerous. Here's why. It is the rare teacher, therapist, or coach who can lead another person away from the gravitational pull that negative self-identification can take on. The ego is too powerful. There is a formula to “shadow work”. It begins by first identifying everything that is “wrong”. That includes all your negative beliefs, obstacles, and unsuccessful patterns. That invitation can go all the way back to childhood, the womb, even inherited ancestral trauma. The next step is to vividly imagine the awful outcomes that would play out if you didn’t “combat” these “wrongs”. Finally, the processor will ask you to step back and imagine the opposite future version of yourself, your “perfect” self.
I hope you can see how very appealing this type of exercise is to the ego, and why it doesn’t work. When we use negativity or the “shadow” to try and identify “light” we are looking in the wrong place! We end up with comparisons of ourselves that are black or white, worthless or perfect. What's worse, people are paying for the privilege! In contrast to this pop-psychology "shadow work", this month's moon manifestation is all about light work! Under the New Moon, there is no light reflected from the Sun, and so there are no Moon shadows. You get to bring the light, and in so doing, you’ll get to shake off any shadows your brilliance cast. We can harness the energy of the Full Moon both the day before and after its peak, but with the New Moon, we don’t want to begin until we are actually in the New Moon cycle. That should be easy since this New Moon will begin at 4:05 AM PST on the 6th. While this ritual is designed specifically to support the intention of cultivating happiness, you can set any additional intentions you have for this lunar cycle.
To Begin: On the night of the 6th (or the 7th), get yourself a regular ruled (lined) paper with a margin, a blue pen, a red pen, and a blade (letter opener or a knife). Carve out a quiet private space and dedicate yourself to this exercise. It should take about 30 minutes. Light a candle and take a few deep breaths to get centered. If you have a meditation practice to quiet the thinking mind, this is the time. If not, that is no problem. Begin to notice how powerful the light of the candle is when you focus your attention at the center of the flame. It may throw shadows in the room, but you are only looking at the light. Then, title your paper with the words: ONLY DO JOY Begin with your blue pen to write in the present tense what “only doing joy” would look like- your utopian dream. This can be for the month, the year, yourself, your family, even the world. For example, “I am healthy and strong. I feel beautiful and loved. I am safe. I have everything I need in abundance.” It will not take long before the voice of the critic comes to play. That’s okay too, that is what the margins are for. You see, limiting or negative “shadow” beliefs are most easily distinguished when there is light. Put those negative thoughts in the margin. In my margin, I might say for example, “As a diabetic, I'll never really be healthy and strong. I can’t run for any long distance and whatever abs I have are hidden under my belly fat. If I could lose 10 lbs, I would be more beautiful, and then I might be desired, and then I could get love, but being a diabetic makes it so much harder to have a restrictive calorie diet.” Yikes! I can tell you that my critic’s voice did not need any coaxing, though I’m shy to share it! You do not need to, nor should you, share what your critic has to say with anyone. You are only writing it down to let it out. Every time that you let out the shadow, take a look at your candle again. That is where the energy of love is. Keep coming back to the main page and keep writing down your vision for joy. When you’ve written as much joy and happiness that you can imagine on the page, as well as dumped out all the critic’s reasons why joy isn’t possible in the margin, grab your red pen. Go down the list in the margin and ask each item if it is true. If it is not, cross it out. Go down your list of joys and ask if it is already true. If it is, put a capital T for True (not trauma!) over it. When I am honest with myself, I can say that everything in my joy example is true! Finally, fold your margin, and with your blade slice it away from the page. You can then (safely!) burn those “shadow” thoughts with the light from your candle. Keep your joy worksheet somewhere that you can look at it every day this month, but don’t share it. When we are manifesting our dreams, the last thing that we need is the input of other people’s critics.
Between the New Moon and the Full Moon, your job is to become a detective, relentlessly on the search for clues of joy. Hypervigilance is the mind’s attempt to rationalize uncertainty, and when that becomes how we organize our thoughts and our lives, the experience of happiness loses its value. It feels like an accident when we notice it if we notice it at all. For the next two weeks, do whatever you can to become hypervigilant in noticing when you are experiencing joy and happiness. Observe the scene as you would our gardener from the 7 of Pentacles observing only the healthiest of pumpkins. When your critic comes out to play, inviting you with great creative stories that say, "If you don't focus on what is wrong, then you'll be doomed", rewatch in your mind the candle flame take that thought away. Keep reviewing your Only Do Joy sheet between the New and the Full Moon and please tell me how it goes! I am sending you love and light until next time.