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Screw "Shadow" Work. Only Do Joy

Updated: Feb 20, 2023

A Ritual for the Full Hunter's Moon in Aries

“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.”

-Deepak Chopra

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 and in the month of October, there are all sorts of 'underworld journey' challenges and spreads. No doubt you've encountered some guru or blogger that has told you that- to be free from negative beliefs, we must face our ‘shadow’ side. Even people whom I have a lot of respect for in the Tarot community will identify themselves as trauma survivors or trauma-informed coaches.

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, the critic, is too cunning and 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, and 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 call bullshit. Hooey.

Any time we slip into good/bad right/wrong language, we've accepted an invitation from the critic. The critic/the ego has the beautiful intention of keeping us safe, but it doesn't know how to discern. It reports danger from oncoming traffic with the same level of risk as a new job or a third date.

In an effort to keep you safe, the ego gives zero fu*k's about the truth.

Instead of saying yes to those invites, it's far more supportive and authentic to open to our curiosity and ask, is it true? Is it true that I need to experience pain to understand joy? Is it true that the critical and harsh voice of the critic is motivating me to live authentically?

Any time we look to our negative self-beliefs, or our “shadow selves” 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.

2022 is a Lovers year, and as I've talked about, The Lovers card is always going to show up when we make wrong or other some aspect of ourselves, especially in an attempt at perfection. This year is all about offering self-love, and recognizing that you are perfect, not in spite of some part of who you are, but as a whole.

So, rather than indulging in critical and egoic 'self-improvement' and in contrast to pop-psychology 'shadow work', this month's Full Moon manifestation is all about light work!

The Full Hunter's Moon

While the inner critic is busy and loudly convincing you that fear is a great motivator and that you can easily become separated from love and connectivity, the inner mentor is quietly steadfast in its support and connection to your spirit, your purpose, your highest and best.

To help amplify the inner mentor, today I'm offering two rituals!

The first is taken directly from the work of author and coach, Tara Mohr. In her book Playing Big, she undresses the nature of the critic and then introduces the concept of an inner mentor. The second is a revisiting of the New Moon ritual I offered last October. I think they complement each other, so feel free to choose one or both!

Ritual #1: The Inner Mentor

This exercise can be done at any time, regardless of the Moon; however, if you'd like to boost the energy of this practice with October's Full Moon's power, you can plan for the 8th, 9th, and 10th.

You'll need is a quiet space, a computer or mobile device to listen to the meditation, a pen, and paper. Plan to dedicate at least 30 minutes to this practice.

Ideally, you'll be able to also view the Moon, but if it's cloudy, that's no problem. Full Moon energy acts upon us no matter where we are.

1) For this exercise, we'll be listening to this meditation from Tara Mohr, or if you prefer a YouTube version, you can find it here.

2) Take some notes on what you learned and saw. What was your inner mentor’s home like? What was her presence like? What did she tell you was most important about the past twenty years? What was the overall feeling in the visualization? 3) What was the response to your true name? Look it up. 4) Don’t try to pin down an interpretation. Some things you saw in the visualization might be literal depictions of the future. Some are symbols. For example, if your inner mentor lived by the sea, that might speak to her connection to nature, rather than to a literal location. Live with the imagery and words from your visualization for a while, and let their meaning emerge over time. 5) Begin to live more and more like your inner mentor. Find little ways to live as she does. Eat what she eats for dinner one day, dress as she dresses, or spend a Sunday afternoon the way she would.

On the big matters too, start to consult with her and ask, “How do you view this situation?” or “How would you handle this difficult situation?”

If the answers you hear from her don’t genuinely surprise you a little, you aren’t truly accessing her. Slow down more, breathe, and call her up in your mind’s eye again. Then ask her your question. 6). Keep your vision to yourself for a while. Whatever you discovered in the visualization is sacred. Protect it and live with it for a while. If you do choose to talk about your inner mentor with others down the line, be sure it’s with those who can meet your sharing with respect and reverence.

Ritual #2: Only Do Joy

You'll need a candle, a piece of ruled (lined) paper with a margin, a blue pen, a red pen, and a blade (a letter opener or a knife).

1) Light a candle and take a few deep breaths to get centered. Begin to notice how powerful the light of the candle is when you focus your attention on the center of the flame. It may throw shadows in the room, but you are only looking at the light.

2) 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. What would happen from the moment you awake until the moment you rest your head to sleep on an ideal day?

For example, “I wake up feeling rested. I get kisses from my dog, then I have breakfast in bed.” Before you know it, watch how the voice of the critic attempts to join. That’s okay, 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, “I don't know how to plan to feel rested when I wake up. What if I have to walk my dog in the middle of the night? If I eat breakfast in bed, I'll sabotage my morning routine and fitness goals." My critic’s voice did not need any coaxing. 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. 3) 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.

4) When you’ve written as much joy and happiness as 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! 5) 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, 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. When your critic offers up creative stories that say, "If you don't focus on what is wrong, then you'll be doomed," remember the candle flame and take that thought away.

I am sending you love and light until next time.




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