Each stage of life brings extraordinary gifts, and learning new skills can offer a renewed sense of balance. In terms of shadow work, our most difficult passages and transitions can leave residues of trauma or displacement, and times of “triggering” as we pursue our healing journey.
There is no doubt that the complexities of modern life have contributed to these upheavals, but across the continuum of time and space, the distant past can offer modalities for us today. Beyond the distractions of today’s consumer society, the ways of our ancestors and the ancient threads of right relationship are still woven into everything we do. Teachings from indigenous elders, epigenetic memories and direct transmissions from the land continue to weave our personal mythologies into the Great Pattern.
Beginning with our hearts and minds, the first step in shadow work is to unpack what doesn’t belong to us, such as dysfunctional thoughts and behaviors that we may have absorbed from the dominant culture. Healing our inner process, and the way we respond, is a challenge, but our greatest kindness must always be toward the self!
We have been separated from the natural world. There are strict boundaries around the way we think and feel, with an emphasis on the “head” instead of the heart, and our knowledge is supposed to come from intellectual prowess. The focus on all things “cognitive” contributes to our mental and emotional trauma, as we have been taught to ignore our intuition and the incredible amount of wisdom we receive from our own bodies.
To aid us with our inner transformation, indigenous knowledge from a myriad of sources teaches us other important ways of knowing that have been left out of the equation. The Anlo-Ewe of Africa hold a somatic concept of seselelame, or wisdom “perceived through the sensations of the body,”as Kathryn Linn Geurts reveals in her book Culture and the Senses: Bodily Ways of Knowing in an African Community. A wide range of psychic, intuitive, kinesthetic, sexual, and emotional sensations and feelings are all examples of seselelame. So much of what we know about the world can be felt in the inner realms, and understood by internal knowing!
There are no boundaries between the self and nature in indigenous and pre-colonial worldviews, and this vital intra-connection is on the rise again today. We are channels for energy, and we have always been in the flow!
Sourced from the timeless and multicultural “medicine wheel” or “four directions” framework, assigning the human experience to the four quarters is an ancient foundation we can embrace as a lifelong practice. In terms of clearing trauma, distress and alienation, it is empowering to know that balance, or right relationship, can be achieved by understanding the emotional, mental, physical and spiritual aspects of self. Shifting or weaving through the four quadrants is not an exact discipline — sometimes circumstances are beyond our control — and yet it is comforting to know that other potentials and possibilities exist.
When we find ourselves dwelling too long in emotional territory, we can use our critical thinking skills and sort out the variables, and when we are over-intellectualizing, we can pause for bodily regimes and pleasures. With time and skill, we may find that some of our thoughts and feelings may not be mental or emotional disturbances at all, but promptings from our own inner mystic, or the spiritual potential for myth, magic and meaning we all share.
Our higher selves guide our heart, our heart is informed by our mind, and vice versa, and the natural sensate wisdom of our bodies is an unfailing guide.
Reclaiming and practicing ancient ways of knowing hold great promise to clear mental and emotional trauma, relinquish outmoded habits, and seek empowerment, right relationship, holistic patterns and sacred balance. And yet, it is simplistic to suggest we can renounce ourselves completely as modern people! We are moving both forward to the future and back to the Old Ways, as we reclaim our inner life, the wisdom of the body, the magical and the mysterious, and the Wheel of Life once again.