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“Do you dare love what you’ve hated all your life?”

That’s the first line in the book “Shadow Dance: liberating the power and creativity of your dark side” by David Richo. I read and did the exercises in the book during the three months I was in Kenya in 2010.

Being away from my normal routine helped me to plow through some of the more challenging bits, and though tough at times, it was rewarding. I mean, seriously, shadow work, while worthy and ultimately enriching, can be pretty ugly business.

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action cat and kit for the journey

ugly, but life-saving, business

We can’t change the world unless we change ourselves, we are after all part of the world. The negative shadow, Richo writes, contains all that we despise and reject as unworthy in ourselves. But it’s not evil. It only feels inferior because we deny it, and it then becomes destructive. Spiritual maturity helps us to weave our negative shadow into the whole of ourselves and access its creative power; and coming round full circle, we need creative and spiritual practices to do this mending work.

a creative step forward

I realise now I’ve always been a creative person and I’ve been surrounded by creative people all my life.

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we are all creative

But this lesson didn’t hit home until 2008 when, for the first time, I did the “Artist’s Way: A course in discovering and recovering your creative self”.

Meeting weekly with a group of friends we worked through the chapters. Slowly and steadily, each of us gradually fell into a different pace as we juggled our lives and work and the tasks assigned by the book. It took about a year for us all to finish. The mutual support and flexibility around the time line and chapter exercises were essential for our success. The first one done in our group did it in six months; my own journey lasted nine; and until the group disbanded, we all kept coming to  the weekly meetings and sharing our creative practices.

I began the process hoping to kick start a writing project that had been stalled (hhhmm, familiar) and was shocked and delighted to discover a pool of visual creativity within. The writing stayed stalled, but wow! It was like discovering a new room in a house where I’d always lived. I wanted to draw. And I did, and do.

But I kept this discovery to myself. I was shy to even talk about, display my drawings or show them to anyone. Then in 2010, in Kenya, at the beginning of a nonviolence campaigning course, I greeted the group and introduced myself:  “Hello, I’m didi, I live in London where I work for TTT as the nonviolence programme co-ordinator, and I’m an artist.” I slapped my hand across my mouth and said, “Oh my god, did I just call myself an artist?” I had, and I do. But wow, was that scary and a leap.

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baby steps towards change

And that was that. Another step in what was an unconscious and invisible creativity journey to something else.

Time rolled on. I did the 3 months of shadow work with Richo’s book, and later another pass through the Artist’s Way with another group of friends. I learned to meditate; I worked with a creativity tutor  to help me publish a little book about the Zapatistas; I got involved with the work at the Ecodharma Centre; and I keep on keeping on.

the blog:  act, believe, change

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the power inside

I set-up this blog in December 2012, but I didn’t actually have the heart and courage to post anything until April 2014. ¡Madre mia! What am/was I scared of? Myself and my own creative power is what Julia Cameron (the author of the Artist’s Way) would say.

two lessons from the Artist’s Way

I got a lot out of the the Artist’s Way. One thing, I’ve already mentioned but is worth repeating:  we are all creative, we have to be, or we’d be dead. Or dreadfully dull. Or both:  dead after having led a dreadfully dull life.

The other thing, and I can’t find the exact passage, but the idea was something like – a daily and mindful creative practice is a powerful and subversive act of resistance and liberation.

There’s nothing more that the “powers that be” would like than for us to not think and simply do whatever everyone else is doing. The average, normal adult armed with a box crayons, or 10 minutes writing each morning to empty the nonsense out of our heads and get down to who we really are and what we really want can be a subversive and powerful act leading on to even greater subversive and powerful acts.

Yipppeee, how exciting is that?!

Enough said. A picture speaks a thousand words, so here is the “shadow gallery I”, some of the images I  have made over the years to help me through and remind me of this important life-long work.

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personal change is the result of shadow work, generally what attracts or repels us in others is a clue about our own nature and the work we have to do

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the shadow:  c’est moi, c’est toi, c’est tout le monde

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shadow dance – may be uncomfortable or not much fun, but the point is to connect with a greater goodness beyond and within

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graduation – my shadow is part of humanity’s collective shadow, I will always have work to do, but now is the time to widen the conversation

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swing – a lot of neurotic, unhealthy behaviour stems from childhood wounds, when this hurt reappears in the present it is an opportunity to hold the pain, grieve and grow it into something new; alternatively, keep up the same unhealthy coping strategies to deal with the past and stay stuck. Richo succinctly writes “If we can mourn the past we can diminish its impact on the present”

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shadow dog – time spent with the dog is usually time in nature, both have great healing power

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Let’s dance! Shadow work is about be-friending inner demons and awakening dormant divinity within

2 thoughts on “shadow gallery I

  1. I love all of this! I started reading the Artist’s Way nearly a year ago and have stalled out over and over again. I just picked it up again this morning and thought, “Gee…I should get back to this.” And I shall.
    Like you I was mostly a writer but a couple of years back I began painting. I’m in love with art now. I adore your paintings…I’m beginning to embrace my shadows too. ❤

    • hi, ah, thanks for your comment, and what scynchroncity. if you can find some people to do the artist’s way with i recommend it. i don’t think i could have consistently show up each week without the support of my group. also, in our case, the flexibility for each to move through at her own pace was important, and we’d discussed that at the beginning. all wanting to do it, but knowing and fearing life would get in the way. but our mutual support overcame that. Best of luck! It is a good process, i’m thinking of doing it again in fact.

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