Finding our way in the darkness is a path that must be chosen and requires the light of consciousness. Joseph Campbell, the great mythologist, calls this the hero’s journey where, those who choose to depart the habit of their lives, enter the “belly of the whale” and return to share the wisdom they have received with the world. The late poet Robert Bly calls this exiling, hunting, and retrieving the shadow. Committing to this journey does have an effect on the way in which we live. When we shine light into the darker corners of ourselves, we lighten our load in many ways. The more we explore the shadow creatively and courageously, the less dense it becomes.
When we choose to become vulnerable, we tear open the shadow to let light shine through, and, from my experience, the light does not rest once it is known. It leads us more deeply into the darkness to know it ever more fully. In shadow recovery, the journey is not linear. We spiral inward toward a deeper knowing that is first known personally and grows into a wider sense of connectedness with the world. One of my mentors, Celeste Snowber, says,“[T]o truly grow…is the capacity to grow inward, grow down, into the moss of our soul and let it become the soil for our blossoming.” This is in stark contrast to what we are seeing today in the world. Connection to the world begins with connection to self, and we cannot have connection without a willingness to be vulnerable. Relating to oneself means leaning into the mystery of one’s inner world.