Chasing Shadows

August 30, 2008

  • the total or partial obscuring of one celestial body by another
  • the passing into the shadow of a celestial body
Merriam Webster dictionary
My dog Winston loves chasing things and spinning in circles. Whether shining a flashlight for him to follow, or casting a hand-shadow outdoors in the bright sunlight, Winston's fascination with light and shadows provides both of us with much-needed moments of reality-suspended fun! Sometimes, Winston even enjoys playing with shadows by himself. Standing with his back towards the sun, the crisp clear shadow outline of his head and ears on the lawn or patio, prove too tempting to resist! Pounce! Bark! Winston chases his own ear-shadows and amuses himself for quite awhile and in the process, demonstrates a poignant lesson.

Often, on our walk through life, we, too chase our own shadows - of who we are, or once were. Focusing outside of ourselves distracts us from attending to our true selves. Amused by our own shadow-selves, we place our value and attention on something separate from but dependent on the spirit within us, which can never be caught.

Shadow catching
Winston chases and paws at shadows hoping to make them come alive. Not sure what he hopes to catch, yet he sees the shadow- why can't he feel it? His pride at catching the dancing shape quickly turns into frustration at his inability to bite it and make it "real."

For us, catching a shadow can mean recognizing our weaknesses. Sometimes we take a look at parts of our personality as though they exist separate from us. We examine our behavior and see it happening out "there" rather than inside of us, and we wonder why we can't grasp the embodiment of our actions. Furthermore, we wonder what we're trying to catch. We watch ourselves over-eating or smoking, or drinking or complaining, as though watching a movie - fully aware of what's going on, but helpless against the light and shadows of life's silver screen. But what now? Now that we notice ourselves falling into our dark behaviors, our best option reverts back to the source of the shadow itself. Do our shadows only become real when we "bite" them, or do we wait for them to bite us?

Not me
Even though your shadow adheres to you, note that the darkness belongs to the shadow. The truth of your being operates independently of your shadow - the shadow imitates you, but exists on its own. The irony appears when you watch who you are by looking at your shadow. The shadow presents a no-frills silhouette of you, with no details. In fact, your shadow may represent a more authentic you, free from the nuances of expression, limitation or judgment.

What then, of the shadow? Attached to us, like the baggage of our past, the shadow exists instead, in the present moment. We choose to either drag it around like an unwanted reminder of our behavior, or we can lovingly bless it as a gentle scholar, showing us the truth without prejudice.

An eclipse
The "you"" you see, dancing on the ground, results from an eclipse. You moved in front of the light and all that remains of your experience lurks as darkness, mirroring that which remains behind. Hidden from the light of understanding, your shadow reminds you that getting in the way of the light of empowerment, prevents you from living a powerful life - all you have left are the empty shadows of what could be.

Notice what's really going on as you eclipse your own good. Your attitude of limitation gets between all you currently are and all possibilities. Yet, the only barrier to your good, is you! Learn to step aside and allow the potential of spirit to shine down on your foundation. And when you turn to face the light, your shadow escapes your vision and all that remains is a head-on approach to positive forces.

Standing in the Shadows
We often walk on the shady side of the street to protect us from the direct sunlight. And when we want to hide from something, we stand in the shadows. When we disappear in the darkness of our being, we can't alter how the world sees us. Even more importantly, we cease casting a shadow and no longer project ourselves into the full light of possibility.

The shadow changes only when our perspective, or location, changes along with our behavior. When you move from the protection of the darkness, into the full light, others see you directly along with the full shadows of your doubts and insecurities. Depending on where you stand in life, and what you stand for, your essence to the world changes with you.

When we gladly chase our own shadows, we get caught up in the folly of the moment and run around in circles, trying to catch the intangible part of who we are. When we deceive ourselves about catching our own shadow, we fail to understand what we caught and then wonder what to do with our weaknesses once we've embraced them. Sometimes, we deny the shadow actually belongs to us and make up stories about the separation of our dark side from what we interpret as our authentic selves. Even more astonishingly, we cause an eclipse of the goodness possible in our lives, by creating darkness altogether, making our true self and our shadow indistinguishable. But our strength arises when we move out of the shadows of denial and into the light of possibility. Only then can we change where we stand, and for what we stand, thus casting a new shadow of opportunity.

May you see your authentic shadows in the clear light of who you are!

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