the voices within: the shadow-archetype

the voices within: the shadow-archetype

by April 4, 2012

In this final week of Witness meditation discourse, we’ll talk about discoveries you will encounter as your witness or Self strengthens its capacity to stand away from the monkey chatter in your mind and observe the chaos, rather than engaging in it. Many of these conscious discoveries include familiar voices within the mind that repeat the same messages, which either cheer you on or cut you down. Once you engage these critics in dialogue, you begin the challenging journey of Yogic Self-realization. –Previous post in this series.

The Voices Within: The Shadow-archetype

 A seasoned meditator commented that when one begins to meditate, the degree and variety of negative feedback encountered often surprises the new meditator. When she directed this warning at me in my first year of meditating, I thought to myself, “Oh, I don’t think there’s much negativity in my mind.” Was I ever wrong!

 One of the top reasons for meditation is to make us aware of the internal obstacles and conflicts that fuel the mind on a continuous basis, even as we sleep. In meditation, we make those self-defeating patterns conscious; however, such recognition often startlingly disturbs us.

The most valuable knowledge for you to take from this discussion is that not all of those terribly unkind voices derive from you—the individual self or ego—but rather, from people throughout your life who may have criticized you occasionally, or possibly, and unfortunately, on a repetitive basis.

The problem is that we usually give our own voices to the negative thoughts, making them appear as negativity coming from ourselves, while simultaneously directed toward ourselves—recall the adage, “If anyone ever spoke to me like I speak to myself, I would have to kill him/her.”  Furthermore, some thoughts may be so entrenched in our thinking patterns—what yogis refer to as “vrittis”—that we have come to believe them.

 By practicing witness meditation, you gradually become aware of these disparaging voices, a consciousness that is vital on the journey to Wholeness. Referencing the psychological Hero’s journey to individuation, mythologist Joseph Campbell explains,

The hero path … where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we slay ourselves. ([1]

Thus, we must first defeat the dragon—the personal Shadow-archetype—if we hope to reach the hero—the Self within.

Jungian analyst Maria-Louise von Franz tells us that after we encounter the Shadow, a terrifying aspect of ourselves, through meditation and self-reflection, “an arduous process of self-education begins, which is described so aptly in the myth of Hercules” (302). [2] Please read that last statement very carefully—Hercules represents humankind’s strongest and bravest individual, and we must muster the same strength and courage if we are to succeed on our journey!

Throughout this series, we’ve discussed the necessity of building the psychological ego-personality before embarking on the spiritual journey of Yoga. Confronting the Shadow-archetype is generally the most arduous and frightening challenge on our path. However, we must overcome this obstacle as it prevents us from recognizing the divine aspect within ourselves and within every sentient being on Earth.

Some yogis refer to the Self as the soul, while others are more comfortable with the terminology of the enlightened self—however, whatever your choice of words may be, once you encounter the spark that animates all life, you’ll learn to “love yourself as the Source loves you.” What a wonderful experience!

[1] Viewed on April 3, 2012.
[2] Von Franz, Maria-Louise. Archetypal Dimensions of the Psyche London: Shambala 1999.
copyright © Eileen M. Sembrot – All rights reserved.