Throughout much of my work I have been known for “dark” work. This is the work of shamanism, of katabasis, of a descent to the Underworld to understand the primary forces that govern our existence.

Through this journey, we can begin to understand many things about ourselves, about the world. By facing what we seek to deny, repress, or have rejected to fit into society, we reclaim our shadows.

Such a journey is a perilous one, filled with difficult work and questions. It is not for the faint hearted. It is a path typically traversed by those who have real need to understand something about themselves, or the Universe: the experience of trauma shattering the illusion that the world is fair and just; the knowing of darkness at an early age; an aptitude from past lives or natural curiosity that causes for us to ceaselessly question why? until we learn on deeper and deeper levels that the answers to that why are illusory and we descend further and further into the underworld to find more answers.

One of the things that I have learned from doing “dark” work, of hearing from a lot of individuals who have faced the worst of humanity, is that the type of strength and resilience that is gained from traumatic experiences is quite the gift.

Suffering does bring compassion. It brings true knowing of what can happen, of what does happen in this world, and the people who have forged through the worst of what humanity has to offer are often the first to offer a helping hand, a listening ear, an open heart filled with the wisdom of their own past pain. Their own knowing of humanity, and how it can hurt as well as heal.

Many of the individuals I have worked with have faced tremendous odds. They were destined to repeat the abuses and horrors that they experienced as children. The patterns that their parents learned from their parents, and down the ancestral line. They made a choice at some point, a truly courageous one, that they were going to break the chains. They were not going to abuse like they were abused, they were not going to pass on their pain to the world. Knowing the worst of humanity, having seen and experienced it, they have made the choice to forge a new path.

 

 

What is not spoken about regarding trauma nearly enough is that it does offer significant resiliency. It may not seem like it outwardly. As a result of trauma, people may feel broken, wrong, experiencing of symptoms, beliefs, defenses, and expressions of prior trauma still locked in their system that prevent them from fully living their lives or connecting deeply to others.

The world is conditioned to tell us not to feel, and so our emotions go unresolved, become stockpiled within. A pond of fear becomes a lake, becomes an ocean. Our conditioning will shame fear; right now I see post after post from well-meaning people telling us to not be afraid, about how harmful fear is.

All of our emotions are messengers. All of our emotions are valid and have a right and worthiness to express themselves. The shaming of emotions is a long-standing part of our conditioning that represents our sickness and soul loss on a societal level. 

It is an attempt to shove back forces; to contain them, to not face them within ourselves we shame and chastise others not to feel. In doing so, we hope to go back to “normal”. In doing so, we are shaming ourselves for our own fear (there are no others– Ramana Maharshi).

This also simply doesn’t work, as it is a bit like opening Pandora’s box and then attempting to shove back in all of the darkness and close the lid. The darkness is still there, it is still creating issues on a personal and collective level, we are just ignoring, denying, repressing, or anesthetizing it away.

If we do not face our emotions on an individual level, it creates an individual shadow. We experience fear and fear again in its varying guises, the patterns of our trauma repeating until we can reach out for support, look at them, break them apart to see that we have a choice to respond differently now. That we are adults, with a multitude of choices.

But this only comes after deep acceptance and knowledge that trauma creates a known cause-effect that is not pathological in any way. Our bodies, our minds, how we act and react, happens for a reason.

 

 

The healing response to fear, or any of our emotions, is to feel them deeply. To look towards them with acceptance, with knowing that they are there for a reason.

Often this is needed to be done with another, or in community. To hear how we are not the only ones who shake with panic, who fear for our loved ones, who anesthetize ourselves or experience the same habits that are detrimental to our being in order to push away the fear for the day, the hour, the minute.

Such pushing away may be life-saving. It may be moment saving, or hour saving. But in the long-term, it can teach us that our emotions are invalid, to not listen to our intuition, and to deny our instincts.

All of our emotions are messengers; our emotions link to instincts. These instincts tell us on a basic, biological level how to react, whether to stay or go, how alarmed we should be.

These instincts are continually feeding us information through biological responses, through alarm systems in our body, through messages that come through our emotions.

If we learn to listen to our emotions, we can hear what those messages are saying. We can begin to recognize that there is such a thing as healthy fear. It is signaling an alarm saying things are not right here and I am uncertain about my safety.

We can also begin to realize that our emotions are held from past experiences: from our own, from society, from the world, from our ancestors and family systems and other sources.

There are many times that what we are feeling, even if we feel so incredibly alone in it, is not a personal thing. It is a personal response, but it is magnified by many people collectively facing it in the world together.

This can be overwhelming for everyone, but especially those who are sensitive or have developed some level of awareness.

I teach discernment and self-inquiry (questioning within) as a core of my teachings because it can allow for this type of differentiation. It can allow for you to see that some of your fear right now may be incredibly healthy. It is a response to a current situation in which fear is the appropriate and healthy response.

Some of this fear may be from traumas long ago that were never looked at or worked with. These too are totally natural responses. On a very basic physiological level we have a need to process trauma through our nervous system, through the alarm systems of our body, in a specific way. If this does not happen, we are caught in an alarm state, the heightened energy and its accompanying emotions still locked in our system.

This means that every time we experience fear, or reaction, our totally natural, appropriate reaction may be a result of many fears that never had the time, space, or knowledge (or assistance) to be processed through our systems so that it could dissipate or resolve.

 

 

Through this process of katabasis, a personal journey to and through the Underworld, we come to a point where the purest expression of beauty can take form.

This is the other aspect of trauma that is not talked about very often: that difficulties, hardship, and the dark when faced, give way to reveal tremendous light and beauty.

That when we are willing to look at our darkness, at the forces within us that we have rejected to be “good enough” for the world, that there is where we find beauty, grace, peace, and joy.

It is where we find life.

This is the rising that occurs, the darkness traversed until acceptance and clarity are found, until the innocence and joy and childlike wonder that were lost or closed off due to the trauma of losing or cutting away aspects of ourselves (our shadow) are reclaimed.

 

 

As I am writing this, we truly are at a unique point in our history. I teach my students to look at the world as being composed of forces, of currents of energy that interweave with our reality both individually and collectively.

What happens when we have a lot of individuals who have made aspects of themselves shadow is the creation of a collective shadow: large forces repressed, denied, rejected, shamed.

These forces do not go anywhere, and now they are showing themselves. It is not rare for forces to unearth themselves, to be present in our reality, or to be a dominant force in our reality for a period of time. If we recognize these forces, we can see them clearly and begin to work with our internal reactions to them.

The first thing that I always teach is discernment, because in a naming of such forces, we can understand them. If we can see, for example, that the Universe is like a pendulum, continually swinging, attempting to balance itself, we can acknowledge that the force of being, of stillness is coming into our reality. We have prized the force of doing for so long and so there is a need for this swinging of the pendulum to balance itself.

We can also look at our modern fear of death, of dying, of sickness, and how we have attempted to hide from this force. Looking at this force (fear of dying and death) is a tremendous thing to ask of anyone, but if this force is faced, it reveals that underlying it is the force of life. Our vitality, our liberation, is incredibly constrained by our continual fear of death.

There is of course nuance to this. Being respectful of the force of death and dying and having it be an understood and accepted part of our reality is a much different thing than jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. But in facing the reality of death and dying, of seeing it and accepting it as a part of our reality again, we can regain life, vitality, purpose of being.

While I could talk about the force of the natural world showing itself, I will instead suggest this blog. But essentially, when we have decided to shove away our animalistic instincts, the old gods who are the natural world, we have separated from our emotionality, our wildness, our passion and eroticism, from the dark feminine. Realizing that we can be both thoughtful, rational beings as well as wildly emotive and elemental would reconcile these forces.

Understanding the dark feminine as a force of beauty, of seeing in her the nurturing and clarity along with the fierceness and chaos, we can reclaim these aspects within ourselves.

Looking towards how chaos and uncertainty underlie our reality can teach us how to surrender, how to flow, in even the most dire or difficult of circumstances.

 

 

At this moment we are noticing in large numbers that at times, our reality seems to part. In my book, The Spiritual Awakening Guide, I call these the conditioned layers of reality. 

We can talk about this from a much larger perspective, such as the concept of a wormhole. At both ends, like a macaroni noodle, are beginnings. When we are in the middle of said macaroni noodle, we have little idea of what the new beginning will be (although we can hope, or conjecture, or hopefully conjecture).

We can also talk about reality as a weaving, with many forces coming together. Two of these larger forces are time and space, but there really are many, many forces that interweave to create our reality. During certain times, both individually and collectively, these weavings open, in full or in part.

The threads become looser, there is a gap where the Other can come rushing in. Where conditioning that we rely on to be certain, to feel secure, falls away.

For those of who are able to, this is an excellent time to do personal work as well as magical work. This opening means that we have greater capacity to access the Other and increased ability to gain quick, effective responses from the Other.

On a personal level, it is also an excellent time to work with the forces that I mentioned that are collectively playing out. For example, you can use your body deva to ask about where you hold panic, fear, uncertainty (or on more esoteric levels, anxiety around time and space and certainty there).

The heightened energies in the world, these forces being dominant in our reality, means that we have an increased capacity to work with them. 

I will also mention that for those of you who are unable to do any personal work, either due to overwhelm or family obligations, that the force of being, of stillness, of joy and beauty can always be worked with. Look at something beautiful. Treasure what time you have with your family and loved ones. See through the darkness and recognize that on the other side is an aspect of beauty that you may have never appreciated before.

At times of personal or collective shifting, there is an opportunity. That opportunity may mean things personally and collectively. Trauma (which we are going through right now, we simply lack the separation to see what is occurring with the proper perspective yet) has the tendency to crack us open, to bring awareness, to allow us to see life in a new perspective.

That opportunity can allow for us to step outside of time, to see with new perspective, what does work in our lives, and what does not. I have seen many individuals on the precipice of change over the years, and honest evaluation and seeing like this is always the first step. This does not mean that great change is going to occur; if anything, we often go to the ledge of change, personally and collectively, and return to our habitual patterns because they offer certainty. But it does mean that we have the capacity to witness ourselves in a new light, from a new perspective, and that in and of itself can bring forward awareness that we can carry with us.

 

Mary Mueller Shutan is a spiritual teacher and author of several books, including The Spiritual Awakening Guide and The Body Deva