by Victoria HawkinsI am sitting here intermittently holding a quartz crystal for clarity and breathing deeply, and typing a few words.A good place to start would probably be to explain my understanding of “the shadow side”. Mydeﬁnition of it comes from my studies of psychology and counseling, so I have a Jungian view ofthe shadow side. Carl Jung’s description is that it is the part of an individual that is hidden,sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously, depending on the circumstances. Somepeople have a different interpretation, which is that the shadow side is what they would call the“bad” parts of themselves. What Jung proposed is that it might be parts of the personality that aredeemed less than desirable by the individual, however it can also be parts of the personality, oreven gifts and talents, that the individual believes are not acceptable within family, society,culture, gender, etc.So the shadow side can be a whole part of us that feels scary to look at too closely. In fact, incertain situations where an individual does not feel safe to look at it all, the mind has the powerto bury it even for many years until that individual can feel safe and semi-comfortable to dealwith it.I have come to place in my life where I began to feel safe and semi-comfortable to look at some of the experiences of my more distant past. My body actually gave me some signs that I could not ignore that caused me to dive deeper into my underlying stress level. I had the awareness that I was constantly running on a current of low-level, yet constant, stress, and I had symptoms of post traumatic stress. My body was beginning to suffer and showed me what was going on through rashes, unexplainable weight gain, swelling, and extreme fatigue. I sought guidance through a great acupuncturist, a body worker, my Shamanic Reiki community and select mentors, and checked it all with my Voice Within. I began to pay special attention to my body and listen to what it needed and wanted in order to heal and thrive.As I began to attend to my body, I realized that for the ﬁrst time I was really actually payingattention to my body in a non-hateful way. I had the epiphany that I had truly lived much of mylife disassociated from physical sensations and unconsciously ignored even excruciating pain. SoI began the process of listening and talking to my body, and quickly found that my wordstowards my body were mostly critical or nothing at all. On a good day I was passive aggressive,and would not even look at my body in the mirror, or turn the lights very low so I couldn’t see itall the way. On a bad day I was actively hateful with my words towards my body, and at timeswould even punch my thighs in anger and scream “I hate you” to myself in the mirror or theconﬁnes of my car. I applied a curiosity to these behaviors rather than the past judgment, and Iasked my Inner Voice, “What am I hiding? What am I afraid of? What is happening that I wakeup with a clenched jaw and I have to force myself out of bed each morning?”!The response was revealed to me slowly in parts and pieces as I tentatively became morecomfortable with hearing the truth. My inner world began to be reﬂected to me in the outersocietal picture. As many groups over the past few years have begun to talk about things thatthey formally kept in the dark, I would have visceral reactions to their stories. At times it wouldtake my breath away, or leave me in a state of silent tears. I observed, listened and comfortedmyself as I continued to allow what was buried to surface as it could. I was waking up a part ofme that I had kept hidden for so long, or talked about with ﬂat tone as if I was just reading theback of a label, or giving a report on the weather.I am grateful for the supportive groups that I have chosen over the past 9 years. The love andacceptance of those groups provided the space to express creatively what I have experienced, andacknowledge feelings that I had buried until the whole of me could deal with them in a safe way.I am grateful that my body gave me the cues so that I could begin to pay attention before itbecame a larger health crisis for me.Now I am wanting to talk about this more because some of my most recent epiphanies camefrom a creative mini-session dance assignment from my Bellydance instructor, Taliah. She gaveus the exploration of light and dark. We had to pick an approach and stick with it for a four weekexpression of what we chose. I picked “Exposing My Shadow Side”. When I began I thought itwould bring to light the stuff that I thought was my less than desirable characteristics. What itreally did though was show me that what I have been hiding ﬁercely are my gifts and passionsthat I thought were not safe or acceptable to share, and my life experiences that contributed to meliving in terror and choosing to see myself as less than, not enough, too much, unworthy,undesirable, and even wicked.This was a transformative 4 weeks. I actually only ended up dancing 2 of the 4 songs I hadchosen for the session. The last two I became too physically ill to participate, yet I have not shiedaway from honoring the hidden parts that came up. I absolutely believe that it is time to shine thelight on my own shadows, because the biggest Aha I had was that all of what I have kept hiddenhas been because of my fear of exposing it. In the past I either was terriﬁed that if I saidsomething, someone would retaliate, I would be punished, or I would embarrass the other person,or that expression of these events and even my gifts would make me a pariah and I would suffermy own embarrassment and shunning.One of the major themes that came up is the theme of abuse, violence, assault. I recognized thatby hiding (sometimes even from myself) what has occurred in my life in the past, I continued toactually create more of the same situations, and spent years feeling like a shell of a person with avoice trapped in my chest unable to come out. I see the truth of abuse and violence; it is theresult of a long history of unexpressed pain and insecurity, usually coming from their ownconscious or unconscious experiences of the same. The expression “hurt people, hurt people”comes to mind. Interestingly, exposing myself to my experiences has brought me out of feelinglike a victim, and into deep compassion towards myself and those whom I had these experienceswith in my past years.The other theme that came up was my gifts and talents in the arts and intuitive abilities. I havealways been drawn to art, music, dance, and creative expression. Somehow I learned that thesewere not acceptable careers or ventures in life, and I stopped pursuing them for a time, then Ipursued them as a hobby, but actually felt guilty about it, and have even sabotaged my ownsuccess in these areas many times over. As far as the intuitive abilities; I see that I have alwayshad a propensity for tapping into my intuitive side, yet did not understand it, and I learned in theworld I grew up in that those abilities were dark and unacceptable. Again, the result is that Isuppressed them, or quietly used them only after carefully analyzing that the other party wouldnot attack me for my beliefs.Hiding a whole entire side of ourselves becomes debilitating, yet the very act of hiding it isnecessary for us to survive certain situations so that we can get to a place where we can exposethe shadow side and see that there is actually nothing there to hide.I hid parts of me that were other people’s actions towards me, blaming myself, and I hid gifts thatI didn’t understand were gifts. I spent much of my life simply surviving, and didn’t even realize Iwas only surviving. Again I am grateful and now I can see my strength and courage in the factthat I did survive until I was able to make more conscious choices for health and peace and joyand fun in my life.The last couple of years have taught me a lot about myself, and the collective society that I livein. Today I can say that I am now thriving, and that thriving is growing exponentially as Icontinue to not only expose and bring awareness to the stories of abuse, violence, and assault inour world, but more importantly, to create and guide others in ways for all of us to practice,teach, remind, and foster new, more compassionate ways of being and responding in ourfamilies, in our communities, in our world, on our planet, and towards our own selves.Because of my very experiences, my Divinely given gifts, and all my interesting studies; I knowthat I can be a vehicle to bring Light to the dark spaces. Which means there will be no more darkspaces, for darkness is simply the absence of light. I now understand fully that I am here for sucha time as this; where all of humanity is poised to shift the energy of their hidden selves andexperiences from one of darkness, to a new view in the beautiful Light. It takes courage, but onlyuntil you realize there is actually nothing to fear. I know that there are many who are here withme in this new experience of remembering our own light and seeing that light in others.One last thought… it seems to me that when I was a kid I would imagine dark and evil entitieswhen I looked around my room in the depths of the night, yet when the sun came up I saw thosesame objects as just everyday, neutral, and even beautiful items that made up the contents of mylife. It was simple, the sun came up and everything looked different. I know that we can do thatwith our life circumstances in just the same simple way: shine a light in the dark spaces andwatch them disappear, and allow those spaces to be ﬁlled back in with grace, forgiveness,compassion, appreciation, sacred love, and glorious light.Thank you for your time in reading this, and your presence here in this time and space.