Stepping into my shadow

A lot of people feel awkward talking about their health/life journeys. I’ve always held on to a personal shame about admitting faults in public. It’s probably in part due to my midwestern upbringing where we attempt to bury our self-reflection under mountains of unhealthy food.

This year, I’m studying the Shamanic Temple with the Temple of Witchcraft Mystery School online. I’m also in the midst of the hugely transformative experience as a Feri student. As part of this year’s shadow work I’d like to break that stigma.

My BMI puts me on just this side of obese. Three weeks ago I joined Weight Watchers and I’ve lost 3.6 pounds. I’m someone who enjoys food and a glass or two of wine. Making this small progress is huge for me.

I’ve done the hard work of breaking habits and patterns before, I quit smoking at 30, I lost almost 40 pounds when I was 34. I went vegetarian/pescatarian at 37. But I feel that, although I was active with my spirituality, I wasn’t tapping into it and using it as a tool to help those transformations.

In my 20’s, I was surrounded by people who were on a healthy path, so much so that I found it disorienting and alienating. I didn’t think it was an option for me because of a lot of hangups from my past, including feeling like I was too poor to afford a healthy lifestyle. I struggled in my late teens and into my early twenties with food scarcity. While putting myself through college I worked a number of jobs to pay for it all and still frequently came up short. There were so many nights that I would just go to sleep instead of staying awake being plagued by the hunger that was all consuming. It was the only control I had over the situation.

So when I found myself living among that community who had a different relationship with health I wasn’t sure how I fit in, or if I even did.

One of the things that I’m most embarrassed about was a childish lashing out from that time. In that community there was a board where people would write down when they were running workshops. Things like yoga, meditation, culinary-type classes, that sort of thing. All of it was free and open to whoever wanted to show up. It was really amazing. I always wanted to take part and occasionally I did but mostly I felt too out of shape, too awkward, too much out of sync with myself. Even more intimidating, all of these people were so thin and muscular. In hindsight, I was way more in shape then than I am now, but I was still not even in the same universe as these folks. I just felt embarrassed by the limitations of my own body.

One day, frustrated and feeling particularly angsty, I went to the community board and penciled in a workshop: “FUCK HEALTH” in giant capital letters.

Cringe.

No one spoke to me about it, but shortly after I noticed that the board had been taken down. Invitations stopped coming to hang out and it reinforced my feelings that I didn’t belong.

An introvert to my core, I started feeling like even among weirdos, I was a weirdo. Unfortunately this resulted in a serious struggle with depression only worsened by the knowledge that I’d done it to myself.

Eventually though I started to pull myself out of it. I started dating an amazing woman and we were able to help support one another on our individual healing journeys. I returned to my Pagan spirituality at around 30, after being away from it for almost a decade, and the healing began almost immediately. A certain mysterious order felt like it was being restored in my life and I decided to formalize my spiritual training.

Studying western esoteric traditions has been essential to re-membering myself, and helping to clear away what our culture forces upon us. I’m looking forward to doing soul retrieval to help fix those parts of myself I’ve lost along the way.

I’m still working on it and that guy who wrote “FUCK HEALTH” is still there, but I know now that I need to work with him, to be gentle enough to let him know it’s okay to be imperfect.

Now I’m approaching 39 and have a one-year-old child. I want to be healthy enough to see him grow up and maybe have children of his own (if that’s what he wants). I want to be a positive example for him.

Are you on a similar trajectory? Where has your shadow work lead you? Although I lead this with talking about my journey as a man in our culture I’d love to hear about anyone’s journey.

2 thoughts on “Stepping into my shadow

  1. My shadow work all had to do with self-expression and seeking validation. You know, generic stuff, but still plaguing even those who constantly seek awareness. A lot of the Unnamed Path work is shadow work (very similar to Feri, there), but it wasn’t until 3 months after initiation that it really began to click for me: “Don’t ask permission or critique. Accept it as it comes, learn from it and all that. But you’ve been training yourself to do ‘this thing’ for so long now, and you’ll continue to wait for glowing praise… And you’ll never think it’s good enough to start. Believe in yourself. You’re complete now and it’s time to ROCK.” Something like that.

    As a fellow obese person with some issues around health, I imagine I’ll enter the work you’re dealing with now right around the time I catch up to where you are now, in years lived. Thanks for being open about your journey!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by and sharing, Dayan! Keep rocking it, you got this!

      Like

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