“Energy flows where attention goes” is a profound piece of wisdom, handed down from the Hawaiian Kahuna lineage. But understanding what to do with that is subtle. A blunt reading of it would conclude that the best course of action is then to pay attention to everything that is ‘positive’ and healthy, and what we desire to experience. The light.
However, what then happens to all that shadow material you have in the cellar? Your toxic resentments, hidden violence, lonely ghosts, abandoned sorrows, gnawing anxieties? Shadow stuff doesn’t go away just because you ignore it. The disowned parts of you have to be reclaimed, welcomed even, and integrated. That way their buried energy becomes fuel for your creative life. (This, of course, is profound wisdom handed down from many lineages, but most famously from Carl Jung.)
So where lies the overlap, the synthesis, of these two pearls of wisdom?
In my experience we don’t have to go looking for shadow material. Although we might choose to devote some time to it specifically, aware that we need to unearth something without being quite sure what it is, often enough our unintegrated ghosts will rise up to haunt us unbidden. We’ll get upset by something that someone said or did, or we find ourselves afraid beyond the call of any real danger. We stumble through some of our days off-centre, nothing flowing smoothly, without quite knowing why.
That’s when it’s time to turn our attention into the dark deliberately, and let our energy flow there. Give attention to that which is troubling you. Then, as it becomes energised it will rise up for expression, release and integration, the ‘evolution cycle’ that ZeroOne is based around.
Movement is a great way to enter into this evolutionary cycle, though you could use voice, visual arts, writing, breathwork. Movement is particularly effective because your shadow material exists as chronic tension or gridlocked energy in your body. Entering into movement, with the intention of focussing on your shadow, allows that which you are unconscious of to arise. You may have some inkling of what’s going on, a vague sense of unease, but staying open-minded and curious, willing to see or experience that which you do not know yet, will create the space for fruitful practice.
1. Be clear about your intention. Maybe write it down or speak it out loud. Turn off the phone, clear some space and time. Light a candle if that feels good for you. I’d suggest not using music, so you’re free to follow what arises in the moment without being shaped by something outside of you.
2. Being aware of your body and your breath, begin to move, turning your attention inwards, inviting whatever is underground but ready for growth and integration, to come up.
3. At some point you’ll feel your energy start to change. This could be in the form of becoming more physically energetic, or more emotional, or even getting very tired. Whatever it is, use your movement to embody and express your feeling state.
4. Let this expression build, giving yourself to the process completely and allowing your body to release whatever it’s been holding. Don’t try to save yourself from any discomfort. Surrender. If it’s difficult, cry out aloud, writhe around, hit cushions, or whatever else works for you. Let it take as long as it takes.
5. There will come a time where you feel the intensity start to loosen. You’re in the integration phase: go with it. Allow change to happen. Stay open-minded and creative, constantly living the question “What’s true now?” through your body, your breath, your movement.
6. Don’t rush to finish. Give time for movement to become very subtle, or stop altogether for a while then start again. Listen for what you need, bearing in mind that the integration of this experience may actually take hours or even days. Hot bath? Walk outside? Healthy food or warm drink? Time to write in your journal or read a good novel? Talk to a friend? Snooze on the sofa?
7. If you feel like you’ve gone out of your depth, get some help. I’m available for individual coaching sessions, or you could find a good therapist or bodyworker. We all need other people sometimes.
There’s a lot of bad news out there, clamouring for your attention. On the other hand, within yourself, and within the people you meet, there’s an astonishing blossoming of life. Maybe even like never before.
Practice using your attention consciously. It’s the most fundamental power you have. Attention is the simplest form of loving. Choose wisely.