Cracking the Shell and Integrating Your Shadow

I read this quote on a friend's Facebook post last week that put into words the shadow integration work I've witnessed with clients and in my own world. 

For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.
— Cynthia Occelli

I'm in awe of the courage and commitment clients demonstrate and self-compassion they develop when cracking the shell and shattering limiting beliefs on their integration journey. At times the journey may feel hard and impenetrable and requires bravery to explore the rigid thinking and unconscious patterns creating suffering. Then when that shell cracks, it opens to expose the exquisite beauty present in all beings. 

Then this morning I read this blog post written by 12-year-old Teo, a brilliant young man with autism who does not yet use verbal language. In the last year he started sharing his world using a letter board method of communication call RPM (Rapid Prompting Method). He has a lot to share!

As we peel away the hardened outer layer of ourselves, our soft and smooth souls are revealed. What will you decide to become today? This egg will become egg salad. (Referring to an egg in a photo) I will become a better friend to other autistics who come here today to do RPM with Lenae.

I am so incredibly grateful for Teo's openness and generosity to share the depth of his wisdom and offer a very different perspective of autism. Our society carries a painful story of individuals with autism that does not embrace Teo's wholeness and misses the wonder and curiosity that Teo's wholeness embodies. My pre-verbal 14-year-old son Ian teaches me every day that the way to connect occurs when I slow down to Be.

This is simple in concept and challenging in a culture that rewards hard work and conditions us to embrace a pattern of Doing. The result is we forget how to slow down and Be. There is very little room to open to connection and develop trust when we're in the director's chair running the show, keeping track of details and problem solving all day long. With all that mental activity, life gets exhausting and you may not even be aware how much this pattern of Doing leads your life and blocks access to your inner wisdom.

It may look like this. When we believe we need to get something done, we push through the exhaustion which trains the body to ignore the cues to slow down. When the mind and body no longer work together as an integrated team and we move fast in Doing mode, we also miss subtle cues in relationships and always ultimately with self, creating a sense of separation. The longer we override the cues, the louder the pain becomes and life and relationships appear to fall apart. It's like there is a greater consciousness watching and waiting for us to slow down, connect to inner wisdom and develop an inner trust.   

I use the pronoun "we" because I am intimately familiar with this pattern and have been working on integrating and repatterning the "director" strategy that operates out of fear for years. It's not that the director is bad or wrong. The need to control the external environment originates in fear for survival. When leading from the heart and an integrated mind and body, this director softens and becomes kind and compassionate and listens with curiosity and an agility to respond with flexibility to the ever changing environment.

With the years of practice Doing and problem solving, the analytical mind wires the brain to search for a cause, identify a problem and develop a solution. I got really good at this when my son started having seizures at one year and was diagnosed with autism at 2 1/2. It's been quite a journey and I practice slowing down every day! So it may take practice, patience and persistence to integrate a different way of being and create a healthy, integrated mind and body that thrives in any environmental condition.

The process can be super painful and challenging (mostly when I resist) and each time I catch myself Doing in all the various forms, the wisdom to slow down and listen integrates a little deeper and the next time I may start listening a littler earlier. I now see this as divine wisdom guiding me to lead from the heart. 

If you're feeling overwhelmed and like the world is cracking apart or you notice you've been pushing and overdoing to the point of exhaustion, here is a practice I share with clients and personally use when I notice an inner pressure creating discomfort. 

I invite you to experience this process as an observer witnessing your animal body and analytical mind doing what it does. As an observer, you will stay present with what moves through and be less likely to personalize the experience.

  • Start with focusing your attention on your breath and take a few, long deep breaths.
  • Then focus on your hands. Rest them on your lap with palms facing up, open and relaxed. Notice any sensations of your blood pulsing in and out of your hands and stay here for at least a few breath cycles up to as long as feels relaxing. As you stay here, continue deepening and lengthening your breath.
  • Ask yourself the question, "What am I feeling?" Notice any physical sensations in your body. This isn't about trying to fix anything, stay with the noticing. Your mind may jump to analyzing, that's totally okay. Notice that and a phrase I use is, "I hear you and thank you for being such a powerful mind, I choose to stay here with the sensation now." Whatever you notice is okay, there is no wrong way to experience what is alive in you. Just notice what moves.
  • This step is optional depending on your environment. I suggest this step when you are in a space where you won't feel any need to control the sound that surfaces. Some clients do this in a car or in a room when no one else is home. It may surprise you what moves through as you open and drop resistance and be with what is alive here. During exhale, open to the possibility of a sound surfacing. It may rise up as a quiet sigh all the way up to a loud scream. Again, there is no wrong way to experience this.

If you give this a try, I would love to hear what you find by sharing in the comments below or drop me an email. We're in this together and as we share and support each other through our shadow integration, we show each other what's possible. Your presence matters! Thank you for BEing you.  

Love, Diane

If you're interested in exploring more shadow integration, I've collaborated with Clayton Ainger to offer the 48-Hour Negativity Detox Retreat June 24-26 at the beautiful Spirit House in Woodside, CA. You will find all the details here. Or explore The Integration of You on my website for options ranging from monthly community calls to a 13-week integration journey.