I have been reading about shadows lately – the kind we carry inside. The part of us that we hide. Our hopeful, ambitious, pretty, competent side has a twin in our psyche – the part of us that is hopeless, lazy, ugly and incompetent. It is common sense that we would not want to know our shadow and certainly not to expose it to others. But, of course, we do. Our shadow sneaks out of us sideways – when we are terse with someone, when we nag, or are unexpectedly sad, or when we feel superior.
Much of my experience of this time of isolation is tension between the part of me that loves the lack of responsibility and the free time. And then another part of me chastises – saying "why are not you more productive, more purposeful, acting to change the world?” And I am tugged by wanting to relax into the beauty of this time, and by feeling guilty and sad about the obvious horror of this time.
I want to share here a small section from a wise colleague, Kelsey Black, ((see her whole post here). who writes that “whatever issues you’ve faced in the past, this pandemic is setting them on fire. I feel that fire blazing. There's a sense that we should be "better" -- more productive, more confident, more successful, more clear about what to do next. The shame, fear, anxiety and depression are here louder than ever. The stories behind these feelings are familiar. We know them inside and out, upside and down. Perhaps we thought we’d moved through them and yet, here they are. We’re standing with our feet in the fire. The natural tendency is to want to put the flames out – reach for the bucket, stop feeling and start doing.” (Thank you, Kelsey!)
The Jungian psychologists say to us that wherever there appears to be a complete dichotomy – two things that are not reconcilable – that place is exactly the most important place you can stand. Stand in the tension of opposites. The tension of “not knowing”, of feeling luxurious one day and sad the next. Of wanting this to just “be over” and of wanting to “get something deep” from the experience. Ah, the fire and the water…
There is an art form designed to help one stand in that middle place. It is called a “mandorla”. Most of us are familiar with mandalas – which are circular pieces of art found in many religions. A “mandorla” is made by combining two mandalas. Draw two circles that overlap. Representing two opposites within yourself. And then, sit with those two opposites and begin to make marks, draw, paint, whatever in the almond shape portion where the circles overlap. Breathe as you do this. Try not to overthink it. Sit with what you have drawn. See what it whispers to you.
Here are some examples taken from an internet search for “mandorlas”.
And here's my own experiment with the topic;