Intimidated by starting shadow work? Most of us have spent a lifetime hearing phrases like “be positive” and “look on the bright side,” so it’s no surprise that you might be a little freaked out about shadow work. While these sentiments are always shared in love, they can also cause us to repress trauma, difficult emotions, and thoughts we’d prefer to keep to ourselves. This constant repression will usually backfire, causing your fears and judgments to erupt out onto others later.
It’s no wonder most of us are hesitant to jump into shadow work. We’ve been told our whole lives to ignore it.
There are three fundamental steps to doing shadow work: to identify your shadow aspects, allow space for you to process them, and, finally, integrate them. By integrating your shadow side, you become whole.
As with all deep work, sometimes a qualified professional is needed. If you feel you need help from a therapist, psychiatrist, doctor, healer, or even a friend, I encourage you to do so. Facing the parts of ourselves often ignored can be difficult, especially if you’ve faced particularly traumatic events in your life.
I invite you to approach these offerings as ancillary allies to a shadow work practice. Here are four simple steps to help you get started with shadow work.
1. Practice Mindfulness
I mentioned in my last post that much of shadow work is becoming aware of how you’re projecting your shadow onto others and being triggered. Imagine your triggers as little notes from your shadow self.
The most effective way to bring more awareness into your daily life and catch those projections and triggers is through mindfulness. I’m not saying you need to commit to 30 minutes of silent meditation a day; a simple 5 minutes can really go a long way. If you need some pointers on how to start meditating, check out this earlier blog post on 8 quick tips to “be here now.”
2. Connect with Goddesses Associated with Shadow Work
There are Goddesses worldwide across cultures who correspond with the parts of life we’re often told to keep to ourselves or ignore. Each Goddess below offers unique wisdom concerning shadow work. There are many more Goddesses and Gods to connect with
Kali is the wild and intense-looking Hindu Goddess of time, death, destruction, and rebirth. She is often shown with skulls around her neck and one in her hand. Morbid as it may seem, these skulls actually represent the death of the ego. Even though the image of Kali may be jarring or even scary, she is the personification of shadow and can help you get in touch with darker aspects of your ego that you may be avoiding.
The Goddess Lilith has roots in several cultures and religions including ancient Sumeria and Christianity. She’s referred to as both a demon and a seductive sex Goddess. Lilith is in touch with her sexuality which has caused men to fear her. She represents equality between men and women. Connect with Lilith to explore any sexual shadows you may have hidden.
Hecate is a Greek Goddess of witchcraft and magic, she’s closely related to ghosts and death. Hecate is often shown standing at a fork in the road as a reminder to examine our motives clearly before making a decision. She offers protection and wisdom. Hecate is perfect to work with if you’re going through transitions. Ask for her guidance to shed light on the shadow side of changes you are going through.
Once you’ve found a goddess or god that you connect with, place a card, picture, or statue of her on your altar or in a place you’ll see it regularly to offer inspiration while meditating or journaling.
One of my favorite ways to connect with the goddesses is through The Goddess Oracle card deck. It doesn’t shy away from the dark goddesses, and my readings are always so powerful when they show up!
3. Create an Altar Space to Explore your Shadow Side
Altars are powerful healing tools. Much like a sacred container, your altar can hold space and energy for difficult emotions, traumas, and experiences. An altar can be as small or large as you’d like. It serves as a physical representation of what you’re working on or working through. Small objects, tarot or oracle cards, crystals, herbs, pictures, or journal entries, etc., could all be parts of an altar. Learn more about creating an altar here.
To implement an altar for shadow work, start by selecting some representative items of what you’re working through. It could be as simple as a black candle and a piece of rose quartz. Use the altar space to meditate at, call upon some of the Goddesses mentioned above, cry, yell, journal, process. When you’re done, leave the energy you created at your altar space. You can go about your day knowing your feelings are safe at your altar, ready to be revisited when you’re ready. The altar space will also serve as a reminder of your commitment to integrating your shadow.
4. Work with Supportive Crystals
Several crystals can be used for helping you with shadow work, but these are my favorites. Here are my top 3 picks for crystals to recruit for starting shadow work:
This grounding stone is my top pick for shadow work. It can help open the door to your shadow side by bringing emotions, patterns, and fears to the surface. Black obsidian is also good for shadow work, but the balancing flecks of white in the snowflake version soften and balance its energy nicely.
This stone is the softer, subtle version of snowflake obsidian. If you’re looking for a very gentle introduction to shadow work, kyanite is your stone, or you can just add it to your shadow work crystal collection! Kyanite comes with a host of other benefits but is helpful for recalling old memories and working through obstacles.
Shadow work will most likely bring up strong emotions for you. It’s important to bring in some soothing self-love energy while diving into shadow work, and rose quartz is the mother of loving vibes!
This quote really says it all.
“If darkness is the absence of Love, then the most effective tonic to use in healing internal shadow is self-love. The more love we flow into our deepest wounds and darkest emotions, the quicker we are able to clear and raise our vibration.” – Jennifer Diamond
Place your shadow work crystal on your altar or in a place you’ll see them regularly. Another good alternative is to wear these stones for a beautiful and powerful reminder of your intention to do shadow work.
5. Draw, Paint, Write & Journal
You may find that tapping into your shadow side is more difficult than you thought. If you find yourself stuck in positivity mode, grab a pen or paintbrush and spend some time journaling and creating. Allow yourself time to create and/or journal without any outcomes in mind and let your subconscious flow. You might be surprised what naturally comes up when you commit yourself to some no expectation creative time.
This is the perfect time to keep some snowflake obsidian or kyanite nearby to help bring your darker side to the surface.
I also created an infographic for those who like visuals, and I added more ways to process shadow work.
Shadow work is not a one-and-done kind of deal. This is work that will happen over a lifetime. Every time you uncover and process one thing, you’ll usually find there’s more underneath. It’s part of the process of being a whole human.
Cassie Uhl is the author of five books and two card decks, an artist, intuitive energy healer, and death doula. Her lineage and practices are rooted in pagan earth-based spiritual practices of Northern Europe. She approaches her work and clients with trauma-informed support through all phases of life. She currently resides on the land of the Myaamia people in so-called Indiana of the US.