You Can’t Kill Your Shadow But You Can Make It Your Bitch

There are a great many ways one can work with their shadow, and a few variations of what that even means. I’m not, however, speaking from any perspective except my own unfortunately hard-won first-person here, but you should have an idea of what that means before we continue. 

I spent enough time chasing the chemical uplift of some of the most aggressively addictive varieties ever weaponized by human hands that nearly the entirety of my being was bent towards the manipulation of feelings and the monopolization of the resources of others, always campaigning my propaganda for the next pack of lies. The metaphysical knots that constant denial, guilt, self-loathing, and general warping of consciousness tie a person up in aren’t exactly the bows on your shoelaces (if they were they’d be tied together and tossed over a power line.) But there is truly no limit to how far back to the other side one can swing. Back to hope, connection, involvement. I’m living proof. Sure, I’m still broke, but I’m happy. 

And wasn’t that the whole point all along? As it turns out it was. It is. And one of the ways I combat the layers of leftover patterning that are ripe for the sloughing is to haunt the living shit out of my shadow. This is far less creepy than it sounds, and also far creepier, but incredibly effective once the ball gets rolling. 

We all do and say things from time to time that make our cheeks hot, our stomachs rise, and our hearts sink. We all experience the utter horror of observing the self acting a fool at times, and in these moments we have tendency to beat ourselves senseless in ill-conceived strategies of self-discipline such as chastisement and verbal abuse. 

Instead, I propose a cease-fire. Our egos are nothing more than survival programs running amok because we don’t have proper initiation rites or shamanic healing in most sections of the Western spiritual supermarket, nor sufficient training (and social acceptance thereof) to provide the tools for reprogramming our personal AI in order to regain it’s processing abilities as our asset.

Did you see what I did there? Somehow “ego” carries something more personal with it, doesn’t it? Ego is thought of as contained within us. If we look at the embarrassing decisions we make based on fear as our AI simply behaving like ill-programed protection software, suddenly there’s much needed emotional distance present and we find less inclination to slip into verbal flagellation. Far more genuine interest in understanding this strange phenomenon that so often gets mistaken for ‘I’ becomes instantly available and without the association of moments of blunder within the core self, there is no connection point for the self-deprecation to associate internally. 

Just simply notice every time you feel you’ve said something ingenuine. Take a little note when you hear yourself lie unnecessarily. If you can feel your conscience being shoved in a cupboard, pause, breathe, and listen. Sit right there in that moment where your feelings are, right when they happen. You’ll begin to get a sense, over time, for what kind of person your shadow is, as it becomes defined by the impulses which are intentionally prevented from manifesting. It’s likely that you think that you know exactly what the darker sides of yourself are like already, but it’s always more complicated than you think, more nuanced.

At first, catching that these moments happen at all is sometimes difficult, but eventually the turnaround is just a few moments. Then, after a little more practice only a few seconds, and eventually they become second-nature to see coming ahead of time. The real trick is to catch yourself in moments of careless deed or tongue red-handed, prevent that action from taking place, and allow the shadow (the origin of the impulse to have acted in some less-than-desirable manor) to play out as it intended in your imagination. Just sit back and watch your dark side do something shitty from the comfort of a better now. I guarantee the threads you pull will lead to trauma that isn’t nearly as difficult to heal as it is to face.

Following these threads can unlock a fair amount of closeted scaries, but that closet is really not that big to begin with. We all have some sprucing up and airing out to do from time to time and I find it much easier to allow the shadow its room to act as it is compelled to rather than attempt to deny or stifle a force of nature. Often it’s the observations within the conscious mind (and the gratitude that comes with opting out of some dick move) that jolts our AI into making alterations to its protocol. That is, our observations differentiate which parts are ego, which are shadow, and give both the space to exist, but on our terms.

I, personally, like to watch my inner monster keep on talking in my imaginal realm as I roll my eyes, look over at my ancestors, and proclaim with a thumb gesturing, 

That fuckin’ guy…”

Suicides & Synchronicities

There seems to be some strange assumption, when we think of old friends we’ve lost touch with, that they’re probably doing just fine. Maybe even better than we are. That was the assumption I was under when I heard the news that a beloved friend had chosen to end their life. I’m not telling their story today, as I am severely under qualified to do so. No, I’m only telling my own role in the strange events following this unfortunate end to a young and brilliant life: I’m telling the story of how one suicide ended up preventing another one through logic that is altogether non-human.

When I got the call that this friend had exited the material world I was still running ragged; 115 lbs wet, no hope, and a center-console full of empty baggies and broken crack pipes. Even through the fog of rampant addiction I very much felt the impact of this loss, though I did not have any capacity for facing or working through it at the time. 

This was summer. The memorial, I found out, was scheduled for fall.

By the time the date was drawing near I had lost my entire world to addiction, moved back in with family, and accumulated six months clean-time. Getting to see that group of old friends and mourning with them was one of the most important events of my life, and to no surprise; our times together when we were younger were equally as significant. But that is not part of this story, either.

The best friend of the departed had a sister, and that sister and I had chemistry. Our conversation didn’t stop for several months after returning to our home states and towns, her and I. She ended up proposing to me, to which I agreed. It wasn’t the kind of thing where you know it’s a good idea. In fact, it felt a little silly even at the time, but my heart was telling me something very clearly and plainly throughout the duration of that relationship. My heart was saying “You’ll be sorry if you don’t.” 

This is not the usual fodder my heart spouts to my brain. This was an anomaly. I’m used to a heart that yells out grand declarations while inebriated as others are trying to have conversation.

But then we fast forward to Thanksgiving a couple months later and she’s meeting my family. Fast forward to Christmas time drawing in and I’m getting ready to go spend the holiday with hers.

I’m nervous. I’m anxious. I know that it will all be okay, though, once I see her face and feel that connection that had been powerful enough to sustain me for months with a thousand miles between us. Except when I saw her, at home in this world utterly foreign to me, I noticed within the first few seconds that the connection was gone. Vanished. 

Abracadabra.

I did my best to maintain, but she would not connect. She outright refused to. Here I am a few states from home, hours of bus ride from any kind of safe place, in the livingroom of a family I don’t know, and the woman that asked me to marry her only a month prior was treating me like an indigent phantom limb. 

I spent three days in this living hell, all the while she maintained that nothing was wrong and that I was being, basically, crazy before finally ending things with a ten-cent breakup excuse and leaving me alone in an Airbnb to peacefully enjoy the walls closing in.

That night I almost relapsed. I wanted to. I could feel pure sorrow and anguish swirling around me in geometrical patterns. I felt so close very to God. I was not, however, going to let this bullshit steal my clean, so I mustered up the guts to call someone. Maybe the only someone that could have helped me at that moment, someone that I had known almost my entire life and with whom I had been through hell. Someone that never picks up the phone on the first try. But this time, they did. And they were so very good and kind to me that I made it through that night without doing anything stupid whatsoever.

The next morning I received a message from this old friend, the one that saved me the night before. We hadn’t spoken much at all around that time and you can imagine the surprise, the mind-melting gratitude, the reality-bending record-scratch that the following data incited.

As it turned out, the friend who answered the phone, the one I thought was saving my life the night before, was on their way to end their own life when they answered my call. If i hadn’t called them right then, as they explained, at that exact time and on that exact day, they would not be with us now, today. 

I followed my heart when it didn’t make sense and someone truly precious to me still walks the Earth as a result. I guess I’m sharing this because we should all be aware. No matter what the critics say (and that includes the self): listen to your heart. You may be much, much more sorry if you don’t.

All Those Felonies Saved My Life

Ever since Nixon was in office, the hippies were hugging, and various black-ops projects on psy research were chugging along full-steam, perspective enhancing substances (whether or not they themselves are alive and have agency) have been on the shelf labeled “DO NOT TOUCH” and “POISON.” Two audacious proclamations; The first, a command that seems antithetical in a world full of plants presumed by most lawmakers to have been created by an omnipotent deity. The second, a lie. 

Propaganda, to be more precise. But we now know, as almost common household knowledge, that hallucinogens (a problematic term) can be, essentially, miracle drugs in some cases. 

Appropriate set-and-setting in harmony with appropriate dosage of entheogens (a far better term, thanks Wasson/Hoffman/Ruck et al.) is proving clinically and empirically to treat depression, PTSD, and addiction.

This is where I come in. Two years ago from this very point in time I was regularly using heroin and crack; an almost entirely unrecognizable human creature from the one writing this today. And most of the perspective needed to undertake the unimaginable amounts of healing and growth I had to face when choosing a better reality was made possible because of mushrooms.

Obviously, they don’t get all the credit. I mean, I did have to lose everything in the wake of the walking disaster that was myself in order to prompt the realization that my reality could, in fact, change. But when your brain is literally damaged and you don’t remember what it’s like to feel much of anything outside of a small spectrum, that initial epiphany is not enough to maintain a path toward health. And 12-step meetings, for me, were always torture. Hearing stories from dudes still kicking in the meeting was always just a window into a world where the high still existed, and could thus be acquired. I mean, hell, that guy had some yesterday. Cognitively re-living the same horror did not lead me to freedom, so I didn’t go back this time.

I have since found that I don’t need them to maintain my perspective anymore, but for the crucial stages of recovery, mushrooms it was. I would mostly microdose to get a sense of being “beside myself” in order to gleam a glance at patterns that needed changing. I could work on them if I could see them. And every once in a while it seemed necessary to undergo a more intense communion with the fungus. 

After we had made a significant amount of progress together they quite literally arranged a meeting, to my utter surprise, between myself and Kali Ma. The deconstruction and reconstruction process since has been far smoother, if not just as difficult, but I feel safe, loved, and cared for by a being that has proven her existence beyond time. That’s something!

I find it endlessly fascinating that the fungi introduced me to exactly who I needed to meet. Saturn, Venus, Mercury, and Pluto are in Scorpio on my birth chart (and my natal Sun is only a day from the cusp,) I steam from the ears when women are disrespected (even in that innocent-negligence way, bruh,) and I do not learn quickly or easily; I have to touch the iron myself. The powerful and fearsome body-parts-as-clothing four-armed demon-slaying goddess of Shakti was the teacher I needed and the mushrooms presented me to her without my prompting them for anything other than whatever they thought was best at the time.

I also find it endlessly fascinating that all of this, the healing of my family relationships, starting college for the first time, getting back into my spiritual practice, writing this blog, owning up to my “life-contracts” (as in the ones we make before we come here,) this metamorphosis was all made possible by a thousand little felonies.

I was a criminal when I was useless, and I had to remain one to get better. 

And nobody can change the irrefutable fact that all those felonies saved my life.