Table of Contents
with Chapter Summaries
Introduction: The Cat, the Snake, and the Shadow (click to read)
Without acknowledging and retrieving Shadow material, we remain disconnected from ourselves, from each other, and from our planet. Thus we begin to act out in some very destructive ways. This Introduction begins with my childhood experience of meeting the Shadow in the form of a green-eyed cat. Also included is an overview of what to expect from the book and how animals can help us find our Shadow. To consciously work with one’s Shadow is life-changing. It is a spiritual process that not only heals but welcomes us home to who we are.
A Short Guide to the Shadow
Animal Teachers and Guides
A brief exploration of how animals have helped humans since ancient times, as well as how and why animal teachers and guides may appear in our daily lives. Of all the animal teachers that come to us, the least explored — and often the most powerful — are the Shadow animals, those that frighten us or cause unease.
Shadow Animal Teachers
Shadow animals are the ones that challenge us, encouraging us to explore the dark corners of our psyche and discover what is hidden in our secret self. They may speak to us individually or collectively. We can learn a lot about any group by considering the fearsome animals they conjure in myth and legend. This chapter also looks at how individuals begin accumulating personal shadow material, and asks: How can I identify my Shadow animal and what can I learn from it?
Working with Shadow
Robert Bly’s five stages of exiling, stalking and retrieving the Shadow serves as a template for what we will explore throughout most of this book. Also presented is an overview of how to work with different Shadow animals, and why some techniques may work better with certain animals or at certain stages along our journey — which is why this book offers a buffet of tips and techniques, as presented in the many following chapter exercises.
Chapter 1 Arachnophobia
If spiders present so little of an actual threat to our survival, why do we fear them so much? Shadow animals represent that which we repress, disown or judge in ourselves. Is it possible that tiny Spider possesses some very big medicine — something so powerful that nearly a third of all humans don’t want to see or even think about it?
Exercise: Spider’s Web of Intrigue ~ The illustration of a classic spider web serves as a template to answering questions about what most irritates us about others in order to better understand ourselves. This is a lesson in how to capture deeper feelings about one’s Shadow animal and self.
Chapter 2 Hidden Treasures
What better animal than Rat to be the repository of the collective human Shadow? Rat is always out there, hiding inside our structures, skittering through our rubbish, sneaking into our language and stories. So many of the qualities we project onto rats mirror our own unpleasant problems: overpopulation, pollution, epidemics, indecency and scandal. Rat offends us, activating awareness of all that we don’t want to see in ourselves. Which is why we hate them so.
Exercise: Rat’s Treasures, Three Ways ~ Journaling, creating an altar, and making a collaged Shadow card are three techniques to discover what we have lost or abandoned. All three ways pay tribute to our lost Shadow animal and nudge us to rediscover those lost selves in a more conscious way.
Chapter 3 Suspense and Suspension
Greatly feared and misunderstood, Bat has mystified humans since ancient times. This chapter explores the early Bat gods of South America, the vampire legend (as well as the vampire bat), different cultural views of bats (considered good luck in China!), the important ecological role of bats, and how Bat is a master helper in Dark Night of the Soul by initiating us into the Great Unknown.
Exercise: Being with Bat ~ A guided meditation into stillness to access the inner world and begin to uncover that which we don’t see, or don’t want to see.
Chapter 4 The Knower of Secrets
Worshipped as gods in ancient times, tortured throughout the Middle Ages, cats offer an intriguing reflection of the human Shadow. As a discerning explorer of the dark night and Shadow realms, Cat offers a bridge between seen and unseen, conscious and unconscious. This chapter also looks at the role of Big Cats — Tiger, Lion, Cheetah, Jaguar and more — and how we can learn to awaken our inner cat of discernment.
Exercise: That Cat: It’s Just a Story We are Telling Ourselves ~ An amusing yet powerful exercise in becoming more aware of our projections. All those inept drivers, pushy store-clerks, arrogant waiters, and pompous politicians that irk us in everyday life serve as clues to identify how our projections ‘out there’ can help us track the Shadow within.
Chapter 5 Trust that Turns
The core of our connection with Dog is rooted in the distant past — in that first, uneasy alliance forged between Wolf and our human ancestors. This chapter explores the evolution of dogs from wolves, and how traces of mistrust remain. The Big Bad Wolf archetype is investigated, as is the role of trickster dogs — Fox and Coyote.
Exercise: Sitting with Dog ~ A meditation of deepening in which we sit with a Shadow emotion, allowing it to flow through us, feeling it (not thinking it) and observing how it moves. Sounds simple, but this is often difficult — yet very powerful. The trick is to sit and watch and feel with an open heart. Like Dog.
Chapter 6 Scapegoat
We now use the term figuratively, but in older times a scapegoat was an actual, living goat. Goats have always offered humans so very much — transportation, meat, milk, fur, skin and more. Why, then, did we imagine that Goat is the face of the devil? The wild exuberance of ancient gods with hoofs and horns (most notably Pan) caused the early Christian Church concern and thus demonization of a simple, pleasure-seeking nature god began. This chapter looks at scapegoating both individually and collectively.
Exercise: Retrieving Projections: What’s Got Your Goat? ~ Through creative exploration, careful observation and self-examination, we can retrieve Shadow material in more conscious ways. This exercise offers a variety of helpful starting points.
Chapter 7 Nightmare
Though the ‘mare’ of nightmare is not etymologically connected with Horse, horses figure prominently in myth and dreams as vehicles that take us to other realms. Part of this chapter explores Horse and part looks at nightmares and the ways in which dream animals can help us to explore the terrain of our Shadow-world.
Exercise: Meeting the Night-Mare ~ An exercise in re-entering a scary dream to meet our Shadow animal face to face. Consciously choosing to meet our nightmares is an excellent way to examine unresolved challenges, listen to fearful or angry selves, or reclaim lost, abused or abandoned selves.
Chapter 8 The Birds
We begin with Hitchcock’s famous movie to look at the mystery of Shadow through the fear of birds. We’ll look at how some birds are signs of hope (doves, robins) and how some are connected to our fears (owls, ravens, crows, vultures). We’ll look at birds in myth and birds as dream awakeners, and discuss the spiritual aspect of birds in opening to Shadow.
Exercise: Becoming Bird ~ By 'becoming' our Shadow animal, we may take on its characteristics and accessing its teachings which, in turn, can help us learn more and better understand our Shadow. This is an exercise in creative expression, making use of cloaks, masks, feathers, skins, sounds, movements and more.
Chapter 9 That Which Swarms, Stings, Bites, Burrows and Invades
Mosquitos, wasps, hornets, killer bees, centipedes, and ants; ticks, lice, fleas, hookworms, tapeworms, ear wigs and more. This chapter explores all the little things that ‘bug’ us or get under our skin, and reveals how insects reflect (and may help us better understand) the irritating details of Shadow in the world.
Exercise: What's Bugging Me? ~ This exercise focuses on identifying shadow irritants (as projected on insects) and reframing them with shifts in awareness. Also included is a real-life example of how this exercise created a dramatic life-changing event for a woman willing to face her Shadow.
Chapter 10 What Lurks Below
This chapter may look at the Giant Squid, Octopus, Shark, Eel, Alligator, Box Jellyfish and other deadly creatures of the Deep. What part of our Psyche calls to us when such animals appear in our dreams or inspire myth and legend? What can we learn from such animals about our deeper self?
Exercise: Exploring the Deep Psyche with Shark ~ Plunging into the deep sea of the psyche is a unique endeavor for each of this. This guided imagery meditation features Shark as a guide to help us discern what lurks as well as what gleams in the dark waters of the Psyche.
Chapter 11 Metamorphosis
There is something naturally suspect about creatures that transform in drastic ways from one state of being to another. This chapter features Frog as an excellent representative of transformation, and explores why we are so very fearful of transition and change.
Exercise: Mirror Meditation ~ Mirrors show us who we are. This simple mirror meditation can help us see multiples aspects of ourselves and may evoke insights that lead to expanded awareness of self.
Chapter 12 The Fear of Knowing Who We Are
It is often the Ancient Lizard — Dragon or Snake, that guards the deepest treasure within our psyche. Why should this be so? This chapter explores Snake as the powerful, fearsome guardian that also serve to initiate us into larger perspectives once we are able to face our fears. We will also explore how Snake and other Shadow animals help us from opening too quickly, testing us to be sure we are ready to face our darkest fears, and are ultimately the ones who welcome us home to awakening.
Exercise: The Quest ~ We can learn so much about ourselves by the questions we ask. To question is to quest, to seek, to deepen and expand knowledge of who we really are. This exercise offers both review of past exercises and fresh perspectives for engaging Shadow work in the form of questions.
Chapter 13 The Most Dangerous Animal of All
Hello, human! This chapter brings all we have learned thus far to the table. Our fear of others — different cultures, races, religions, ideologies and more — keeps us in an Us versus Them mentality: separated and necessarily disconnected from our Deep Self. We cannot evolve individually or collectively in healthy ways without an opening of the heart. And to do that requires us to embrace our Shadow.
Exercise: A Celebration of Selves ~ Would you like to meet your shadow selves in a fun and meaningful way? Why not throw a party? It’s a great way to loosen up, encourage conversation, inspire deeper layers of sharing, and celebrate — You! This party template offers practical tips to engage our Shadow selves in order to deepen conversation, heal traumatized, abandoned and judged selves, and begin the journey of awakening to who we really are.
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