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Ayahuasca & Shadow

Skills & support for post-ceremony integration | Kerry Moran, M.A., LPC

Integration work means more than joining a sharing circle, starting a meditation practice, and maintaining a clean diet. One of its deepest aspects involves turning to face the shadow—the repressed, unseen and un-integrated psychic material we’ve left behind in the process of growing up. Conscious shadow work deliberately evokes that which we fervently desire to keep hidden. Needless to say, this requires a great deal of courage.

We all have shadows, and we must meet them in full consciousness, or else become their victims. Ayahuasca has an uncanny ability to dive directly into the depths of psyche and unearth exactly what we need to see at a particular moment. Foremost among the things it brings to light are the feelings, thoughts, and memories we dare not acknowledge; the parts of ourselves we hide or deny. Our personal shadow may include anger, sexuality, or fear; shame, judgment, or envy—or perhaps passion, curiosity, joy, or tenderness, for the shadow has a bright face as well. “The shadow is the seat of creativity,” wrote Carl Jung, who pioneered this perspective.

Developing a relationship with these exiled parts of ourselves and bringing them into consciousness is a life’s work, the Opus Magnus of the ancient alchemists. Counter-intuitively, it requires we turn towards the pain, moving deep into difficult emotions to liberate the vital energy trapped within. The dark needs to be brought into the light of consciousness and integrated, not rejected, transcended, or compartmentalized.

The ability to understand and work with shadow is an essential aspect of the integration process. In some mysterious fashion, shadow feeds the light, and it is by bringing the dark to the light of consciousness, loving it, and releasing it that we support ayahuasca’s profoundly transformative effects on psyche, soul and spirit.

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