inner work: shadows & light

Adrift. Betwixt. Between. Limbo.

I was feeling all of it last November when I realized I needed a creative ritual to see me through the end of the year.

For a couple of days I pondered one compelling idea after another, until finally settling on what was right in front of me: writing prompts I’d put together for the end of 2012.

Simple: Write.

Open the journal and give the pen free reign.

Freedom. Free writing.

So I started. And it was good. Over a period of several weeks a lot of bottled up stuff flowed out, some of it brilliantly shiny and bright.

Some of it intensely shadowed and cloudy.


There were disappointments. Resentments. Judgments (self- and other-directed). Anger. Bitterness. Hurt.

So here’s where I want to stop and ask you a question.

Have you ever had an experience where this shadowy stuff comes up and you think you must take some action?

That’s what happens for a lot of my clients. They might ask: What should I do about this? What decision should I make? Do I need to end this relationship? Or quit my job? Or fix this part of myself?

Often I ask back: Could you just be with it for awhile?

Because really you don’t have to do anything right now.

In fact, it’s probably best to chill with it for a bit. Let it work its way out to the place where it reveals its wisdom to you.

I know how difficult and uncomfortable that can be though. I think that’s why we don’t do inner work more often. Maybe we believe we’re too fragile to cope with it.

But the thing is, there are some very powerful ways to cope and be with it.


I ended up coping with my shadowy stuff by diving back into it, intensifying the dark feelings and words, ranting more of them onto the page. Multiplying them until I was spent.

Then I covered them all up with black paint. And used chalk pastel pencil to add (in a smudgy way) the most insightful and revealing words from my original free writes. The words that really stopped me in my tracks. I knew I didn’t want to lose those.

But I didn’t make a very conscious decision about any of this. I had no idea where I would end up. I just let my intuition lead.

I’m so glad I did because eventually the clouds started to move and I found myself at another threshold.

A beginning. A door opening to the light.


More painting. More writing. Until a flowing image emerged that looks an awful lot to me like a woman dancing with joy and abandon.

Thank you, Inner Work.

One of the most life-affirming things I know is that while  there will always be shadow there will always be light, somewhere, balancing it out.

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6 thoughts on “inner work: shadows & light

  1. What a beautiful post, Patty:~) I used to write diaries and then journals. It amazed me later to return to what seemed like an endless “pity party” and find huge chunks of wisdom hidden amongst the sad, angry and often silly words. Those chunks of wisdom were my wise woman whispering to me, even if I couldn’t hear her at the time.

    I don’t write journals as much as I should. Perhaps it’s something I might try going back to, but you are absolutely right; the writing must be free and uncensored. Since I’ve been doing fiction, free writing has been more difficult. The censor steps in, but you’re giving me ideas to play with.

    Thank you for sharing this:~)

    • Thanks so much, Sara! Never thought of this…how the free writing might not come so easily when you’re concentrating on fiction. I wonder what would happen if you tried free writing and then used something from it to create fiction? Charlotte (Wordstrumpet) talks about that. When I did this series of free writes there were particular phrases and runs that I really want to go back to and continue. Like, maybe there’s a story there. Or at least a blog post!

  2. Yes, Patty. This has been one of the most powerful epiphany I’ve had over the years: light and dark walk hand in hand. That’s what Life is made of. Tending to one does not negate the other but weaves a very resilient and glorious fabric called our own life. My brother-in-law told me once, ‘we’re all half full and half empty’. I resisted this truth for the longest time. Surely, as you say, something needed to be done to purge the darkness. Not so. It is in accepting to be with it that I found my way to the light. Thank you. ♥

  3. Wow! This is such a cool story! I love the use of free-writing as a literal means to freedom! When we feel stuck, it’s always such a relief to find avenues to freely share, express and process the energy! I love how the free-write morphed and expanded into a free-flowing art project! Get the shadow stuff out! See it! Acknowledge it! Accept it! Then paint it black and what surfaces?! Light! Color! Awareness! Transition! Insight! That’s such an inspiring part of the story– I didn’t see it coming that anything could come after the black. It’s pitch black after all! But you found new mediums- pastels and chalk! Those are designed to write over the black, and that itself was a nice metaphor to read and absorb :). Thanks for sharing your process Patty! A true gift, as always!

    • Thank you Kristie! You’ve taken the metaphor even further for me. I was absolutely determined to get some medium that would work on top of the black. *Needed* it in my gut and went out to get those chalk pastel pencils. On a mission, of sorts. But it wasn’t until you mentioned the chalk/black board link. So cool! And we can erase a black board but still, something light always lingers there. A little bit of dust.

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