What if the things you dislike most about yourself are your greatest strengths? Crazy idea, isn’t it? Yet this is an idea my yoga teacher put out to us one morning. She was reading a book about shadow work, or more specifically embracing our shadow side. The author suggests we think of our dark sides as great strengths.
Before I decided whether my shadow is my strength—or whether anyone’s is for that matter—I needed to get very quiet. I needed sit with that idea and see how it might be true. Imagine what a transformation it would be if we could literally turn our darkness into light! Shadow work suggests we can.
When my teacher first presented the idea that shadow work can reveal our greatest strength, I thought how can that be? The first two things I pulled from my shadows cannot possible be my strong points.
Or can they?
Shadow Work Shows Us Our Shadow May Not Be So Dark
The parts of myself I immediately thought of were my temperament and my disciplined nature. As I kid, I was quiet and lived mostly in an inner world, often forgetting I was among people. In school, I often felt like I was watching a movie. Academic success came easily, so I did well in school without getting too involved in my classes.
My peers lived in a world I couldn’t relate to well. As a child, I was told I thought about things that were too deep that kids my age don’t think about. I guess was an old soul.
Because of this feedback, I came to believe my inner world should be kept inside. It didn’t belong in the open, where everyone around me seemed to focus on other things. While I like who I am now, I still tend to see my temperament as part of my shadow side, mostly because I was told it was as a child.
Discipline also comes naturally to me. Once I commit to something—a yoga practice, a healthy diet, a work-from-home schedule—I stick to it. I’ve often wished I could be more flexible. But creating order from chaos is sort of my thing. Once I find a way to do it—with anything—I can’t stop without feeling uncomfortable.
What could possibly make either of these qualities my greatest strengths?
Well, after a lot of shadow work, I can tell you…
But I’m only telling you because my yoga teacher suggested we give embracing our shadow a try. (Thank you!) I’m choosing to trust that she—and the book she was reading—are right; our shadow side holds our greatest strengths.
Turning Darkness into Light By Embracing Our Shadow
Most people I know tell me I’m a good listener. I’m a good listener, for the most part, because I don’t talk a lot. People also tell me they envy my commitment and discipline. I get a lot done because of it, so that makes it a good thing, a strength even.
I do value being a good listener. In fact, I’ve come to value it enough that I wouldn’t trade for more attention or to be someone who always has something to say. When I have something to say, I say it. (More often, I write it.) Still, I think most of the time words are not the best way to communicate.
Silence teaches us who we are, says author Rich Lewis. Once we know who we are, we can share our gifts with the world confidently.
That’s why meditation, stillness—many things we learn in yoga—are so powerful. You can take the words you hear or read and sit with them in silence. That’s usually when true transformation happens.
My disciplined nature is also an asset. People know what to expect from me. They know they can count on me to do what I say I’ll do. My clients appreciate this quality for sure.
Where the Light Leads
For me the path to enlightenment is what life is about. For as long as I can remember, it’s been the only thing that truly matters to me. I have no idea how close I am, but the journey—the quest for union with the divine—is more important than any other trip I can think of.
So, while I may not always fit in a mainstream kind of way, I know I’m on the right path. And very clearly I couldn’t travel the road I’m on without my shadow(s). Or to put it more accurately, the journey would not be possible if I didn’t have the clarity I need to turn the darkness into light—to be still, to listen, to stay committed to moving forward.
What about you? Can you look at the darkest corners of your being and find a way to transform your shadow side into your greatest strength? I hope you will. Let me know how you’re doing!
Would you like to explore more yoga topics in depth—perhaps with a group of yoga friends? Get your copy of Yoga Circles, A Guide to Creating Community off the Mat. You’ll find lots of topics and activities for living the yoga lifestyle and enjoying time with like-minded yogis! Click here to order!
Hi, I’m Maria. I created Yoga Circles for you if you want to delve more deeply into the philosophy, practice, and life-changing effects of yoga. I’m also a writer and editor who helps small business owners, wellness professionals, teachers, and authors publish books, develop marketing strategies, and connect with readers, clients, and students. Visit my website (link below) for more about that. I’d love to hear from you!