Shadow Mind / Mara | 8 . 28 . 18


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Rajja Sutta  (SN 4:20), The Buddha

I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying among the Kosalans in a wilderness hut in a Himalayan district. Then, as he was alone in seclusion, this train of thought arose in his awareness: “Is it possible to exercise rulership without killing or causing others to kill, without confiscating or causing others to confiscate, without sorrowing or causing others sorrow — righteously?”

Then Mara, the Evil One, knowing with his awareness the train of thought in the Blessed One’s awareness, went to him and on arrival said to him: “Exercise rulership, Blessed One! Exercise rulership, O One Well-gone! — without killing or causing others to kill, without confiscating or causing others to confiscate, without sorrowing or causing others sorrow — righteously!”

“But what do you see in me, Evil One, that you say to me, ‘Exercise rulership, Blessed One! Exercise rulership, O One Well-gone! — without killing or causing others to kill, without confiscating or causing others to confiscate, without sorrowing or causing others sorrow — righteously!’?”

“Lord, the Blessed One has developed the four bases of power, pursued them, handed them the reins and taken them as a basis, given them a grounding, steadied them, consolidated them, and undertaken them well. If he wanted to, he could resolve on the Himalayas, king of mountains, as gold, and it would become a mountain of gold.”

[The Buddha:]

The entirety of a mountain of gold,

of solid bullion: even twice that would not suffice

for one person knowing this:

to live evenly in tune with the contemplative life.

When you see stress and from where it comes,

how can you incline to clinging to desires?

Knowing acquisition to be bondage in the world,

train for subduing clinging


Then Mara the Evil One — sad & dejected at realizing, **The Buddha; the One Well-gone knows me.” — vanished right there.


Brief Explaination of the Shadow

– Scott Jeffrey

It’s always standing right behind us, just out of view. In any direct light, we cast a shadow. The shadow is a psychological term for everything we can’t see in ourselves.

Most of us go to great lengths to protect our self-image from anything unflattering or unfamiliar. And so it’s easier to observe another’s shadow before acknowledging one’s own shadow. Every human being is susceptible to this.

Exploring your shadow can lead to greater authenticity, creativity, energy, and personal awakening.

What the shadow is and how it comes into being

The shadow is the “dark side” of our personality because it consists chiefly of primitive, negative human emotions and impulses like rage, envy, greed, selfishness, desire, and the striving for power. All we deny in ourselves—whatever we perceive as inferior, evil, or unacceptable—become part of the shadow. Anything incompatible with our chosen conscious attitude about ourselves relegates to this dark side.

The personal shadow is the disowned personal aspects or impulses. This shadow self represents the parts of us we no longer claim to be our own.These unexamined or disowned parts of our personality don’t go anywhere. Although we deny them in our attempt to cast them out, we don’t get rid of them. We repress them; they are part of our unconscious. Think of the unconscious as everything we are not conscious of.

**We can’t eliminate the shadow. It stays with us as our dark brother or sister. Trouble arises when we fail to see it.

How the Shadow is Born

Every young child knows kindness, love, and generosity, but he also expresses anger, selfishness, and greed. These emotions are part of our shared humanity. But as we grow up, something happens.Traits associated with “being good” are accepted, while others associated with “being bad” are rejected. We all have basic human needs. These needs include physiological needs, safety and security needs, and needs for belonging. These needs are biological and instinctual.

As children, when we expressed certain parts of ourselves, we received negative cues from our environment. Maybe we got angry and threw a tantrum. Our parents reprimanded the outburst and sent us to our room.

Or perhaps we acted boldly, playfully, spontaneously, or silly in our first-grade classroom. Our teacher shamed us for our lack of decorum in front of the class and told us to sit down.

Religious training can also cause us to supress “sinfull” behaviors and thoughts in fear of being judged and eternal punishment. Whenever it happened—and it might have happened often—it threatened one of our basic needs.

Would the disapproval of our parents threaten our safety? Would the disapproval of our teachers and classmates jeopardize our need to belong? Will perceived sins damn our soul?

We adjusted our behavior to gratify our needs and learned to adapt to the external world. All the unaccepted or discouraged parts of us in the first early years of our lives are bundled together, swept out of view (outside our conscious awareness).

As poet Robert Bly says in A Little Book of the Human Shadow, the child puts all of these unwanted parts into an invisible bag and drags it behind him. This repression of unwanted parts creates what psychologist Carl Jung called the personal shadow. As Jung writes in Psychology and Alchemy: “The is no light without shadow and no psychic wholeness without imperfection.”

Ignore the Shadow At Your Own Peril

Any part we disown within us turns against us. The personal shadow represents a collection of these disowned parts.

So here’s the problem: The shadow can operate on its own without our full awareness. It’s as if our conscious self goes on autopilot while the unconscious assumes control. We do things we wouldn’t voluntarily do and later regret (if we catch it). We say things we wouldn’t say. Our facial reactions express emotions we don’t consciously feel.

Do you remember Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Dr. Jekyll could not control the actions of his darker half, leading him to commit unscrupulous acts.

Such is the fate, although often not so severe, of anyone who denies his or her shadow.

What Happens When You Repress Your Shadow

So what happens to all the parts of ourselves we sweep out of view? Whatever qualities we deny in ourselves, we see in others. In psychology, this is called projection. We project onto others anything we bury within us. If, for example, you get irritated when someone is rude to you, it’s a good bet you haven’t owned your own rudeness. This doesn’t mean the person isn’t being rude to you. However, if rudeness wasn’t in your shadow self, someone else’s rudeness wouldn’t bother you so much. This process doesn’t happen consciously. We aren’t aware of our projections. Our egos use this mechanism to defend itself—to defend how it perceives itself. Our false identities of being “good” keep us from connecting to our shadow.

These psychological projections distort reality, creating a thick boundary between how we view ourselves and how we behave in reality.

Benefits of shadow work

The shadow isn’t a popular topic. Who enjoys owning their flaws, weaknesses, selfishness, nastiness, hate, and so on? Focusing on our strengths is more enjoyable and life-affirming. Exploring our shadow side is essential for spiritual health and balance.

Improved Relationships

As you integrate your shadow side and come to terms with your darker half, you see yourself more clearly. You become more grounded, human, and whole. When you can accept your own darker parts, it is easier to accept the shadow in others. As a result, other people’s behavior won’t trigger you as easily. You’ll also have an easier time communicating with others.You may notice an improvement in your relationships with your spouse, family members, friends, and business associates.

Clearer Perception

In seeing others and yourself as you are, you’ll have a cleaner lens with which to view the world.As you integrate your shadow self, you’re approaching your authentic self, which gives you a more realistic assessment of who you are. You won’t perceive yourself as being too big (inflated) or too small (deflated). When you’re self-aware, you can discern with more accuracy. You’ll see others and evaluate situations with greater clarity, compassion, and understanding.

Enhanced Energy and Physical Health

Dragging around this invisible bag of stuff behind us is draining. It is exhausting work to continually repress and suppress all of the parts of ourselves that we don’t want to face in our adulthood. Fatigue and lethargy can plague the unexamined life. Mental suppression can also lead to physical pain and disease. Dr. John Sarno has healed thousands of patients of chronic back pain by helping them acknowledge the repressed rage in their unconscious.

With shadow work, you liberate a tremendous reservoir of energy you were unconsciously investing in protecting yourself. This can improve your physical, mental, and emotional health. Shadow work can bring you inner strength and a greater sense of balance, making you better equipped to take on life’s challenges.

Psychological Integration and Maturity

As long as we deny our shadows and repress certain parts of ourselves, a sense of wholeness and unity is elusive.

How can we feel a sense of wholeness and balance with a divided mind? Integrating the shadow brings you one step closer to realizing a sense of wholeness. It’s a critical step to achieving mature adulthood.

Getting in Touch with the Shadow

Cultivate Self-Compassion

Before you get to know your shadow, it is helpful to cultivate a sense of unconditional friendliness with one’s self. In Buddhism, it’s called Maitri. Without friendliness and self-compassion, it is difficult to look at our darker stuff.

If you’re hard on yourself when you make mistakes, it is difficult to confront your shadow. If you’re accustomed to feeling shame or guilt, you need to transmute these emotions with friendliness, self-acceptance, and self-compassion. Start by accepting your own humanness. Remember that we all have a shadow—everyone is in the soup together, as Jung used to say. Understanding this will help you hold compassion for others. A simple Buddhist practice, offered by Thich Nhat Hanh, is to connect to your heart: place your attention on your heart. Breathe in and acknowledge your heart. Breathe out and say to your heart, “Thank you.”

Cultivate Self-Awareness

Seeing the shadow requires a self-reflective mindset—the ability to reflect and observe our behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. Meditation helps foster nonjudgmental awareness—the ability to stay aware of the present moment without involving the inner critic or other modes of judgment. Self-awareness and self-reflection are a precursor to shadow work because they help us observe feelings and emotional reactions without judgment or criticism.

Be Courageously Honest

Self-honesty and integrity are prerequisites for shadow work. It’s easy to give lip service to these qualities, but true self-honesty means being willing to see unpleasant attributes in our behavior and personality. It is often uncomfortable to come to terms with your disowned parts, which is why the ego invests so much energy in repressing them. Seeing and accepting your insecure selfishness and tyrannical nasty parts can be challenging. To take an honest look at your attitudes, behaviors, dark thoughts, and emotions require courage and self compassion.

The rewards are worth the discomfort, as these honest confrontations with your shadow helps you maintain emotional and spiritual balance.


At Savatthi. Now at that time the Blessed One was instructing, urging, rousing, & encouraging the monks with a Dhamma talk concerning Unbinding. The monks — attentive, interested, lending ear, focusing their entire awareness — were listening to the Dhamma.

Then the thought occurred to Mara, the Evil One: “Gotama the contemplative is instructing, urging, rousing, & encouraging the monks with a Dhamma talk concerning Unbinding. The monks — attentive, interested, lending ear, focusing their entire awareness — are listening to the Dhamma. What if I were to go to Gotama the contemplative to obscure his vision?”

Then Mara the Evil One, taking on the form of a farmer with a large plowshare over his shoulder, carrying a long goad stick — his hair disheveled, his clothes made of coarse hemp, his feet splattered with mud — went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, said, “Hey, contemplative. Have you seen my oxen?”


“And what are your oxen, Evil One?”


“And what are your oxen, Evil One?”


Of what people say,

‘This is mine—and those who say, ‘Mine’:

If you think this way contemplative,

you can’t escape from me.

[The Buddha:]

What people speak of, is not mine,

and I am not one of those who speak that way.

Know this, Evil One,

You won’t even see my tracks.

Then Mara the Evil One — sad & dejected at realizing, **The Blessed One knows me; the One Well-gone knows me” — vanished right there.


** Acknowledging the shadow, disengages it’s influence and hold.

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