what the shadow knows

shadowShadow knows its purpose; it seeks to make the unconscious conscious, it tries to tell us its secrets. Our job is to learn how to listen and to discover our shadow’s purpose.” – Leigh Pobst

Following a sequence of topics suggested by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, we started an investigation of our shadow selves in writing group last Thursday evening. It was a surprisingly lively discussion, given we had three new participants and a shadow from the previous week to address while reinforcing our circle agreements.

Yes, as always in these circles, routine and consistency prevailed. We moved on through the opening poem, which stirred a surprising amount of resonance with the seven writers present. It was ‘From Out of the Cave’ by Joyce Sutphen, opening and closing with the following lines:

When you have been/at war with yourself/for so many years that/
you have forgotten why… 

then you wake,/you stumble from your cave,/blinking in the sun,/
naming every shadow/as it slips.

We enhanced our writing practice by inviting this topic to the pen, mediated by striking visual images from Deborah Koff-Chapin’s SOUL CARDS 2 (TM).   Two writings that emerged are shared below, along with the image that evoked their words. Remember, these are unedited ‘fast-writes,’ or free-association writing done in 15 minutes without lifting pen from page. Just see what the shadow knows!


I have fear, lots of fear.
I see a strange and dark man,
I get frightened. The man comes
closer to me. I keep backing up
toward the window to get away.
From backing up so much I feel something
in the back of me; it is the wall. But
the man keeps coming closer; and when
he gets to me, I scream. I start to shake and cry.
The man whispers, “Don’t be scared, my child.
I won’t hurt you, for I’m your shadow
and your inner consciousness playing tricks on you.”




21 in a mid-life crisis
like the death of a best friend,
all the burned bridges,
chaos and oppression
WAR. I blow way in ashes.
Lift me up; and make me strong.
I’m Maya Angelou and I Rise …
But there’s a bittersweet sensation,
a fond memory,
an envious aquarius.
I’m giving, I’m giving you all of me.
I’m a giving tree.
What will there be?
what will be, will be.
What is going to be?
What’s left of me?


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