Shadow and Flame

That title, “Shadow and Flame”, may sound a little familiar to you if you’ve read Tolkien. It’s the description that he gives to the Balrog, demons who had fallen from previous grace and corrupted in ancient times. It’s wonderfully evocative, providing an immediate visual and uses the words in a complementary fashion, to support this symbol of evil and darkness.

I was reminded of this phrase when I came across an email from Ali Schultz at, an amazing corporate-focused coaching organization. Her article is titled “Exile Nothing” and you can read it here: Exile Nothing – Reboot

She relates her challenge in embracing her anger as an equally important aspect of her behaviour & emotional makeup. I can totally relate to this challenge. During my studies of Life Skills Coaching and continuing to the present, I have always felt a slight disconnect in my mindfulness approach as it relates to all my emotions, especially anger.

I am not one to get angry quickly or often. I feel that I have a “slow fuse” and that it takes quite a while to get to a full boil, so to speak. I think that this has offered me a good vantage point to be able to observe and be mindful of my emotions.

I recall the first time I was exposed to Eckhart Tolle’s teachings and his presentation style. I admit to being impressed by his demeanour and ability to observe and reflect in the moment. However, part of me felt (and to be honest, still feels) that that approach was too “removed” for me. As an artist, I feel that not acknowledging & embracing those perceived “negative” emotions would result in a fairly bland existence. I tried to imagine the world of art without a Kurt Cobain or Janis Joplin or Vincent Van Gogh and the way they were able to channel those emotions into their art.

I’ve had discussions about this with my best friend as well. She is a musician as well and is definitely in the “feel everything to its fullest” camp and I love her for that. In my conversations with her and other friends, I’ve come to better understand an approach for myself that feels authentic and respectful of what I’m experiencing.

In the past, I would often spin & ruminate on thoughts that came out of perceived “negative” emotions, like rejection, abandonment, anger and resentment. There’s a feeling of comfort when you allow the “monkey chatter” to persist – in my case, there was a feeling of preparedness and exhausting all emotional possibilities in the belief that I would be prepared for anything. While it may have been an interesting emotional exercise to endure, the toll it takes is simply not worth it to me anymore.

So instead of allowing myself to spin, I feel intently what it is that I’m experiencing and use that emotional fuel to guide me to act – to change the way I feel to be aligned with something more empowering and authentic for me. I now see those emotions that I would’ve previously categorized as “negative” and tried to avoid or suppress as signs for action. They give me direction to change my state, and to give me the energy to pursue that change.

Back to the title, for me the word “flame” doesn’t echo or reinforce the darkness from those “shadow” emotions. Instead, it complements the shadow, in a yin-yang way, and is the “action” and energy for change. That energy is a beacon for us and those around us – we can harness it and use it to change our state & situation and to inspire those around us.

In each of us is the potential for great darkness & incredible lightness – I now feel & believe that the two can support each other and work hand in hand to allow us to make great changes in our lives, and to share that lightness with those around us.

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