My Account

A Little Golden Shadow Work

Golden clouds and silhouettes
Seeing shapes: some are made of shadow and some are made of light.

A Little Golden Shadow Work

Last week in our Monday Zoom call for Inquiry Circle members, someone asked a question about “golden shadow work.” She first mentioned “shadow work” and how The Work of Byron Katie can be a way of doing this kind of work: seeing your own inner shadows that might go otherwise unseen.

This is also how I experience The Work of Byron Katie. I start out by identifying where I am judging the people and things around me. Then, I look for ways that I do the same or similar things as they do. This often reveals surprises for me and I get to see myself in ways I would not normally see.

Golden Shadow Work

The person asking the question took it further and mentioned “golden shadow work,” and asked how The Work of Byron Katie might relate to it. I don’t know much about shadow work in general and I may be grossly oversimplifying it here, but here’s my take on it from the point of view of The Work of Byron Katie.

If I notice my judgments of others and turn them around, I see my shadows (hidden traits). It doesn’t matter if my judgments are positive or negative. When I turn them around, I look for those same traits in myself. 

In The Work of Byron Katie, most of the time I do The Work on negative judgments. These are the thoughts that are stressing me. Seeing how I’m just like the people I judge can be healing. But the same process of questioning judgments about people can be used to question positive thoughts about them too. Again, it can be healing to see that I am just like the people I judge positively.

Here’s an Example

Find a specific situation to write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. But instead of looking for a time when you felt a negative emotion, look for a time when you felt a positive emotion—triggered by someone or something else. As always, with The Work, it has to be a real situation.

For example, someone recently donated generously to our scholarship fund. My Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet in this situation looks like this:

1. I am touched by him because he gave very generously.

2. I want him to know how much I appreciate it.
I want him to continue donating in the future.

3. He should be careful not to give too much.
He should find the balance within himself.

4. I need him to say, “It wasn’t personal.”
I need him to say, “I was just responding to a genuine need.”

5. He is generous, kind, supportive, a good person.

6. I always want him to continue being such a generous person.

Notice How I Changed The Worksheet a Little

Instead of “I don’t ever want…” for Line 6, I changed it to “I always want…” And in Line 4, “In order for you to be happy, what do you need him to think, say, feel, or do?” I modified it to “In order for you to not be overly happy, what do you need him to think, say, feel, or do?”

When I do The Work on this positive Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet, I’m going to find turnarounds like, “I gave generously,” “I should be careful not to give too much,” “I need me to say, ‘It wasn’t personal,'” and “I look forward to him not continuing to be such a generous person.” 

There’s a lot of potential freedom in these turnarounds because they bring balance. Emotion, either negative or positive, is a kind of imbalance stemming from attachment. Either I didn’t get what I wanted (negative) or I got what I wanted (positive). But in both cases, there is attachment in me. Doing The Work always softens my attachments.

Try This Yourself

It can be fun to do some “golden shadow work” in the form of questioning positive judgments about someone. I found that this work reveals attachments even when they are getting fulfilled at the moment and I’m feeling happy. The Work provides balance and points me back to a more neutral place that is neither happy nor stressed.

Want to try this out in a retreat environment? I’m happy to facilitate and answer questions on this interesting topic at our virtual retreat this weekend.

Join us for the virtual retreat Jun 24-26 and explore The Work with me and our Inquiry Circle community.

Have a great week,

“What we call ‘good’ and what we call ‘bad’ both come from the same place.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

Further reading: Have You Ever Done a “Positive” Worksheet?

Todd Smith has been doing The Work of Byron Katie on an almost daily basis since 2007. He is just as excited about this simple process of self-inquiry today as he was when he first came across it. He also enjoys writing about The Work, and training others in the subtleties of this meditative process. Join Todd for The Work 101 online course, private sessions, virtual retreats, and his ongoing Inquiry Circle group.