- To learn more about Dr. Connie Zweig and her books head over to conniezweig.com
- To learn more about the shadow and carl Jung check out the society of Analytical Psychology and this article on the Shadow
If you enjoyed this episode on shadow work you might also enjoy episode 005 The Lover archetype in dangerous times with Indrus Piche
Hello, and welcome to Awake In Relationship. My name is Silas Rose, if you’re a regular listener in podcast, and I hope you are, I’m going to assume that you probably have some sort of contemplative, or spiritual practice that helps to keep you sane, and as part of your regular wellness routine. That might be yoga or meditation or maybe it is a little bit more adventurous. I know a lot of people are really excited about psychedelic therapy right now and other forms of shamanic work. In the past few decades there has really been an explosion of new forms of spirituality. Many people have been exiting traditional religious institutions in search of a more direct and personal approach to enlightenment, in this lonely world that can really feel kind of intoxicating, to find a spiritual home, a community that provides the safety and support to explore your deepest spiritual longing. For those fortunate enough to find a teacher, a spiritual master, intoxication grows into devotion, a meeting of minds and hearts. In many traditions, the teacher student relationship is considered sacred. Because the teacher, a qualified teacher, can see through our bullshit and offer a glimpse into the ultimate view, our true nature, beyond dualistic thought, and ego clinging. However, within the bliss of devotion, hides the potential of a poison pill that neither the student or the teacher are prepared to swallow. Great realization doesn’t necessarily mean great emotional intelligence, or the absence of a shadow. The shadow was a term coined by Carl Jung to describe the unconscious mind. It’s a place where our deepest family secrets reside, or unmet desires, repressed emotions, as well as our unexpressed gifts and talents. We often only become aware of the shadow when it’s activated, in intimate relationships, where issues around sexuality, power, and money come to the surface. Really, what is the spiritual path for if not to bring to light these most hidden parts of ourselves? Yet so many spiritual communities are blindsided when allegations of clergy abuse or sexual misconduct are raised against a teacher? The rupture of trust, really can bring into question the validity of one’s own insights and wisdom. For the student in really sets in motion a profound disillusionment and self doubt that can be really hard to overcome. For the modern day, Yogi, or Yogini. It’s a remarkably common experience. It’s an experience I know personally. That’s back in 2018, my own spiritual community blew up after reports of sexual misconduct were levied against my own teacher. So I wanted to invite onto the show, someone that could speak to the importance of shadow work, and healing on the spiritual path. Dr. Connie Zwieg, is the author Meeting the Shadow on the Spiritual Path,: The dance and darkness and light in our search for awakening. In this conversation, we talk about the archetypal longing that initially inspires us to seek out a teacher and the disillusionment and heartbreak we might feel when we discover our teacher is actually human with human fallibility. We also discuss some lessons learned from some of the more high profile examples of misconduct among yoga and meditation communities in the West, and how to restore trust in the teacher student relationship through integrating shadow work on the path to awakening in the modern world. Stay tuned.
Silas Rose 5:12
So, Connie, welcome to Awake In Relationship.
Dr Connie Zweig 5:15
Thanks for having me Silas,
Silas Rose 5:17
I’m really curious about the personal inspiration from writing this book. Why write about the shadow, and spirituality.
Dr Connie Zweig 5:32
When I was 19, I was at school in Berkeley, I think it was 1969. And we were striking down at the psychology department, because they were killing animals. And I saw this really cute guy walking out of the building, long ponytail down to his butt. And I followed him. And we started talking, and we had this great connection, we walked all across Berkeley, and he would not go out with me unless I learned TM. So I went to the local meditation center and learned how to meditate and found that my mind was quieting, my anger was dissipating, I was generally feeling better, and I got more and more involved with TM eventually became a TM teacher. And in my 20s, that’s really what my life was about. So now that’s 50 years ago, but at the time, it was a very dramatic life change. And it was very much about there were there was incredible knowledge being transmitted. Lots of long meditation retreats, community and belonging, you know, purpose and meaning. Because when we taught meditation, we felt like we were opening the possibility of enlightenment to people. And then slowly, that community became more hierarchical, more rigid, more financially demanding. And my Rishi who was the teacher had a number of sex scandals, even though he was telling people to be celibate. And so there was a lot going on, that turned me off, I got discouraged, and I left. And that separation was very painful. Because none of my friends would speak to me. I lost my purpose, I lost my sort of orientation in my life. And so, years later, when I was in graduate school, in depth, psychology and studying young, I got really involved in exploring the shadow, and the ways in which we form shadow in spiritual communities. And I wrote my dissertation on the holy longing, which is a poetic term for our spiritual yearning, a yearning for the divine for transcendence for non duality. And so there was, you know, way back then this kind of link for me between spirituality and psychology and trying to understand trying to use depth psychology to understand spirituality. And eventually, that became a book called The Holy longing, which then became very outdated. And so I have written this very Revised Version, post me to movement and all of the changes that humanity has gone through. That’s called meeting the shadow on the spiritual path, the dance of darkness and light in our search for awakening. So, and this is my sixth book. So somehow, I ended up spinning my career exploring the shadow. And one of the books is about relationships. One is about sort of general, everything and the shadow and one is about aging and the shadow. And I hadn’t really done spirituality, again in the current climate and also with what I’ve learned over all these years. So that’s how this happened.
Silas Rose 9:37
I think many of the people listening to this podcast are familiar with the term shadow. How do you define it? And how does it show up differently for individuals and for groups?
Dr Connie Zweig 9:53
This shadow is a term that was coined by Carl Jung to refer to that part of us that holds the forbidden, unwanted, unwelcome traits, qualities and behaviors that we learn as a child will not be rewarded with love and approval. Rather, they’ll be shamed or punished or, you know, told that there are taboo. So it could be our anger, our tears, it could be our, our talent for painting, if that’s not approved of in a family, it could be our sexuality, or pretty much anything at all, that doesn’t fit into our family system, and our parents and teachers and clergy is framework for what’s acceptable. So it’s not all bad, it’s only bad in relation to ego. So the ego experiences it as bad, and then represses it or stuffs it away in the body mind. So the, you know, we used to think that the mind and body were separate, and the shadow was like a little closet inside the brain, it’s not like that the mind and the body are functionally identical. Everything’s working together. So the shadow material in the body, in the muscles, the nerves in the hole in our whole system, in fact, it’s in the subtle body, there’s shadow material in every chakra, as well. So every once in a while that material gets triggered, and it erupts. And so, you know, really peaceful person may go into a rage, or a really mellow person may fall into a depression. Or someone in a midlife crisis may act out sexually by having an affair, or so. So the reason that it’s important to explore shadow content for each of us is that when it emerges, it sabotages our conscious intentions. It’s not aligned. So if I say, for example, I’m going to finish writing this book by January 1. And I don’t do that there’s a part of me, I would call it the procrastinator that sabotages that intention. Or you’re in a relationship, and you have an intention to be kind and to be a good listener. But what happens is all these critical comments come out of your mouth. And you have the same fight over and over again with your partner. So that’s all the shadow emerging. So in our spiritual communities, we also develop a kind of persona, a spiritual persona, because we want to look good and get other people meditating or practicing or coming to this teacher. And so certain other material goes into the shadow. And so groups develop their own shadows, what’s not acceptable in that group? With some groups, it might be sexuality and other groups, that’s acceptable. So the each community or tribe also forms a persona, and a shadow with the material that that doesn’t fit the socially acceptable persona. And, you know, our teachers are all are doing the same thing. So our teachers who may come from monastic cultures that have different mores and values, maybe they’re sexist cultures, maybe they’re celibate. Maybe the teacher is told that he is really special as a lineage holder. And so he’s bringing all of that material over to another, the postmodern Western culture, right? That’s more about individuality, and self expression, and more, more open sexuality. And there’s this clash of cultures as well as of individual shadows, that happens in this transplantation of teachers to the west.
Silas Rose 14:44
One thing I’d find some perplexing, it’s such a pervasive issue or problem here in the West, you know, not only on the Catholic Church, but among contemplative traditions like yoga and of course, Buddhism. What is a spiritual path for, if not to bring out that material to bring to light in the darkness. Yet, it always catches us by surprise.
Dr Connie Zweig 15:12
Yes, that’s correct. I think we have, we sort of started out quite naive on the path. Most people, if I pray enough, or meditate enough or sit long enough, or I’m devoted enough to this teacher, it will just all be light, and flowers from here on out. And so the denial of shadow is really epidemic. And for that reason, many of us continue to repress material in our spiritual relationships and our spiritual communities. You know, we’re not, we’re not looking at our blind spots, we’re not encouraged to do that. Rather, we’re encouraged to keep that relationship in place. And again, it could be a priest parishioner. It could be a rabbi, it could be a shaman, a shaman using plant medicine, I’ve had some terrible reports from those communities, it could be a Vidanta Swami. As you said, it could be a Roshi, or a Buddhist, teacher, Allama, or Roshi. So you know, it’s very nondenominational. And that’s because we’re human, and human beings have shadows. And when we don’t have training in how to work with our own shadow material, or, or, I should say, and how to detect it in others, how to cultivate shadow awareness so that we can see red flags. And know when it’s dangerous for us. And I’ve had so many people say to me, my body was telling me it was dangerous, and I didn’t listen. So if we don’t have that kind of training, and cultivate that kind of awareness, along with pure awareness, or pure consciousness, or whatever name we use for that our Buddha nature or Christ nature, or essence, if we don’t, along with that, really cultivate this, our psychological awareness, then, at some point on the path, it’s fairly common, that something will happen, will meet our own darkness or the darkness of the teacher or of the group. And we’ll be shocked. And what I want to kind of tell people is, it doesn’t mean when we meet the shadow, it doesn’t mean we’re off the path. This is part of the path than every tradition, whether we call it the dark night of the soul, or the via negativa, or whatever we call it, this is part of the path. And yet we have no guidance for it. And most teachers don’t know what to do about it, they have no guidance for it. They have no moral, no moral development, no training and moral development. So chapter five of the book really tells a lot of stories about allegations against teachers, and how they, even in advanced levels of consciousness, how they acted out their shadows, and harmed people in this really sacred relationship. And then, the second half of the book is about how to begin to recover from that many people suffer PTSD from these experiences. They suffer loss of faith, and anxiety, and depression. And other people are more resilient. And they can become whistleblowers. And they can learn to talk about what they observe or what they experience, and really work to make changes in the groups in order to to protect other people from having those experiences. So it’s a very individual process. I’m not telling people what to do, you know, whether to leave or not. But what I’m suggesting is, let’s not be naive, as we make these commitments, let’s be aware that they are psychological issues. Some people are looking for the perfect parent. And they project that onto the teacher. Some people are looking for belonging, an end to isolation, loneliness. And that’s the Most important thing to them, their lot of unmet childhood needs in these relationships. And at the same time I mentioned our holy longing, that yearning for the Divine is universal, there’s nothing wrong with it. You know, all the poets and poets talk about the souls longing for the beloved. So this is not a bad thing to be a seeker. However, if we can learn to cultivate shadow awareness, and use what I call shadow work to get through these to work through these situations of abuse, or trauma, or betrayal, then we can become much more mature spiritual seekers. And that spiritual maturity I think, is beginning to happen. Now, as people become more aware of all of these scandals,
Silas Rose 21:04
Your story is so relatable. I feel like there’s something archetypal that we’re kind of dialing into, certainly with the holy longing, but really, an understanding of the path. And to self confessed I have personal experience with this, back in 2018, my own spiritual community, went through a major rupture when my teacher had allegations of sexual misconduct levied against him duringthe height of th #metoo movement. I, like many others were completely blindsided. 5 years later, it is still fresh, the feeling of disillusionment. Something got damaged in the process of that kind of rupture. For me, it really kind of relates to that holy longing, I feel the holy longing is very genuine. It’s very powerful, and also naive.It’s like a child. I’m wondering if we can talk a little bit more about that holy longing?
Dr Connie Zweig 22:20
Well, I think it has different dimensions to it. So there’s a childlike dimension. I can remember being I think it was in junior high school, we call it, we called it now I think it’s Middle School. longing for God and praying in my bed. My family was not religious. Nobody ever talked to me about doing that. I didn’t go to Sunday school. But there was this part of me that was longing for something greater than myself, even at that young age. So there’s that childlike part. But there’s also as you said, the archetypal part. What is our image of the Divine? What images do we carry unconsciously in the shadow of gods? And how do we relate to those images? How do we long for them, imagine our relationship to them. Carl Jung wrote a lot about the image of God in his clinical practice, and how people would talk about their restlessness for something more, and then they would hit and then finally they would come up with an image that was the object of their longing. And it wasn’t just a parent and unconditional love. It was something divine. Maybe it was an image of a divine human. Maybe it was a mandala, or a light or an ohm, or, you know, depending on the lineage or an image of kind of an almighty God. And so that’s the archetypal component of the holy longing that as you say, is very genuine. And what happens when it lands that projection lands on a human being, and we imagine that he or she is self realized, and compassionate and perfect. So, what I’ve come to understand is there are no perfect human beings, and that even men and women who have attained high levels of non duality, still may have shadow material stuck in in the sex chalk or stuck in the power chakra, or they may have lack of conscience. I mean, when you read the stories in the book, you can only conclude but some of them are extremely narcissistic. And they’re so self centered that they feel immune to the consequences of their actions, they don’t feel empathy for the person they’re harming. And so there are kind of many layers to this. And, and from that teacher’s point of view, that clergy person who’s acting out that way, what’s going on in his or her psychology? What is he many teachers are isolated, they don’t have peer support. They don’t they land in the West without cultural training, they haven’t had moral development in their cultures of origin or their families, right. And so they’re, and then they’re suddenly adored. They’re adored, not just admired, right? They’re adored by hundreds, or maybe millions of people. In India, some teachers are adored by millions of people. And so what happens when you carry that much projection, about being perfect, and nobody knows you, nobody really knows who you are, because you’re idealized. And it’s that idealized image that people see they don’t see your humanity. This is very isolating. I mean, this is not an enviable position to be in from my point of view. So there’s a dynamic then there’s this naive seeker or believer who’s projecting that. And then there’s this receiver of all that projection, who’s carrying it, maybe for years. And so what happens when he loses his temper, or he gets depressed, or he feels isolated, or he feels depressed, he can’t show that right? Or he has sexual urges, but his lineage is celibate. And so there’s a lot of risk going both ways, in this dynamic,
Silas Rose 27:13
aThis is actually a very compassionate way of looking at it. Because it’s so easy to just dismiss the teacher. You know, and I think there is 2 kinds of questions there. One is really about personal recovery as a student, but the second question is really, how does the the teacher recover? Especially post #metoo and I think the cancel culture, of the day has its own shadow, in that it doesn’t allow for a path back and redemption.
Dr Connie Zweig 27:48
There are very few teachers who are open to looking at this and trying to recover because if you want to recover, you recognize you’ve done something wrong, or that there’s something about you, that’s acting out. unconsciously. harmfully, right. There’s very few examples of this. So I give a few of them in the book. Yogi Amrit Desai, who founded the Kripalu Yoga Center, was married and was found to be having an affair. First he denied it with a student. And then another student came forward. And so he admitted both of the sexual affairs and he took on learning about the psychological dimension of what had happened. And he and Cree, Polly brought in consultants and therapists, they work to redesign the community. Initially, he thought he could stay, but eventually he left. And the community was really reimagined to be not guru centered. Brew joy, who was a physician who became a healer, and then a teacher actually wrote a book about his own experience of being a teacher and falling off the pedestal. And so I tell that story. And there’s a community in LA the LA Zen Center that had another sexual scandal with the Roshi who was I think he was like 100 years old at the time, and first denied he was having sex with female students and then eventually it all came out. And after he left, a female role she took over and she redesigned everything from top to bottom because the systems that are patriarchal are colluding with the abuse. And colluding with the man in power if it’s a man, and so she redesigned. In fact, she had people sit Zaza, then, you know, that’s normally done facing the wall, she had them face each other. She taught them shadow work and how to communicate, she redesigned the male female dynamic. So that was a very beautiful story about recovery, and renewal. But, and there may be more, I know that Andrew Cohen, um, has really, you know, fallen from grace, and is now on a book tour trying to make amends with people he hurt. And those are really the only examples that I know of, of teachers who’ve taken on trying to repair what they’ve done for students, or parishioners or believers to do individual shadow work, that’s what the second half of the book is about. So it’s really to begin to explore what we lose in the projection onto a teacher, what are we giving away to the teacher that we’re then stuffing into our own shadow, so forgiving away compassion, this is the most compassionate person, you know, on the planet, and I can only be that way, if I stay with her, then we’re not acknowledging our own capacity for compassion. And that goes into our shadows, it’s not lived out, because it’s given away. If we give away the light, or the essence, or the consciousness, or the whatever we call it, then we’re not trying to cultivate that in ourselves, recognizing that that is who we are, we’re only seeing it outside of ourselves, right?
Silas Rose 32:06
So often the teacher is put in a position where they confirm that,
Dr Connie Zweig 32:15
You know, when we’re trained as psychologists and therapists, and we’re taught about projection, and how to carry the projection. If we have really good training, we learn when to find the moment to give it back in order to empower the client. These teachers are not doing that, as far as I know, they may talk about it, I mean, Muktananda talked about it, but they don’t actually give it back and say to the student, unless the student has some experiences of awakening, and then they say, Okay, go out and teach, which has happened, you know, in some of these communities, but mostly, they don’t give back in a very clear way, that capacity, that being that they’re that they’ve been carrying, that power and authority and spiritual light that they’ve been asked to carry, they don’t really return it to the students. Why? Because most of them want to stay in power. They want to stay on their golden throne. They want to stay adored. They want the money coming in with a lot of stories about financial abuse. Someone just told me this week that she, when she started with her teacher, he asked for tithing small amounts of money. And then he asked for a portion of people’s income. And then he asked for people’s estates when their families died. He wanted the land or the house or the estates. And that’s financial abuse, or coercion, whatever we want to call it, you know. So, some of this is subtle and very covert. And some of it’s really overt like that, you know, well, if you want to stay with me in this relationship and be a special follower, then you have to turn over your parents estate to me. So and in terms of coming back to the recovery process, there are several other parts of it, we need to recover our critical thinking. Because some of us have been instructed that to ignore the mind. You know, thoughts are empty, and they’re not important and so we ignore the doubts. We ignore the questions. The questions are not respected. reclaim our authentic feelings. So whatever feelings have been stuffed away. You know, how do we what would happen if we began to just let them arise a little bit, even just a little bit, whether it’s fear, anger, anxiety, whatever it is, and reclaiming our agency to act on our own behalf, whether that means separating from the teacher, or whether it means staying and asking more questions, maybe even becoming a whistleblower in some situations, and taking the risk that’s involved in that it’s very scary for people to speak up in these situations. There’s so much it’s like an alcoholic family that’s holding secrets about abuse. And it’s the secrets that glue the whole system together. And so it’s difficult to speak up. And even in some lineages, it’s you take a vow not to do that. You know, you actually take a vow not to question your teacher. So, um, and then I would also say, reclaiming our images of the Divine becoming aware of what’s typically unconscious that we’re imagining that we’re longing for. What does that look like? And does it fit who we are now?
Silas Rose 36:41
So if you were to imagine a new form of spirituality in the west a mature form, what would that look like?
Dr Connie Zweig 36:51
That’s a huge question Silas. I don’t have a single answer. I think we’re in the process. Really, um, you know, many millions of people are becoming unchurched. They’re leaving traditional Christianity, and they’re searching for something new. Many other people are becoming more fundamentalist, whether in Judaism, or Christianity, or Islam, or the Eastern religions, you know, it’s kind of going both ways. I think one of the paradoxes that’s interesting is, how many people are having experiences of awakening, while we’re in the middle of all these really extreme interconnected crises that we’re facing around climate and democracy and gun violence and poverty and hunger? Isn’t that that’s like a really interesting moment. So what is that about? I mean, a new spirituality from my point of view, would include psychological or shadow awareness. So, you know, Catholic, Catholic priests would be trained, not just in the morality of the Bible, but in how to have conscience, around their own sexuality. And Eastern teachers would have some kind of community and peer support, to be able to look at their own issues, and not be ashamed of their own flaws and vulnerabilities. I’m, I’m part of a group called association for spiritual integrity, which is trying to do this. We meet once a month, we have webinars and discussions with a lot of people who are both seekers and teachers, some of the new young teachers who are coming out and you know, working online, and so we’re, we’re trying to assist them with this missing piece. In their development. You probably know Ken Wilbers idea about lines of development. Well, it’s about you know, you can be awakening is not global, you can wake up without becoming a musician or without becoming really an excellent communicator in relationships or without becoming Einstein, right. So the spiritual line of development is separate from cognitive development, emotional development, creative development, and also moral development. So ethics Send morals don’t automatically come to people when they wake up. And I think that this is extremely important for people to understand, who want to both step into the position of teacher and also step into the position of a devotional relationship with someone. And to kind of, and to ask, or at least watch and see if there’s moral development there. If there’s some kind of ethical, and there may be precepts that are intellectual, you know, a lot of insight society has their precepts. And a lot of yoga has the yamas and niyamas. But these people are not living out their precepts because their shadows are erupting.
Silas Rose 40:55
Ken Wilber talks about 3 stages, Ithe first is waking up, then growing up, and then cleaning up.
Dr Connie Zweig 41:01
So the cleaning up is what I’ve kind of focused my career on, and can teach his shadow work in a different way than I do. We’ve talked, you know, I’ve talked about it endlessly. But you know, this is, for me really essential to creating a new kind of spirituality, especially if we’re going to continue to have a teacher student dynamic. Some people want to get rid of that altogether, you know, and redesigned communities that are not in the guru model.
Silas Rose 41:38
And if it’s not too personal. I’m kind of curious, what is your own relationship to spirituality look like now?
Dr Connie Zweig 41:45
You know, I usually don’t talk about and I’ll tell you why, because people tend to imitate. And my lineage and practices are not what somebody else, you know, what is right for somebody else. So I’ve had other disappointing experiences since that early one in my 20s, with teachers. One of them was in India with a highly advanced, adept, who had lived all his life on the streets as a Sonya Lawson. And he had no relationship skills, and he was really mean to me, contemptuous and sexist. I had another experience with someone who I’m convinced is extremely high. That was about money. And it was heartbreaking. It was really heartbreaking. So you know, my husband and I have our practices that we do. We’re not involved with a teacher at the moment, we kind of feel a certain I’ve had a lifelong alignment with two lineages, depth, psychology and Vedanta. But I don’t have a teacher.
Silas Rose 43:17
Well, that’s probably a good place to land, the conversation, it is really important work that you do. So thank you so much, Connie and how can people who want to connect more with you, where can they go?
Dr Connie Zweig 43:34
Well, I’m organizing free online groups to do spiritual shadow work for people who want to read the book in community and go through the practices and the recovery process together. So if you are interested in that you can shoot me an email, conniezweig@gmail(dot)com. Just put spiritual shadow work in the subject line and give me your timezone. And I’ll connect you with other people. There are many, many groups forming now all over the world. So that’s really gratifying for me. I would ask that you don’t send me a long email with your history because I just have too much email coming in. But I’d be happy to connect you with people in your area. If you are interested in this. If you’re interested in workshops or other interviews, you can check out conniezweig.com.
Well, thank you again and have a great summer.
Dr Connie Zweig 44:44
I’m glad we found each other Silas thank you so much.