Tag Archives: journaling

3-2-1 Shadow Process

“Dissociation proceeds from 1st-person to 2nd-person to 3rd-person: 1-2-3. The reversal of dissociation thus goes from 3 to 2 to 1. Hence, the 3-2-1 process. We summarize this process as Face it (3), Talk to it (2), and finally, Be it (1).”

– Diane Musho Hamilton

Kumi Yamashita: Origami Shadow Art

What follows is an excerpt (with some sections re-worked) from the 2008 book, Integral Life Practice. Shadow processing is a method of therapy that uses meditation and/or journaling to eliminate real or perceived pathologies. It is the most basic and valuable form of this therapy that we have found to date. Enjoy.

3-2-1 Shadow Process

Choose what you want to work with. It’s often easier to begin with a person with whom you have some difficulty (e.g., lover, friend, boss, family member). This person may irritate, disturb, annoy, or upset you. Or maybe you feel attracted to, obsessed with, infatuated with, or possessive about this person. In any case, choose someone with whom you have a strong emotional charge, whether positive or negative. Alternately, pick a dream image or a body sensation that distracts you or otherwise causes you to fixate on it. This can also be positive or negative.

You can recognize shadow in two ways. Shadow material either:

  1. Makes you negatively hypersensitive, easily triggered, reactive, irritated, angry, hurt, upset. It may keep coming up as a negative emotional tone or bad mood that pervades your life.
  2. Makes you positively hypersensitive, easily infatuated, possessive, obsessed, overly attracted, or perhaps it becomes an ongoing idealization that structures your motivations or mood.

3: Face It

Now, imagine this person or observe the disturbance very closely, and then, using a journal to write in or an empty chair to talk to, describe the person, situation, image or sensation in vivid detail using 3rd-person pronouns such as “he,” “him,” “she,” “her,” “they,” “their,” “it,” or “its.” This is your opportunity to fully explore your experience of the disturbance, particularly what it is that bothers you about it. Take this opportunity to “let it out.” The person you are describing will never see this. Don’t try to use skillful language or say the right thing. Don’t “sugar coat” or minimize anything – describe it as fully and in as much detail as possible.

2: Talk to It

Begin an imaginary dialogue with this object or person. Speak in 2nd-person pronouns like “you” and “yours”. Here is your opportunity to enter into a relationship with the disturbance, so talk directly to this person or image as if he or she were actually there in the room with you. Tell them what bothers you about them. Ask them questions such as “Why are you doing this to me?” “What do you want from me?” “What are you trying to show me?” “What do you have to teach me?” Then, allow them to respond. Imagine what their response to these questions would be and either speak the imaginary responses out loud write them down in your journal. Allow yourself to be surprised by what emerges.

1: Be It

Now, writing or speaking in 1st-person, using pronouns like “I,” “me,” and “mine,” be this person, image or sensation. See the world, including yourself, from the perspective of the disturbance. Allow yourself to discover not only your similarities, but how you really are one and the same. Take on the qualities that either annoy or fascinate you. Embody the traits you described while “Facing It” in step 2. Make a statement of identification with this disturbance, ““I am__________,”  “I am angry,” “I am jealous,” “I am radiant.” This may feel wrong or awkward, and it should. The traits you are taking on are the traits that you have been denying in yourself. They’re the traits that your psyche has been working so hard to keep in shadow.

To complete the process, gently become aware of the disowned qualities in yourself. Don’t just see the world from this perspective, but feel this previously excluded feeling until it resonates as your own. Experience the part of you that is this very trait. Avoid staying in your head and making the process abstract or conceptual: just be it. Become aware of the previously disowned shadow reintegrating into your body, your memory, your emotions, your subtle energies. This frees up the attention that was spent on keeping this shadow behind you or in denial.


You’ll know that the process has worked because you may feel lighter, more peaceful, more open or relaxed. It may make you feel high or giddy. Allow yourself to be gentle with your newly-reintegrated self over the next week or so. You may experience a newfound joy in the degree to which you are participating in life. Always be present, do the work, and move on.

1-Minute Module: 3-2-1 Shadow Process

You can do the 3-2-1 process anytime you need it. Two particularly useful times are right when you wake up in the morning and just before going to bed at night. Once you know 3-2-1 it only takes a minute to do the process for anything that might be disturbing you.

Morning: First thing in the morning (before getting out of bed) review your last dream and identify any person or object with an emotional charge. Face that person or object by holding it in mind. Then talk to that person or object (or resonate with it, just feeling what it would be like to be face to face). Finally, be that person or object by taking its perspective. For the sake of this exercise, there is no need to write anything out — you can go through the whole process right in your own mind.

Evening: Last thing before going to bed, choose a person who either disturbed or attracted you during the day. In your mind, face him or her, and then be him or her (as described above).

Again, you can do the 3-2-1 process quietly by yourself, any time you need it, day or night.

– from Integral Life Practice – (Wilber, Patten, Leonard, Morelli, 2008)

A Spiritual Internship: My Journey as a Chaplain

Joran Slane Oppelt - Chaplain

Last weekend, I committed to a year-long chaplaincy at a local church.

For those that are unfamiliar, the purpose of a chaplain is to hold sacred space alongside the pastor, minister or spiritual leader – by assisting with prayer and/or meditation requests, making calls on the members of the congregation, and attending regular group meetings.

It’s basically a spiritual internship, with rounds to make and hours to satisfy, but primarily it’s an opportunity to develop my skills as a compassionate listener, and continue to hone my chops as a reverend and as a shaman. It’s truly a responsibility that I was honored to take on, and the inner rewards are many.

In the weeks leading up to the retreat, we had been advised to re-focus our efforts toward self-care, as it’s difficult to lead and open yourself to others when you haven’t done the work yourself. I had been dealing with some personal shadow work and some issues around “letting go.” Meditating on what it meant to lead and be led, and on how my roles as musician, father, marketer, husband, reverend, son, etc. all fit together.

The weekend-long retreat took place on the church property, located in St. Petersburg, and I was joined by 23 others who were drawn to the chaplaincy for various reasons, or were renewing their annual commitment (one woman was going on her 7th year). We were told the theme for this year’s retreat was “angels,” and I tried not to visibly roll my eyes. After all, I told myself, “angel” is just another word for a guiding energy from the bardo (or causal) realm, and I would surely be safe from any metaphysical mumbo jumbo as long as I interpreted my experience from a pragmatic (read: integral) perspective and listened from the compassionate centers of the heart.

It started off simple enough, with a lot of sharing and getting to know one another over communal meals and team-building activities. But on the second day, it started to become clear that I was truly in the right place at the right time.

As we were fully immersed in three hours of silence, taking turns in the labyrinth and in a sanctuary filled with musical instruments, we all drew Archangel Cards and were sent to the rose garden to write in our journals. I’m not sure what anyone else drew, but I drew a card labeled “Victory,” marked by the Archangel Sandalphon. Sandalphon is one of two angels (the other being Metatron) that, according to legend, started life as a mortal man and was allowed access to archangeldom for his numerous good deeds on Earth. Sandalphon’s chief purpose was to gather up the prayers of humans and send them as a glowing orb of white light to God.

“Victory,” I thought. Victory, indeed.

Not only am I blessed with a loving wife and family, but the serendipity of things continues to reveal itself to me in unexpected ways. Cards like the one I drew seemed less random when I realized that my path wasn’t so much a road, but a new mode of being. A state of perpetual insight and intuition, and also a stage of development that is tuned to the highest ethical ideals, the highest and most inclusive forms of consciousness. In other words, this new way of looking at the world is recognizing that you are an expression of Divine energy. That when you reflect on the Cosmos, you are staring at the best and most beautiful parts of yourself.

Not only was I tapping into the unfolding of cosmic consciousness – of which our own unfolding is but a small part – but I was learning to articulate these states and stages in the language of the heart. Continue reading