Inhabit: Your Shadow

Ryan Oelke Defenses, Free, Inhabit, Intrapersonal, Perspectives, Psychology, Video 3 Comments



hadow refers to any of the hidden allergies, addictions, biases, or blind spots that may be kicking around in our consciousness, distorting our perceptions and limiting our capacity to find genuine happiness, fulfillment, and self-transcending wisdom.

Often our shadows are the result of some hidden, unintegrated piece of ourselves that we are projecting outward onto the world around us, and sometimes they are the result of internalizing shadows that are not our own, but infect our self-concept nonetheless.

In both cases, we have a simple but elegant practice to help us re-integrate our shadows, what is commonly known as the “3-2-1 shadow process” — a practice that helps you to recognize your shadow in 3rd person, to relate with your shadow in 2nd person, and to finally reclaim and inhabit your shadow in your own 1st-person experience.

Watch as Ryan and I explore the following questions:

  • How often should we practice our shadow work?
  • How can we keep our perceptual lenses clean and clear from shadow residue?
  • How can we better manage our informational terrain so it does not become distorted by ideological shadow?
  • How can we cultivate more “epistemic humility”, and more of the wisdom that comes from recognizing just how partial our own views and biases can be?
  • What are some of the common shadows we see in the larger integral community itself?
  • How can we bring more embodiment to our shadow practice, so it’s not just a “neck-up” exercise?
  • Why is it rude to make objects out of other people’s subjects?
  • Can we up-level “Woke culture” by holding their core values as an invitation to do our own shadow work, rather than as an excuse to self-righteously bludgeon everyone else for their shadows?
  • Why do spiritual communities often seem to be a breeding ground for shadow?

We didn’t want this to be just another abstract discussion about the various tender parts and blind spots in our psychology, so Ryan and Corey put a bit of their own skin in the game by offering some examples of their own shadow challenges, both large and small, and how they have worked with these shadows over the years1. It is an invitation for all of us to cultivate the strength, vulnerability, and humility to bring our shadow work further into the light, and to practice our own growing capacity to manage shadow material as it emerges in real time. As I often like to say, if you are someone who is trying to shine a light on the various “collective shadows” we are all suspended in, one of the best ways to do so is to simply perform your own shadow work publicly, if only to demonstrate your capacity to discern where your personal shadow ends, and the “collective shadow” begins.

We hope you enjoy the discussion! Let us know what you think in the comments below.

1And if you watch really closely, you might notice another one of my own shadows that went completely unseen during this show: at multiple points in this episode, I refer to the year as 2019 (it’s 2020) and I say I am 42 years old (I am 43). What’s that all about?

Written by Corey deVos
Music by Justin Miles and Stuart Davis

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These chaotic times bring us in touch with what matters most, whispers of death and rebirth, as our global life conditions passionately usher us toward all of what could be, of what wants to emerge in your life.

Emerge is a new training program by Ryan Oelke, offering a thoughtful 3-phase process that will empower you to fully inhabit your experience, more deeply relate in real-time to life, and to formulate agile paths of response and action. With this embodied integral training, you will both be more passionately inspired from the core of your being and you will more successfully see the change, experiences, and results you and we long for and need in this moment and in the future.

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Ryan Oelke

About Ryan Oelke

Ryan Oelke is a co-founder of Buddhist Geeks and founder of Awakening in Life. He has an MSEd in counseling psychology and is contemplative teacher of awakening, healing, and embodiment. He has 18 years experience in meditation, particularly in the Tibetan Buddhist and Dzogchen lineages, he is a Buddhist Geeks teacher, and is a fully certified teacher in Judith Blackstone’s Realization Process. Ryan teaches meditation and a way of living dedicated to revealing natural presence and awakening in each moment of our lives, regardless of how it appears to us. He lives in the beautiful mountains of Asheville, NC with his partner Alyssa and stepdaughter Fiona.

Corey deVos

About Corey deVos

Corey W. deVos is Editor-in-Chief of Integral Life, as well as Managing Editor of He has worked for Integral Institute/Integal Life since Spring of 2003, and has been a student of integral theory and practice since 1996. Corey is also a professional woodworker, and many of his artworks can be found in his VisionLogix art gallery.

Notable Replies

  1. Let us know what you think of the discussion!

  2. There were a number of lightbulb moments in here for me, listening while riding in the drizzle.

    One in particular was Corey’s description of imposter syndrome as stemming from “intrapersonal dysmorphia” that began to arise for you in adolescence. Man, that phrase hits home and adds a bit of insight to how I understand myself.

    Where Corey describes using podcast record/edit/publish repetition to illuminate where his self-estimation isnt quite calibrated, I’ve used some similar descriptions for my relationship to social media. For a number or years I worked in photo/video/media production and platforms like IG were great for for professional development around what imagery hits with an audience. And then on a more personal level, I could also get immediate feedback on how I presented myself alongside that imagery. On one hand, that helped me to see entwined my insecurities are with cognitive distortions, and on the flip side, that outlook reduces social media to a constant performance that feels exhausting… but that’s another topic. The point is that it feels like I somehow I missed a developmental piece on how to generate that understanding internally

    I see some parallels in my developmental differences and a friend who’s diagnosed with Aspergers. For both of us, there’s a real struggle to imagine 3rd person perspective of what someone might be thinking of ourselves and a “rounder-downer” lens on top of that. But then again, I dont experience that same failure of imagination in other situations while my friend describes noticing it pervasively.

    Overall, I think my ability to forecast how another might think or feel is pretty accurate. For instance, I’ve long enjoyed this road trip game of pausing Savage Love podcasts to guess what advice Dan will give. And in Integral terms, that’s like playing with imagining 3th- and 4th person perspectives. But, yeesh, my own neuroses can really warp things when that 3rd or 4th person perspective bends back around to me!

    My question is, what resources or insight do you have, Corey, to the factors during your adolescence that contributed to that self-image dysmorphia for you?

    That developmental stage feels like an inflection point for me, where I was socially well adjusted going into it but had lost the plot somewhat a few years later.

    Anyone have insight or resources to the crossover points between adolescent development, imposter syndrome, and intrapersonal dysmorphia?!

  3. My hunch is that intrapersonal dysmorphia has something to do with how different you perceive yourself to be from others around you, from an early age on. And those differences would be real, i.e. at that age, you would not know how to “imagine” them since you are starting off with your self-esteem intact. The wish to fit in, and therefore your perception of not fitting in “worsens” in adolescence, I would guess, and it’s downhill from there. Until you find and own your real differences, maybe (I’m not there yet).

    For me, it’s neurodiversity. I don’t get imposter syndrome around my neurodiverse peers, and would love to test if that would be true also in a work environment. While I get exhausted around neurotypical people (even in Integral Life Practice sessions!) since it is hard cognitive work to read them correctly, and try to be neurotypical back at them. And then I’m never “good enough” at it, hence Imposter Syndrome kicks in, methinks.

    This is a gross generalisation and I’ll need to think it through more and come up with more examples to test the hypothesis. But I thought I’d throw it out there, in case it’s helpful.

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