archives, art

Can You Be Naked in the Shadows?

What if? What if you created regularly? What if you expressed your unique perspective?

Would there be anyone out there who related, who actually wanted to experience your art? What if you temporarily suspended your belief system, and allowed the possibility that creating might be a necessary portal? By its very nature, creating means being vulnerable. It is a process of exposing, of stripping down to a place of rawness.

What if you were willing to step out in all your nakedness and allow the world to gawk? 

But there is more to it. Adam and Eve didn’t care about their nakedness until… until they gained knowledge of the feedback component to nakedness. You see, it is the acute awareness of judgment, the fear of rejection, and the possibility of shame, that makes it all so scary. What if you could handle the reverberating kickback?

At some point in our lives, we become tired of holding ourselves back. I spent half a lifetime building walls to keep the scary parts of the world out and reduce internal pain. My walls were high and thick and strong. They made it difficult for the external world to penetrate, allowed for the containment of my tenderness, and prevented the world from detecting my agonies.

Walls can give the illusion of strength, permitting life to move in forward motion. Meanwhile, things inside are dying. The very things that make walls so effective also produce consequences; they block us from sensing our passions and prevent us from knowing ourselves. It is possible to float through life, safe on the surface, never diving down into the depths of our being, never grasping who we are. 

When my walls started to crumble, it became imperative to dive deep. My inner voice became exasperated with being incarcerated, and found weaknesses in the mortar. Over time, faint imperfections in walls are bound to develop into serious cracks.

Maybe I grew emotionally tired of the required maintenance, or maybe it became difficult to detect where it was necessary, but I reached a point where I had to release some of the pressure and actively participate in wall demolition. 

Chipping away at walls, and laboriously bringing portions down, has taught me the significance of vulnerability. Opening up and exposing myself allows spaces in which to discover who I am. Displaying myself to the world honors and reinforces it. The more vulnerable I am willing to be, the more whole I feel.

I doubt there is a middle ground where one can know oneself, and still be insulated from the potential pain of being oneself in the world. I think it is necessary to be an all-or-nothing type of person. Either you’re out there in all your fullness, or hidden away behind walls, barely acknowledging your dreams.

Yet vulnerability isn’t easy. With engineering brilliance, I find myself constructing new paneling. There is this amazing unconscious part of us, Carl Jung called it the shadow self, that knows how to hide those parts of you that you consider taboo and unacceptable. The truth is, the shadow self isn’t all that keen on vulnerability.

The crazy thing about your shadow is you can’t really fight or overcome it, nor can you force it into consciousness. That kind of approach just makes it retreat into the camouflage of the deep dark crevasses of our being. You have to kind of enchant it out into consciousness.

Your shadow self desires love and appreciation, she is your protector, and her skills are worthy of your awe. You see, as I dismantle my walls, I uncloak passions and unmask myself. I uncover parts of myself that feel both powerful and unsettling. And, let’s face it, I fear these parts of me will attract attention, and not always of the adoration kind. Suddenly it isn’t a comfortable place to be.

It is like being out on the edge of a cliff in a serious snowstorm, there is an inclination to retreat. Deep shadow work has allowed me to sit in admiration of the secure, warm, protective, blanket my safe-keeper shadow has woven. I commend her on all the savvy techniques she has employed.

With growing appreciation of my shadow self, I to begin to search for ways to expand into those zones of discomfort without invoking my shadow’s protective instincts. To create regularly in raw naked vulnerability, one must figure out how to be naked with approval. To be naked with one’s shadow, in the shadows.

What if? What if I embrace my shadow’s needs? Can I learn to stand out there on the edge, enduring through the storm so I can encounter that intense moment of beauty as the sunlight emerges?


Elizabeth Martin-Chan is on a pilgrimage home to herself. Believing each of us embodies sacred wisdom, she sees herself as a priestess of the temple of the body. Passionate about working with people who seek to ‘hear’ their inner voice, she offers herself as an Embodiment Guide. She connects individuals to their inner wisdom through the portals of menstrual wisdom and Chakradance. She nurtures and expresses her own inner voice at the loom, allowing it to speaking through fiber art. You can connect with her at her website, Instagram, or Facebook.


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