Shadow work 3-2-1 process and Vipassana

Last week I watched an episode here on integral life called. The Shadow Vigenettes: A tale of reintegration in Six Parts

I am doing the 3-2-1 process now for almost two years and wanted to ask is it true that vipassana suppresses shadow elements? This is what Ken mentions in the talk. Is there a shadow work process that works vipassana? How effective is the 3-2-1 process from what people reported?

I am not very familiar with traditional vipassana practice, I am familiar with Soto-zen a bit and the unified mindfulness system of Shinzen Young. Which has many different practices. The main practice that I do is a substrate of vipassana. The see, hear, feel technique from shinzen young.

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Yes, that statement stood out for me as well. I can see what he meant though (I think) in that ‘labeling’ or ‘noticing’ practice does objectify the experience that one just labeled, which would be counterproductive for shadow work. All said n the context of shadow work though, I don’t think he was saying not to do Vipassana in general. That being said, I personally have never done traditional Vipassana myself (just Vajrayana & Zen Shikantaza).

My take is this. Vipassana (as well as the other traditional meditation techniques) do not “suppress” the shadow. It’s just that they cannot, in and of themselves, reach the shadow to illuminate it. This is because certain aspects of our shadows are actively hiding from the light of consciousness. Wherever we shine the light of awareness, with whatever meditation technique we are using, some parts of our ego-personality will very cleverly dodge it. Apparently we all have some of our life-energy invested in playing this shell game with our own minds. This seems to be part of the normal functioning of the human psyche.

That is why we need an entirely separate array of psycho-technologies for working with our personal shadows. The great meditation techniques of the world may be the very best tools we have for “Waking Up,” but we need a separate toolkit for “Cleaning Up.”

That’s how I’ve understood Ken Wilber, anyway.

I totally endorse Ken Wilber’s explication of this. It has helped me immensely. I’ve done a meditation technique called Surat Shabd Yoga (known as Nad Yoga in Hinduism) for 38 years. In my meditation community I’d say we have collectively proved that Wilber is dead right on this. As one colleague of mine once commented, “You can meditate for a long time and have all sorts of very high experiences and then discover that you’re still the same a**hole you were 20 years ago.”

I’ve had excellent results with the 3-2-1 technique in recent years, since reading “Integral Life Practice.” IMHO it’s basically a lean version of Jung’s “Active Imagination,” which I’ve been doing for many years.

Wake up. Grow up. Clean up. Show up. Four completely different activities in four different sectors of life, that call for four different set of tools. That’s my take, and thanks for raising this issue!


Thanks a lot for the reply! I never heard of this kind of yoga, I know and have heard about the fundamentals, and I desperately want to practice and learn hatha yoga from sadhguru. I find him extremely inspiring. Also, I want to include the subtle body more in case I understood that correctly.

38 years is a long time! How does it feel to practice yoga for that long? If possible and in case you read Integral Psychology. Could you make references to the psychic, non-dual, subtle and casual stages?

I would love to practice shamanic breathing which I heard can help with shadow work but I can’t really afford to go crazy at the moment, yet when I have finished studying and I am working I will consider testing that. Also psychedelics or some ceremonies. From various cultures in the past. Which are available today. But, my past has not been very good for my energetic body.

In some audiobook I listened from Ken, he mentions that shadow work never ends and some or rooted in biological aspects.

I thought it would be a copy of general gestalt therapy with the “talking char” technique. Not sure if Fritz Pearl created it.:grin: I checked the wiki, it is “coincidental”.

I have no experience with shamanic breathing exercises, so I can’t speak to how they relate to shadow work.

I agree with your Ken Wilber quote that “shadow work never ends.” By this I understand him to mean that no matter how far we go in Waking Up, even into causal and non-dual stages, we would be very wise to never stop working on our own shadow. There are so many examples even in the most reputable spiritual communities of teachers who have genuinely reached high stages of enlightenment, and have been excellent transmitters of their tradition, who have nonetheless gone horribly astray with sex, drugs, money, power and so on, and caused great devastation among their followers.

In my own spiritual community I have personally dealt with people who were genuinely saintly, i.e. so deeply connected with their spiritual selves that miracles happened around them – no kidding – yet had undeveloped aspects of their personalities that lead to dark and on occasion even outright criminal behavior.

FYI my spiritual path is one of pure meditation, not physical exercise, so in this case the term “yoga” is misleading. Surat Shabd Yoga is a meditation on inner, subtle light and sound. We are able to perceive it consciously because of a high and powerful transmission of pure energy at the time of initiation that opens our third eye. You have to commit to a vegetarian diet and three hours of meditation per day. This practice is supposed to take us to total God-realization beyond duality. It’s definitely for serious seekers who want to go all the way.

(I do hatha yoga also, for my physical health, and I love it).

I have not gone “all the way” to the non-dual, at least not that I remember when I’m back in my body, but I can say this. The path of Surat Shabd Yoga starts with what Wilber calls the subtle state. Almost everyone who takes initiation has some experience of the inner, subtle Light and Sound at the very first sitting. While this path is supposed to take us all the way to non-dual, to be honest, I do not personally know of any initiate who has gone beyond the causal. But then, we are instructed not to talk about our own meditation experiences, so I’m sure there’s lots going on with lots of people that I don’t know about :wink:.

Still. ALL of us need to do our shadow work, IMHO, no matter how high and pure our spiritual path may be. That’s not what the teachers on our path say; it’s what I have concluded after 38 years on this path. I utterly, absolutely endorse Wilber’s thesis: none of the great traditional meditation techniques can, in and of themselves, deal with shadow material. For that we need a different toolkit. On this I agree with Wilber in contradiction to my own beloved gurus.

Hope this answers the questions you were asking. Very best wishes for your own spiritual path, whatever it turns out to be and wherever it takes you!

Like what kind of experience happens around saintly beings? I can sometimes understand that some things are extremely coincendental, with a reference to carl jungs “theory” of synchronicity. I also enjoy deepak chopras audiobook synchrodestiny. I can’t recall what it is about. Besides the “philohsophy” I forged for myself, which is meaning creation. Instead of being stuck in nihlism or being devoid of meaning. I can actively re-frame and take action to create meaning, find things that are meaningful and embrace them as fully as possible. Rinse and repeat.

The practice sound quite intense, I lived as a vegetarian and vegan for a while. It felt so good. Yet, I want to upgrade my cooking capabilities, before I will try to live for health, and not dogma/ideology. In this way, I am a “sinner”. Yes, I do find it a bit weird that people do not talk about experiences, yet I would find it extremely valuable, yet difficult inside a temple/monastery.

I am by nature a bit of guru adverse. I would enjoy it but total devotion is something new for me. I saw the osho documentation and I still have a feeling he did nothing wrong, yet showed humans their own fallacies for a higher purpose. Yet, this is also somehow quite deluded. I also felt that this is completely nuts, and why the process had to unfold so dramatically. I am a bit scared, but I found a community which I can do retreats at which is free of cultism I will say, because they are in a traditional region, and it is a Soto Zen temple. I am very happy to go there, they even have a ted talk which is cool.

In case you are interested, I would recommend reading about shamanic breathing, I heard that it is supposed to be better/greater/brighter whatever scale. Than more casual shadow work. I never tried it, yet I want to in the future just to test it.

Thank you for sharing your experience and insights!

Hey once3800, just a couple of comments about shamanic breathing. I don’t know where you’ve come across this, but I do know that some contemporary neo-shamanic practitioners (some with a decidedly “new age” flavor) are promoting this. Many neo-shamanic practitioners combine a little shamanism with a little of this and that from other traditions, and “brand” their potpourri practice then with new terms. While there may be some value in what they offer, such branding can be misleading.

While there are commonalities in the practice of shamanism throughout the world, there are really almost as many shamanisms as there are cultures, and there is no single, specific “shamanic breathing” technique associated with shamanism, and no specific breathing technique that derives from any shamanic society (with perhaps one exception, which I’ll get to in a moment).

The breathing of individual shamans can vary considerably, from shaman to shaman, and also within an individual shaman’s session of work with a particular person/group. At certain periods, the shaman may be breathing very slowly, very deeply. This can reflect the depth of the trance state he or she is in. At other periods in a single healing session, the same shaman may be breathing very fast and hard, rhythmically or arrhythmically. This can reflect his or her state of arousal mentally and energetically; it can reflect his encounters with or union with or embodiment of a helping spirit. The point being, in general, shamans do not try to breathe in any particular way; rather, their state of consciousness and level of physiological and mental and energetic arousal is the causative factor in particular breathing patterns, or lack of pattern. (Which isn’t to say that there aren’t any individual shamans who do breathwork as a part of their preparatory discipline.)

As shamanism is not a religion (although it can be used as one’s primary spiritual path), but rather a particular set of knowledge and skills, it can and does co-exist throughout the world with the dominant religion of a region or culture. Thus, an indigenous shaman in Mexico, for example, may court and work with the saints/spirits of Catholicism, along with various elemental, plant, animal, ancestral, or other spirits common to his or her indigenous worldview. A shaman in or near Tibet may work with Buddhist deities/spirits. A Native American shaman may include the spirits of Christianity in their work. This is in fact more common than any “pure” shamanism yet alive in the world today.

So, to that “exception” I mentioned at the beginning–in India and around Tibet, ancient shamanic practice can be interwoven with disciplines from the yoga traditions, particularly Tantra. There are breathing techniques (pranayama, or breath control) common to classical yoga. So a shaman in those areas may incorporate this type of breathwork or pranayama into his or her own disciplines (as well as other forms of yoga, such as hatha yoga). These may include things you’ve perhaps heard of from kundalini yoga, like the “breath of fire,” as well as rarer techniques. It may include holding the breath for extended periods of time, which can create what is know as tapas, inner heat or “mystical heat.”

So some of the references to shamanic breathing you’re hearing about may include some of these pranayama practices, or just general work with the breath to slow and deepen it, or quicken and “harden” it. And as I say, there may be value in what some neo-shamanic practitioners are offering when they include breathwork, but it is a bit misleading to refer to it as ‘shamanic breathing.’ And as for shadow, I would venture a guess that most authentic indigenous shamans have never even heard of ‘shadow.’ (Which, I repeat, doesn’t mean that a contemporary Western neo-shamanic practitioner here and there hasn’t created their own method of combining breath and shadow work with particular shamanic practices to some avail, and maybe if you do try it, you can let us know the results!)

Thank you for the feedback, I will write a report incase I do it. This is a lot of information. Yet, I will keep in mind that breathwork is the core principle in case I understood that right.

Otherwise I have to read more to keep up with the information content lol. (About traditions)