Chasing Shadows

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Human Design is not here to help you reach your goals, become rich or famous, ensure that you are happy all the time, or get the relationship, home, or career that you think you want. Human Design is here to enhance and enable your process of awareness.

I’ve been actively experimenting with Human Design for 17 years. I came into my experiment with a strong survival tragedy story. It was a story that told me I would end up a bag lady on the street, if I didn’t do this or that. Although I was waiting for life to bring me decisions, and using my emotional wave for decision making, once I entered into something, my mental story would take over, and I was run by it.

Through my open Root I worked 80 hours a week, and still had the mental fear it wasn’t enough to ensure my future survival. I lived in a state of physical stress, and thought I didn’t have the time to take care of myself. Through my open G-Center, I was a people-pleaser, filled with a story that I needed to do, do, do in order to be loved. I was driven to make sure everyone was happy with what I was doing in order to ensure I would have a job in the future, and avoid becoming a bag lady.

It wasn’t until I began to observe these mental stories which arose out of my openness, that my life shifted from trying to make Human Design work for me the way I thought it should, to experiencing this life that is correct for me. The mind still has stories about the future, but I see those stories rather than live a life run by them. The truth is, I have no idea where my life will take me; I may end up living on the street, I may end up living in a home that I cherish. Regardless of where life takes me, I will observe the experience, and enjoy the process of being alive and aware, here, now.

Plato described in 380 BC that most of humankind think and speak without any awareness of the realm of Forms. In his allegory of the Cave he explains that people are like prisoners chained in a cave, unable to turn their heads. All they can see is the wall of the cave. Behind them burns a fire, and between the fire and the prisoners is a parapet, along which puppeteers walk. These puppeteers hold up puppets that cast shadows on the wall of the cave. The prisoners are unable to see these puppets, the real objects that pass behind them. What the prisoners see and hear are shadows and echoes cast by objects that they do not see.

If a prisoner says ‘That’s a book’, he thinks the word ‘book’ refers to the very thing he is looking at. But he would be wrong. He’s only looking at a shadow. The real ‘book’ he cannot see – to see it, he would have to turn his head around 180 degrees.

When the prisoners are released, they can turn their heads around and see the real objects. They can recognize they were only imagining what they thought was real; they were not experiencing the realm of Forms. They were looking at shadows, and believing them to be real.

This is what the mind does every day. It imagines that what it thinks about is real. When the mind becomes so caught up in believing the shadows to be real, it will initiate action about what we must do in order to get what we think we want, or avoid what we think we don’t want, in order to get life to align to our mind’s story about the shadows. This is the essence of the Not-Self, the mind as decision maker, and when the Not-self is in charge, we become prisoners of the mind.

The shadows that the mind thinks about and turns into internal dialog and stories, all arise from the openness in our design. In Human Design terms, this is called conditioning. Conditioning is neither good nor bad. It is simply a fact of life here on planet Earth. We are going to take in what we are not through our openness. It is when the mind gets involved in making the conditioning personal to us, making it into a personal story that we think needs to change, fix or act upon, that the shadows become ‘real’ and we begin to live an imaginary life.

The great gift of Human Design is that we can relieve the mind of its role as decision maker. We do not need to be limited to a life we can imagine; we can experience our uniquely correct life through the Strategy of our Type, and turning over decision making to our form’s Inner Authority.

The dilemma of the mind is that even when the form is aligned to its correct path in life, the mind continues to chase the shadows, and believe that the stories found in the shadows are real. We remain prisoners of the mind as long as we believe the mind’s story about our conditioning. Learning to recognize these stories rather than become lost in them is an ongoing process of self-discovery. Like Plato’s cave, we have been taught to believe that the shadows are real, that the internal dialog that the mind tells us is original, that it is important, and true. We think that our stories can predict the future or that they can interpret the past; we think that our stories are filled with what people really mean when they talk to us, that we should rehearse what we think we should say, and that the stories of internal judgment exist to help us become better.

Openness is the windows of our vehicle. In our openness is where we are designed to take in life in all of its variety, so we can learn about what we are not. If we have an open Gate 22 in our design, then we are built to take in all the varieties of Gate 22 through the transits and through other people entering our aura. It is through the observation of our form’s experience of our openness that the mind finally gets to do the work it is built for, to become an aware observer of our life. Instead of identifying with the mind’s interpretation of the shadows, we turn the attention of the mind 180 degrees and begin to observe life as we meet it.

Slowly, with an understanding of the mechanics of openness, we begin to recognize the repetitive nature of conditioning. We can begin to link up the openness to the conditioning themes and begin to observe the stories, rather than be caught in their shadow realm. The mind’s role is to observe the body’s experiences, to be present, here, now. When our attention is on identifying with the mind’s commentaries, we are no longer observing, we are lost once again in the shadows.

One strategy that people adopt as they begin to recognize their conditioning is to try to distance themselves from the mental stories, to ignore them, or try to ‘affirm’ a more positive mental story. The dilemma is that the stories are a finger pointing towards what we are here to learn about. When we ignore the shadows, we limit the mind’s potential.

As long as we are chasing shadows, or trying to avoid the shadows, we cannot fulfill the mind’s purpose – to engage in a process of awareness. Each time we see the conditioning story for what it is, and where it is in our openness, we learn a little more about that aspect of life. Slowly, over time, we become aware of what our genuine life is, and what the shadow on the wall is here to teach us.

This life is our opportunity to learn, to become wise about what we are not; and to share our observations and wisdom with one another, when asked, when it is correct. Conditioning, like the shadows, is a part of life. When we discover the individual way we are here to observe our experiences, our life becomes a journey of awareness.

Leela Swann-Herbert

Leela Swann-Herbert has been teaching Human Design mechanics for 9 years, and she was trained by Ra Uru Hu. She's currently in the 17th year of her experiment, and she brings a wealth of experience to her understanding of Human Design.

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