Carl Jung defined the Shadow aspect of the Self, as "that which we think we are not."
On the level of the infinite Self, You are All that Is. You are the Earth, the stars, the stones and the trees, you are the angels and the demons, you are Gandhi and Hitler. All.
In order to move from separation into wholeness and realization, we have to integrate back into ourselves, every thing that has been repressed and rejected, that we project outsides of ourselves as "what we think we are not."
Demon, came from the Greek word daemon, which means "inner self."
Usually we try to put out best face forward, and hide our flaws, but they remain, inside. They may be repressed, but what is repressed still affects us, our beliefs, actions and decisions. Integrating the parts of your Cosmic, collective Self that have been repressed and rejected, leads to wholeness.
Usually, it is a lot easier for someone to accept that part of them is Gandhi and Angels, than demons and Hitler... the Shadow part of yourself, is the parts of yourself that you judge and reject... usually, projecting them externally in a good guy bad guy drama game of winners and losers. Duality.
Accepting that part of you is Hitler, does not mean going off creating a Holocaust... rather, it is gaining humility over righteousness. A righteous person thinks they can do no wrong... and what is repressed, comes up ugly. Some of the ugliest aspects of history were the manifestations of someone who was certain of their righteousness, like the Nazi Holocaust and the Spanish Inquisition. The mental illness of narcissism, is believing one can do no wrong.
With humility, comes Grace. "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me."
It is an aspect of the very mechanics of perception, that what we see, is ourselves reflected. Your eyes see only patterns of light, it is your unconscious mind that organizes, identifies the patterns and sends the output to your conscious mind, naming things: pink cup, blue sky, red car. It identifies things according to your past experiences, your education, your beliefs and desires.
So your mind might get: "I hate pink, I wish the cup was blue; I love red cars and wish that car was mine; I get sunburned easily and wish the sky were grey today." The cup, the car and the sky, simply *are.* The judgments you make about them, are a reflection of who *you* are. Another person might love pink cups, and a third person might be colour blind, or too thirsty to notice the colour at all.
In this way, each of us lives in our own universe, created by our own perceptions, and all that we see is a reflection of ourselves, because the mechanics of perception colour everything with the brush of our persona. What we see, is a reflection of ourselves. There is nothing we see, that is not filtered through the unconscious beliefs in this way. We do not get the raw data of our senses, except when we are tiny babies. We get the processed output.
The most detached scientist, the best reporter still is seeing through the individual filters of their own personality. There is no such thing, as true objectivity. All is subjective.
So when you judge your neighbor, you are really projecting your own self judgments onto them. If you think your neighbor is greedy, turn it around and consider what part of you is greedy in a similar way. Own it, accept it, love yourself, forgive yourself if you need to, if you have guilt.
What is guilt? What are guilt feelings about? Guilt occurs when actions and self image are not in alignment.
"I'm not the sort of person who would DO something like that!"
Well, you did, so you are.
Guilt can be resolved in two ways: either change the actions, or change the self image. Changing the self image is often easier, and more effective because it leads to humility and greater self awareness. I AM the sort of person who would do something like that, I am not a paragon, but I can choose to act differently in the future.
It is like AA. The alcoholic first needs to admit to alcoholism, before there can be change. Having accepted that Shadow, they can choose not to allow it action, or channel its needs into a more positive direction.
If you think your parent is unkind, turn it around and consider how your judgments of them, and your actions toward them are also unkind. This is the Shadow meditation. Looking within yourself to see there, the things you believe you are not. The things you judge and accuse others of, are a reflection of repressed, rejected aspects of yourself. Because you are not conscious of them, you are not in a position to make a different choice. The Shadow rules you.
It is not a fun meditation. I call it, "looking in the ugly mirror." It is like looking in a warped fun-house mirror that only shows your crap... so that you can give it love and heal yourself into wholeness!
It is an incredibly valuable meditation, because it leads to balance and wholeness. Grace.
There is a wonderful Guru named Byron Katie who does a similar exercise, and she considers it to be the whole process of self realization. She calls it "The work." That link leads to her website where you can explore 'The Work' more fully, but I'll quote and paraphrase it here.
"Judge your neighbor, write it down. Ask four questions, turn it around." -Byron Katie.
Turn your judgments about your neighbor around, apply them to yourself and see where they fit. This is Shadow work. Trying not to be judgmental, never works. We are judgmental creatures, and judging is part of how we think and navigate the 3d world. Instead, observe your judgments about others, apply them to yourself, and use them to get to know yourself better. The spiritual imperative is "Know Thy Self."
The four questions:
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it's true?
3. How do you react when you think that thought?
4. Who would you be without the thought?
She invites you to ask yourself, "Who would you be without your story?" We all have stories, the personal mythology we invent about who we are, and about who other people are. These Basic Stories, (B.S. For short , heh... ) are not true, in a larger sense. They are ego ideas we construct about ourselves, like faerie tales we get trapped in. Choosing to question the truth of them, is a vital first step to realization.
You can practice the Shadow meditation as something to do for an hour or so every day; looking back on your day, on your actions and judgments, your annoyances and joys, and applying them to yourself.
It is far more valuable, to do it as an ongoing thought process. This is mindfulness. Observing yourself all the time, and processing the Shadow as the issues appear.
Remember, the Shadow is not all dark. The people you most admire, the beauty that awes you, the love you think you are not capable of, the compliments you shower on other people, are also a reflection of who you are. Jealousy and envy, are illusion. You are All, you have it all.