Shame is such a pervasive aspect of our lives that we mostly don’t even notice it. Indeed, the very nature of shame is to hide, so it hides itself from us, as much as we hide it from others. In fact, shame is so much a part of our essence as humans, it was the first realization described in the Garden of Eden after eating the forbidden fruit. Adam and Eve were ashamed of their bodies (and what they had done: the “forbidden”), and hid themselves in clothing. Our very nature as shameful beings points to our fundamental separation from All That Is, and forms the crux of lack of wholeness. As such, it is at the root of many forms of dis-ease: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
As with most pain, the cure lies not in resisting or suppressing our shame but rather in shining the light of awareness on it. When I become aware of my shame, all the actions I take, and have taken because of it, all the suffering and misery created because of it, I allow myself to acknowledge its presence in my life. When I get even closer and feel into where it lives in my body, I can own it even more. For me, I notice a deep heaviness in my chest and belly, something so ugly and noisome I can barely stand to observe it. There is also a feeling of hunching my shoulders to contract and shield it from view. I try to do a bit of spiritual bypassing and set it free outside of me, and yet I find it has deep tentacles reaching into the very fabric of my being, not unlike a cancer. I notice the similarity to an often shamed aspect of our bodies: feces. We walk around all day, even sleep with it as part of the substance of our selves. Yet we can’t wait to get rid of it, don’t want to see or smell it, and certainly not let anyone else sense that we even have need of this basic function. Animals are not ashamed of this obligation to eliminate that which is no longer needed. Nor do they hide their sexual urges, another area of deep shame for humans. Is it any wonder that the most common cancers, ie. prostate, breast, colon, and many other diseases occur in these most embarrassing areas of our bodies?
In order to work with shame, I have to get a little space around it, some wiggle room to allow myself the power to notice it is not actually who I am. It may be part of me, but it is not me. To get some space, I need to let go of shameful labels for myself: sinful, vile, scandalous, outrageous, immoral, indecent, humiliated. I can feel that, despite its tentacles, I am much bigger than this dishonorable, unworthy thing. Instead of the rock-solid immovable hidden elephant-in-the-room, I can let myself expand out into the infinite space around me. Physicists have proven to us that “empty space” is actually chock full of quantum probabilities, the Field of All Possibilities. Somewhere in that field is relief from this shame.
As I expand my awareness, broadening my body, my life, who I am, I can take this loathsome article and hold it up to the light. Continuing to focus my attention on it and its effect on my life, I claim my power to be greater than it. It actually starts to shrink as I feel the lifeforce growing in me. Deep down inside, deeper even than the shame, a part of me knows there is something which wants me to grow and prosper. Indeed, that force has walked with me every step of the way so that I am still alive and can read this sentence right now. Do I expand that power, or do I let the shame become me, consuming who I am?
Shame happens. None of us is free of judgment by others, or from ourselves. And yet, for all their power, making us feel less desirable, less attractive, less loveable, judgment and the shame it creates are not life-enhancing forces. When I get enough space in my observation of my shame, I can acknowledge that it has contributed to the journey I am having as a spiritual being having a human experience. Shame is just one part of the fullness of that experience. The more I shine the light of awareness on it, the less power it has over me. When I don’t play along with its agenda to hide, and to hide my nobility from myself, I give myself ever-expanding wiggle room to become who I truly am. We are given free will to choose who we will be in this moment. Whatever shameful acts or humiliating experiences occurred in the past, I get this new moment to choose my vital lifeforce again, my strength, my greatness. I can focus my awareness on those aspects of myself which help me know I am a powerful being, a force of nature. This awareness makes me straighten my shoulders, feeling lighter than that heavy burden of shame. I call on that self-regulating innate intelligence of homeostasis (balance) to activate my autonomic nervous system, my immune system, all the mysterious glory built into this human body to heal me. Do I focus on the limitations of my shameful past, or That Which Wants Me to Grow and Prosper, to live the life I love?