Often in facilitating and coaching I focus on supporting a client dissolving shame by seeing and feeling through it. Guilt and self-judgment are integral aspects of the egoic operating system; that is to say, its foundational to the system of thought that gives the sense of a personal identity. The same thought system that is the root of suffering, through our imagining it is what we are. If we encounter self-loathing or worthlessness in our work together I feel excitement. Unusual yes. I see all ‘shit’ as gold, all problem as an opportunity to be discovered. I know from my own experience this pattern is a portal into higher dimensions of being. Self-loathing is a pathway to self-love, and even the realization of no-self. Enquiring into the shame, seeing its falsehood, its emptiness, can lead to both deepened realization of impersonal presence and a happier life.
The problem with such a view, as with all insight, can be interpretation within the mind and expression in language. Language commonly borne out of delusion with primary functions of commerce, war and law rather than portraying reality. ( ‘delusion’ referring here to belief in separation, identification with sense of self as reality; a disregarding of the interconnected nature of all phenomena, the unity of all life, this here now being. This delusion English accentuates with its subject/object grammar whilst Japanese and many languages of indigenous peoples diminish it through a more ‘nondual’ grammar.)
The problem here can be, as so often, in pointing out the untruth or partiality of an aspect of experience the typically highly dualistic western mind proceeds to make it bad. This is especially problematic with shame for it can lead to the minor madness of being ashamed when shame arises! These circular loops of thought are common until the awareness to see them loosens their grip – we get depressed about feeling depressed, anxious about feeling anxiety, fearful of fear. I will give you an example in my experience with shame.
I recently came to write the first newsletter to my mailing list. I was excited to be sharing a full year ahead of much meaningful activity, including leading a first ever week long retreat, on a beautiful Hebridean island no less. Yet it was sharing a new venture, The Love and Truth Party, a project which may well touch millions, that elevated enthusiasm levels to dangerous levels such that there was a feeling to tell everyone. I consequently committed the very modern sin of adding emails to my mailing list of a few friends and associates without their permission. The reasoning was that whilst the teaching schedule alone would not warrant spamming friends, this beautiful project surely did! I was caught within the reformer’s zeal I find so distasteful. The road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions, as the saying goes. The mistake felt compounded when on learning that newsletters are super ineffective I realized there would be more than the occasional update. When a couple of friends I had added without asking delicately pointed out the error a feeling of shame arose. A good and healthy shame at having created inconvenience. A residual self-image and aspiration to be someone that affects other’s positively was at play. In this not happening there was a story of one creating suffering for others, even the mild suffering of another email, and shame arose. We might view shame in this instance as a loving intelligence encouraging avoidance of such behaviours. The circular loop was noticed in a subtle resistance to the feeling. There was shame at feeling shame. Seeing this and free from the need for there being anyone to be feeling shame, there was laughter. ‘I am feeling shame’ is potentially the hair’s breadth between heaven and hell. ‘ There is shame’ – simply noticing it without the unnecessary garnish of a me to suffer is a much more heavenly experience.
There is humour in that it was only in the moment of resistance there was anything that ‘should not be.’ Of course such resistance can be welcomed, simply noticed as part of perfection unfolding. How endlessly amusing this human experience. May we balance upon the razor’s edge and remember – there is no shame in any human experience, particularly shame! May we realize a deeper truth – there is no shame nor one feeling it nor one resisting feeling it. May we laugh and take it all lightly.