Thursday, March 19, 2015


Yup. There's no mincing around it. 
This is what has been coming up lately, in my life, in my wife's life, in my students' lives. 

When I don't get done what I set out to do (PS I had unrealistic expectations)...
When I make a mistake - or even moreso, a series of mistakes - while teaching or in public...
When I choose to sleep in instead of meditating...
When I procrastinate...
When I feel sexually aroused in a situation I suspect I shouldn't feel that way in...

I feel ashamed.
A heavy brick in my belly.
A punch to the gut.
Not a voice, not an inner critic, nothing that conscious or obvious or literal.
I don't THINK it, I FEEL it. In my locked up hips, my tightened legs, my triggered wrists.

More and more I am convinced that this is what Writer's Block, what creative resistance, what perfectionism, what procrastination ALL ARE - shame. Which is the cause and which the effect? Shame is like the fuel that powers the freezer that keeps us locked in one place. Not exercising, not writing, not exploring, not asking - all because some part of us, deep inside, believes we are unworthy. Anytime we make any kind of perceived error, it goes right into the evidence bin - not only have we done wrong, we are wrong.

For a long time, I have contended that Brene Brown's teachings on vulnerability and shame (click here to watch her stunning TED talk) are a perfect compliment to Shambhala's teachings on Basic Goodness (an article here demonstrating how the two are linked). Shame is our biggest block, our most underground and dug-in belief that we are not good. If we believe this, we can't believe we are basically, fundamentally good. We can't believe in bodhicitta, that we are all born awake and with full potential.

Shame is endless in its layers. Luckily my faith is also endless in its depths. Every time I find a new layer - this last week it was seeing that during a live online class I felt ashamed of myself because of technical errors beyond my control! - I react, I work with my body responses (through TRE or breathing) and then I slowly unpack all that was going on there. It can take months or just a moment. Over time, it gets easier to see, and easier to let go of the belief in shame, let go into the belief of my own - and others' - basic goodness.

What do you do when you encounter shame? How do you know it in your body? Do you know it? Does it have a voice? A story? Or is it more undercurrent? What is your relationship to shame and vulnerability?

And if I catch you using these questions, or my exploration, to compare yourself to, and shame yourself with, I'll come right over there and hug you and hold you while you cry. 

That is your punishment. I will mete it out mercilessly.

As Sakyong Mipham likes to say: "Be careful, or I am going to get gentle with you!"

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