My dear friend Abby Seixas, an author, retreat leader, and teacher of slowing down, posed this question:
Why do we regularly stop doing the rituals and activities that bring us a deep sense of peace, presence and renewal – what one woman called those things that “comfort and nourish us in the best possible way?”
It’s a powerful question, and one that resonated with me. For I often find myself skipping those things that most nourish me – like yoga, meditation, going on a long walk, making art, dancing, calling up friends, and even going to bed earlier!
I go for the junk food equivalent of self care – what’s quick and easy, but what never really satisfies – tortilla chips, surfing the internet, walking around the outdoor mall with my daughters, or social media (and I don’t even like social media or shopping!)
Or I just skip the self care altogether, and do something, anything, so that I can finally come to rest, getting to “done” on my to do list. (It’s never done.) Then I feel overworked, bitchy and resentful.
As I sat with my patterns and gently observed them, I realized that under this escape from self care is fear. I’m afraid to go inside. I’m afraid to get quiet and do the very things that most nurture me.
What keeps me afraid is shame.
Yes, I’ve struggled with eating disorders, depression, anxiety, insecurity, and low self esteem in my life. But more than that, I’ve struggled with the shame I feel about all of the above.
It’s the deepest form of shame: spiritual shame. A sense that I’m failing life 101 and that I’m not enough – not spiritual enough/ good enough/ kind enough. A shame that I’ve created my own reality. The shame that I’m not in more control. The shame I feel about my very human imperfection itself.
It’s the voice of self doubt – “Who do you think you are?”
Because of this shame, when I’m feeling depleted – or when my life is unraveling and I most need those nourishing rituals – I skip them. I feel like I can’t go there.
I feel too vulnerable, particularly if it’s something like going to yoga class where I’ll be with others. I feel embarrassed. I stay home because I feel guilty for feeling whatever I’m feeling, or for the way my life is unfolding. I feel like it’s all my fault, and I hide – from others, from the Divine, from myself.
When I’m caught in this trance of “small, imperfect, failing self,” I look around at everybody else and put them in an “other” category – where they’ve got life all figured out and I’m the only one who is fumbling my way through.
And so the judgment feeds on itself, as I fear doing the very things that will help me step out of the shame trance and connect.
Yet my heart yearns to be free. And so it says, Beloved, come back. Come home. And so I stop running. It takes a deliberate pause, a gentle remembering, a forgiveness of hand on heart to step out of this pattern, to come back and remember who I really am.
I love the way poet Danna Faulds describes this homecoming:
Would you hold back when the Beloved beckons?
Would you deliver your litany of sins like a child’s collection of sea shells, prized and labeled?
“No, I can’t step across the threshold,” you say, eyes downcast.
“I’m not worthy” I’m afraid, and my motives aren’t pure.
I’m not perfect, and surely I haven’t practiced nearly enough.
My meditation isn’t deep, and my prayers are sometimes insincere.
I still chew my fingernails, and the refrigerator isn’t clean.
Do you value your reasons for staying small more than the light shining through the open door?
I find the light “shining through the open door” when I stop running, when I realize that the shame is just shame – and not “me.” It feels real, like a tight squeeze in the heart, a heat in the chest, and a hallowing of the guts – and it is not true. The story my shame tells me – that I’m a deficient, failing self – is not true.
And so I hold my shame in my arms and I rock it, gently, gently. There you are shame. I know, I know. Let me take good care of you. I tend and befriend my shame, as if it’s a young, hurting child, or a frightened, wounded animal.
I care for it and hold it and I feel my heart soften. I find this space, an opening; this tender love for myself and for all beings – all of us, fumbling and bumbling our way together.
Slowly the tight squeeze eases. The anxiety about being flawed and imperfect softens. My belly softens. And I realize that I’m okay; that I’m loveable and wonderful just as I am. I rest in my beingness, and I find compassion for my humanity: humanity that is no better and no worse than anyone else’s.
This is Rumi:
I have gotten free of that ignorant fist
that was pinching and twisting my secret self.
The universe and the light of the stars come through me.
I am the crescent moon put up
over the gate to the festival.
So if you’re in a wrestling match with your fundamental goodness, if you’re keeping yourself from the open door – from whatever things that most nourish you – beloved, come back.
Imagine a soft core of tenderness; a resting place of unconditional acceptance. Imagine feeling compassion for your very precious, very human self. Imagine seeing yourself through the eyes of love.
May you, may I, may all of us find healing, may we soften this shame, may we hold our aching hearts in our hands. May we return to love.
Wanting more hands on help?
- My new, 200 page workbook on healing the shame of overeating is nearly done. It complements the existing audio sessions of my Heal Overeating: Untangled program. You can save $50 when you order it now and it’ll be shipped to you soon. Learn more at http://healovereating.com/untangled/
- Abby’s book, Finding the Deep River Within, was a life changer for me and I highly recommend it. I love her wise, nurturing approach to self care. She was my first teacher in self compassion, releasing self blame, and being gentler to myself. It was through her work that I began finding this soft, care of love for myself. I highly recommend it for every woman.