Earlier this week I was a cranky, irritable, and in all honesty, a miserable bitch cloaked in a heavy mindset of fear, self-doubt and self-loathing. I could hardly stand to be with myself let alone admit to the way I was acting and feeling, which only made me feel worse. And the worse I felt, the more ashamed I became.
Shame is such an interesting emotion. For me, shame feels like heavy, dark, stuck and sorrowful energy. I feel void of creativity, emptied of enthusiasm and grow bitterly critical of myself. I’m like a tamasic* slug, trapped in negative and compulsive actions, yet lack the motivation and personal power to unstick myself. And this pisses me off because I know better and what I need to do. But that doesn’t do me much good either save for further descending my physical, mental and emotional energies into an abyss of shame and worthlessness.
I don’t write this post to host a pity party, but rather to communicate the truth of what I am going through and what I am feeling. I am human and I know that I’m not the only one who has ever had these feelings. I know many feel like this, circling and recycling these overwhelming and dispiriting energies, sometimes on a daily basis. Now into the third lockdown of this pandemic, and forced closure of the studio, shame has reared its demonic head. The expectations I had laid out for the start up of the business are literally nowhere in sight. How could they be? How could I have ever known that after nine months of operation I’d be shut down and shut up in a global pandemic forced to adapt, and fast, in order to keep up. And because I find conforming to the virtual platform soul sucking, I feel like I’m failing to contend. More so, that I’m doing a disservice to those who anticipate, and are rightly so expecting, service for what they have paid for.
“Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” – Brené Brown
On the flip side, and after I’ve had a few cries, a few choice words, time crashing and banging in the woods, and some ice cream, I get to the point where have had enough Eeyore-ing. I rely on my yogic training and practices, all of which I feel extremely grateful for and repeatedly lean on to break through the heaviness of gloom and doom. On one specific training, I was fortunate enough to spend an intensive 8-days studying with Anodea Judith, author, therapist, public speaker and chakra guru, where we explored in extraordinary detail the psychological realities of the chakras (energetic centers) and how we get stuck, shut down or off in them, and what to do about it. In her book Eastern Body Western Mind, Anodea writes:
“Shame is the demon of the third chakra. It is inversely proportional to personal power – the greater the shame, the less we feel powerful and the harder it is for the ego to form itself. Shame-bound personalities feel stuck and may fall into patterns of compulsive repetition and addiction. Shame-bound people honour their thoughts more than their instincts, especially the internal voices that constantly tell them how worthless and inferior they are.”
In another chapter she continues with :
“In the third chakra, we identify with our will, behaviour, and our actions. This is where we realize that we are a separate entity with the power to choose our own actions and consequences. This is the ego identity, oriented towards self-definition. This type of identification says, ‘I am what I do.’ When we do something right or achieve something difficult, we feel good about ourselves. When we make mistakes or fail, then we think we’re bad. We think that what we do is a statement of who we are. Ego identity emerges from physical and emotional identity (1st & 2nd chakra respectively), and can be thought of as the inner executive, as it executes our intentions. This is the identity most often in charge. But we have to remember – it is only a middle manager.”
This feeling of shame is something I have been working with for as long as I can remember. I don’t know how it came to be but it’s there and it has grown roots. When shame rears its ugly head, I eventually find the will to relentlessly blaze my way through, even if it is only a spot of light in the darkness. I start first by accepting the challenge to dance with shame by admitting it, and then I slowly but deliberately learn to take the lead and shake it off my ass.
Learning to ‘sock hop’ with my beastly competitor is what I believe to be my life’s work. Yes I am meant to teach Yoga & Ayurveda – I know that deep in my core. But I can only do that once I gain access to the implications of the applications of these philosophies in my day to day experiences. For only through my embodied practices can I truly understand. And by fully engaging in my own dark, and light sides, I more clearly see the truth in the teachings and then work to improve or rectify my state of affairs which in turn helps me find my authentic voice – the means for how I contribute and educate the community and world around me.
*Tamas is one of the three primary qualities in which all of life is comprised. Called gunas in Sanskrit, tamasic energy is that of inertia and it is vital to the balance of the whole, which include rajas (motion or action), and sattva (consciousness or intelligence). Tamas is the energy behind our sleep and stillness practices, but it is also the energy that, when in excess, brings a mental dullness and darkness to the mind creating a downward spiral of lethargy, non-striving and depression.
Should you be interested in shaking shit off your own ass, here is the practice I did a few times this week that really helped break up the heaviness in my body. This is the recording of my regular Saturday morning Vinyasa class that I teach each week.
In high school, I played the role of Goodarm, a Christmas Guardian angel in an original production with Stuck In A Snowbank Theatre. I had no lines, in fact no one ever say my face as I wore a neutral drama mask the entire show. It was such a challenging role as I had nothing but neutral work with and deliver from, and yet it was such an interesting place to be in.