Shame: it’s ugly head pops up and creeps in, most awkwardly and uncomfortably. With new experiences, relationships, and the deepening of such, I see anew where shame still lives. Seemingly never fully out of its grasp (we are always a work in progress), I use awareness and meditation to face it and then let it go without fanfare (because it doesn’t need or deserve much of my energy or focus).
The best tool I have found to let go of shame, and any other unwanted emotion or feeling, is through the practice of Observational Meditation. Here’s how I do it:
1. I find a comfortable position, lying down or seated, somewhere quiet and where I won’t be bothered. I decide on a time: 2 minutes, 10 minutes, or longer as desired, and I set my meditation timer. (I use the free app I-Qi timer.)
2. I begin to still myself. Breathe. I settle down and settle in. Taking my time, I begin to label thoughts as they arise. (This helps us become less invested in them and breaks the chains of identity to them. Labeling also separates beliefs from reality.) Taking time to label these thoughts, perhaps even a few times, I get to their root feeling, emotion, belief, or other such deep connection. I often exhale when I get to the core thought, then I know I’ve got it. (If you have a hard time deciding which is the core thought, that’s fine, just pick a label and go with it. The body/mind/spirit will speak to you again. Remember, it’s all just practice.)
3. After labeling the thoughts, I become aware of where I feel this thought in the body. This may come easily, or sometimes I have to sit with the thought/label for some time before I’m able to identify where it lives in my body. I stay with the thought long enough to actually feel it, remembering that the goal isn’t to change or get rid of anything but to observe and experience whatever arises. Sometimes this actually works the other way around: I feel and become very aware of a feeling/area within my body, and then I label it.
4. That’s it! I just sit with the feeling/labeled thought for as long as I need for it to dissipate and lose its hold on me. Usually this is a matter of seconds before a new thought arises and I move on, but sometimes it’s a minute or so. This is such a simple practice, but one that is super powerful and one that does take effort.
The fun news is that since practicing this technique in comfort and quiet, I can now do this anywhere and at any time, and really, this is the point: to embody this tool and use it when feelings of shame or anything else that no longer serves, arises.
The harder we resist, the stronger unwanted feelings become. It’s the Self’s way to get our attention to make a change. Think of this practice like a dog that needs to go to the bathroom. He will continue to bark or whine or pester you until you let him out. Our body, mind, and spirit are the same: communicating to us through thoughts and feelings to get our attention to act.
Shame sucks. Here’s to letting to go and moving on!
Let me know how it works for you.