Letting go of shame: Observational Meditation


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. 

xoxo

Scars and Imperfections: vulnerability and courage

ovarian cancer scars

For a long time I have been embarrassed by all the scars I have on my belly. I have actually felt shame that I didn’t have the super flat and amazing abs that I had all my life, pre-cancer and that we see in so many pictures. Last night, as I was watching a video of myself doing yoga on my paddleboard, I saw my scars and imperfections for what they truly are: beautiful, and a deeper healing is setting in.

I wouldn’t be alive today if these scars weren’t there.

These scars are an ever constant reminder of the hell I went through as a stage 3 ovarian cancer survivor, getting a 5 pound tumor removed, then 50 tumors removed, then a hysterectomy, then a hole in my colon, getting an infection, then being attached to a vacuum for 6 weeks, then a 12 hour surgery to remove more tumors and organs, then an ileostomy bag, then, and finally, freedom. These scars show the story of hardship and trials, pain, and tears of not only me, but my family and friends. I have wanted to get as far away from those memories as I could, for a long time. I have slowly faced them as I have been able. This is my next step in the journey: showing them, being vulnerable and open, facing fears, and inviting in even more healing.

I have prayed for them to dissipate. I have tried all sorts of creams and wraps and detoxes and exercise and yet, they are still there. The mountains and valleys, the craters, and holes, the lumps of fat displaced from all the surgeries, the crevices of stiff scar tissue that try to hold me back.

Today though, I am making the choice to see that these scars also tell an incredible story of hope, of courage, of the power of prayers and support of family and friends, of medical staff who were creative and revolutionary; all these people who believed. These scars do tell of the ugliness of cancer, the evilness of disease, the destruction of surgery, and yet, there is a beauty in them: the power of human ingenuity, God’s miracles through our work, that our thoughts of limitations are only in our minds, that truly anything is possible, and that there is beauty in imperfection. These scars show the story of where I have been, who I am today, and in my story, I wouldn’t be where I am, doing what I do, without them. So, I embrace them.

I know that I will continue to walk out this journey called life, every day. Today marks a new one though, and I’m setting up a marker.

Hope exists. Nothing is impossible. Keep moving forward. Fail a lot. Have the courage to stand back up again, and maybe, just maybe, we can change the world through our courage.

Thanks for reading and loving.

Namaste.

Bali Yoga Video Day 10: Puri Bagus Candidasa Resort

It’s the end of Monday, December 2, and I’ve just come from a really great, fresh, coconut drink, sunset, and conversation with the 2 birthday girls, Betsy and Claire, and several amazing others. Among the highlights of the day, were a nice break from Vinyasa Yoga class for a time of observation (which was AMAZING! I have learned so much from Basil and his skill as an instructor. My students back home are going to love it. ☺), I just had a great conversation with Nicole and Claire about blogs. Shout out to all you lovelies, btw! One of the things that stuck out to me about our conversation are concerns over who will read our blogs? What I shared with Nicole is that that really isn’t my concern. What I know can happen is that we get stuck with this thought and wonderment of “Oh, but what I write about is ‘trivial,’ who would want to read it?’ and this can actually paralyze us with inaction! I have no idea who will read this, if anyone actually cares, but this really isn’t the concern or the point. There are several reasons I am writing this blog: 1. I know deep within, that I should be doing this and I feel overwhelmingly compelled to be doing so. Of course I could not do this, but I make the choice to every day. 2. I want to improve myself and writing things down and recording them is a way to do that. 3. Blogging is forcing me to be very vulnerable and open it is helping me to rid shame. Shame that has tried to hold me (and us all) down, and keep me from being free. 4. I want to better the world and even if my blog is for no other purpose than tonight’s conversation about getting rid of shame, I am bettering the world through it!

So, enjoy this blog. Enjoy the video tour around some of the buildings here at the Puri Bagus Candidasa Resort and I will chat with you tomorrow, hopefully having encouraged you too to live a courageous life, following your dreams, living out loud, and encouraging others as you do.

Namaste!