Ask Parvati 42: Healing Shame – Part 1: Toxic Shame

shame1

Dear Parvati,
My life looks good on the surface – I’m intelligent, good looking, have a decent job, a good relationship – but I feel like a loser. I can’t seem to stop doing things I’m not proud of, like spending evenings playing World of Warcraft instead of working on my writing (I want to publish a novel), or letting the vegetables rot in the fridge while I eat chips for supper or order pizza… meanwhile I’m paying $100/month for a gym membership and not using it. I think most people who know me are really fooled and they think I have it so much more together than I really do. I’m afraid that if they found out the reality, they’d all get disgusted and drift away from me. My significant other has brought up the idea of living together, but I’m afraid I’ll lose her if she sees how I really live. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in shame for not being a better person. How do I fix this?

Thank you for your question. Hiding is hard to do at any time, especially on an ongoing basis. Hiding our true self from our self and the world is extra hard, even painful. You may think you are the only one who does things you want to hide from others and your self. But in truth, many people struggle with similar feelings of personal shame and self-disgust. Because hiding supports shame, it’s important to remember that the more down on yourself you feel, the more you feed the shame, that is usually fueled by feelings of low self-esteem or a wounded sense of self-worth.

Shame is quite common. It is a fundamental motivator behind our pain-driven behaviours, such as compulsions, co-dependency, addictions and the drive to over- or under-achieve. These compulsions can break down families and friendships and destroy our personal lives. To some extent or another, most people suffer from some degree of shame, hidden in the recesses of their psyches. That is what shame does. It hides in the dark where we cannot see it. Yet out of our conscious sight, it wreaks havoc on our lives. Shame undermines the expression of our authentic self and our ability to live our true potential.

John Bradshaw, author of “Healing the Shame That Binds You”, reminds us that there two kinds of shame: toxic shame binds us into toxic behaviors; healthy shame helps us feel balanced remorse for things we do, think and say that do not support our highest good or the good of all. The shame I address here is toxic. It is the kind that thwarts our brilliance, joy and fulfillment in some capacity or another.

If you feel you suffer from toxic shame, you may consider reading John Bradshaw’s very helpful book on the topic. Written 17 years ago but still selling more than 13,000 copies a year, the book is considered a classic authority on the subject. It has helped millions identify their personal shame, understand the underlying reasons for it, address the root causes and release themselves from the shame that binds them to their past. I would recommend it for pretty much anyone who is on a personal, healing journey and wishes to live a life of balanced wholeness.

The roots for toxic shame can be traced to our youngest years, when our true self was judged not good enough by our primary caregivers. We were made to feel that there was a fundamental lack in our being, that we are fundamentally flawed at our core. Because of this, shame exists because of our fundamental misperception that we are flawed. So thoughts of “fixing” shame, as the question suggests here, only exacerbates the notion that we are broken.

Shame is not to be fixed, but gently revealed. The energy caught in our hidden, severed and disowned places needs to be slowly brought back from the dark and moved into the light. As we learn to witness our hidden, shameful bits with self-love, kindness and understanding, we integrate them into who we are. In that place of whole self-acceptance, the grip we have around them organically releases and our sense of internal split is healed.

Continues tomorrow with Bringing The Wounded Bits To The Light.

PS – the latest Parvati Magazine is live. This month’s issue is on love, including self-love. Please go and check it out.

 

 

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WHY YOGA IN THE NIGHTCLUB

I am often asked what inspired me to bring yogic expression into the club scene. I answer easily. Yoga In the Nightclub is a natural expression of who I am as a musical artist and dedicated yogini. Yoga is not a physical practice but a way of life. It is about learning to be present in all one does, to see the divine here, now, in this moment. As such, yoga is everywhere. It is about feeling connected to something much greater than our limited ego or will. It is about being in service to life, feeling interconnected to that very life force. Yoga In The Nightclub is a celebration of life and a reminder that we can find awakened presence everywhere.

Yoga in the West is mostly known as a series of bendy physical exercises. Yet there is much more to it than fitness. Yoga’s systematic breath and body exercises, designed to clear the subtle channels in our energy system, prepare us for meditation, through which we may experience a life inspired by our interconnected, multidimensional true nature. Our body, that once was seen as “mine”, is no longer our identity, but a gift on loan from the divine. We care for it, but we are not attached to it. The practice of yoga offers us the opportunity to experience the transmutation of matter into pure light, embody the multidimensional and rest in the eternal.

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WE ARE ALL CONNECTED

Hatha yoga, the physical practice of yoga, is just one of many aspects of yoga, which range from selfless service to astrology and prayer. The Sanskrit word “yoga” most simply translates to “union”, implying that the practice of any yoga will bring together our perceived sense of separateness. As a whole, yoga is an ancient science of life. It is a practical method of shedding excess and bringing us back from the self-delusion of separation from the divine so that we may realize our inherent interconnection to and ultimate oneness with it.

As we begin to understand that yoga is everywhere, we come to see how we are all connected in vast ways far beyond the limitations of our personal will and ego. What I do affects you, and vice versa. We are one earth family. At the heart of it all, we share the same heartbeat. Breathe to be. We are one.

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AWAKENED LIVING

When we are open, life blossoms, just as a flower opens to welcome the morning sun.  We see that the sun, though it is millions of light years away, has a tender yet powerful relationship with the flower, as do the rain and the clouds. From this perspective we see that we are part of the whole. Life is a symphonic masterpiece with which, when we are open, we are completely resonant.

As we come to understand our oneness, we can revel in it with wonder and joy. We can consider in awe how immense it all is. We can let go of the idea that an illusory, isolated sense of self could possibly be in control, and open to an exquisite unfolding of life in absolute perfection. Our actions become not about “me” but about the whole. Each moment is integrated within the whole. No one decision is separate.

When we begin to see that each decision we make affects not just ourselves but everyone and everything on the planet, we act with more compassion. When we have more compassion, we realize the impact of our actions and we naturally want less and practice more kindness. As stewards of the Earth, we each are called to learn to live in harmony with ourselves, each other and our planet. We all breathe the same air and live on the same living organism, our planet. Varied in race and creed, we are all one family, children of the same mother, the planet Earth.

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THE OPPORTUNITY FOR GRACE

In each moment, there is infinite grace. By becoming more conscious as we practice yoga on the mat, at work, at play or in the nightclub, we let go of the unnecessary and develop greater internal spaciousness which blooms throughout our lives. In this space new life and possibilities arise.

As we rest our awareness on the simple purity and grace of the breath, we realize - we are alive! We let go of wanting things from the future and the past and open to what is here and now. We feel as vast as the sky and rooted in the richness of this moment.

When we “breathe to be”, we understand our interconnection. We see that we are not the doers but a part of the whole, the same energy that is in the flowers and in the stars. We know that our essence is divine - from which we have come, to which we return.

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Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha
Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha
Gone, gone beyond. Oh what awakening!
Gone, gone beyond. Swaha!

I am light, dancing in delight!
I am light, dancing through the night!
I am light, in delight!
I am light, dancing through the night!

Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha
Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha
I am the light, liquid gold light
I am in delight! Swaha!

I am light, dancing in delight!
I am light, dancing through the night!
I am light, in delight!
I am light, dancing through the night!

I am the light (gate gate), liquid gold light (paragate)
I am in delight (gate gate) transforming the night (paragate)

Gone, gone beyond (gate gate)! Oh what awakening! (paragate) (I am)
Gone, gone beyond (gate gate)! Swaha!

I am light, dancing in delight
I am light, dancing through the night
I am light, in delight
I am light, dancing through the night

I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light (gate gate)
I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light (paragate)
I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light
I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light, I am light

I am light!

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