I love the quotation from Milarepa. “Act so that you have no cause to be ashamed of yourself, and hold fast to this rule” is such a good foundation for life.
I believe that when we follow the promptings of our hearts, we never do anything to be ashamed of. And yet shame and guilt play such a big part in so many people’s lives, always with a negative impact. Why is this?
None of us feel ashamed of ourselves when we’re young. We’re born comfortable with who we are, happy to run around naked in the rain or on a beach with never a care in the world. We don’t judge ourselves with the language of shame. We do what comes naturally and say what’s on our mind without any of the constraints we obey later in life. We’re honest, bright creatures, born with integrity.
So where does shame come in? It must be that we are taught it. We learn the word “ugly” and along the way we start to feel less confident about our bodies. We start to judge ourselves by other people’s standards of achievement. We become self-critical, instead of loving us for who we are.
That’s why I think the phrase “original sin” is such a terrible one. It suggests that our origins themselves are to be ashamed of, which is the opposite of the truth.
Mostly this affects us how we look at ourselves physically. How many of us are truly happy with our bodies when we become adults? How many of us are truly comfortable with our sexuality? If we were truly happy with our bodies, would we ever consider botox, face-lifts or implants?
It seems to me the media teaches us to judge our bodies negatively, instead of enjoying their beauty. Worse still, we’ve been taught that sexual desires are something to feel bad about. Just look at the language. Having a “dirty weekend away” really means taking a break from our busy schedules to spend time loving our partners. How different it would be if we were to take a “healthy weekend away” instead!
It’s no coincidence that the notion of “dirtiness” is also linked to money: hence we talk of the “stinking rich” or “filthy rich” rather than the shiningly-clean rich! Men particularly are taught to feel guilty if they are not earning sufficient quantities to meet social perceptions of wealth. The shame surrounding this can be so acute that people will take their own lives rather than continue to live in “failure”.
So how do we rid ourselves of these learned attitudes of shame?
For Milarepa the solution was to live alone in a cave high in the mountains. Here he ate whatever grew nearby and practised metaphysics to such a high level that he is said to have put his hand into the rocky cave wall in order to prove his mastery of the world to a doubting disciple. I have not been there, but am told that you can visit this cave and place your hand into the indentation where Milarepa did this.
Yet, most of us can’t simply up-sticks and head off into the hills. We have obligations. And besides, the life of a hermit is not for everyone.
I do believe that we can all rid ourselves of shame, though. We just have to appeal to our inner beauty, to remember the Divine Self that resides within us all. That Divine Self, shining and confident and free, is who we truly are. We knew it when we were young. We just have to remind ourselves of its presence within us – and within everyone else.
The simplest way to do this is to look at ourselves in the mirror, holding our own gaze until the physical melts away and we connect with the spirit inside.
On top of that, if we start each day by saying: “I am a Divine Idea in body, mind and spirit” this helps to shift the balance. And when we add the simple phrase: “I love myself for who I am” we direct ourselves back onto our Divine Path.
On that path we meet neither guilt nor shame.
The trick is to do this every day, again and again, until the learned behaviours are truly washed away.
My best wishes, as ever, Richard.
When I found this picture it literally demanded to be placed directly in the center of this particular post. A giant redwood in the California Bear Creek watershed stands tall amidst the other trees in this old growth forest. There are many things that caught my attention here. My experience with old growth forests is that they are quite different from forests that have been cut down before. There is a unique smell and feel to the earth and other life forms that inhabit this sacred and beautiful natural resource. The quiet is so pervasive that when there is a sound it immediately draws your attention. It almost feels as if you could put your ear to the bark of the tree and it would whisper untold wisdom into your ear.
When walking in one of these forests, awareness expands and broadens as attention is caught by the fact that these trees have been living for much longer than we have years to count. They have survived natural disasters and encouraged the trees around them to grow and thrive just by their very presence in the forest community. This one tree has obviously been present much longer than the others marked by its sheer size. One might feel by looking at this picture that this one tree is guardian standing as protector with a much more expansive view. However, each tree is deeply interconnected to the others and has its’ unique role to play.
In yoga class this morning our practice was guided by 3 teachings of Milarepa who is generally considered one of Tibet’s most famous yogis and poets.. One of those teachings was “Act so that you have no cause to be ashamed of yourself, and hold fast to this rule.” When I saw this tree standing so much taller than the others I immediately thought of each of us in our lives and whether we consciously make the choice to “stand tall”. By “standing tall” we declare that we are not ashamed of who we are, but instead choose to show the world our fullness and actively bring our unique gifts for all to see. There is no way that this particular tree can hide!
As were the dancers at the event I was privileged to see last evening. Viewing a magnificent expression of the dance arts I witnessed a performance that literally had me mesmerized (and wishing I was back in my youth again!). Each dancer found the energetic flow and rhythm that was uniquely their own expression within the choreography, and then combined it with that of other dancers sharing the stage with them. Even amidst the demonstration of angst and conflict during a few pieces there was a sense of something much larger expanding….a greater story, a more expansive view……… than the small one unfolding before your eyes. At times one or two dancers would take center stage, yet there was always movement happening around them expanding the focus and the story.
What wealth we accumulate in our individual lives when we choose to “stand tall” no matter what is happening. Our actions in every situation and every relationship can uphold living a life of fullness. Each and every one of us is a magnificent expression just as these trees and dancers are. The trees so much lower than the single one are “standing tall” as well in their own unique ways. The Divine Design of our life awaits us to wake up and root our toes into the wealth and creative passion of our lives….. leaving any thread of shame behind. Life is simply too short to waste on anything less……
Standing Tall In Austin, Texas –
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