Our humanity makes us messy, inefficient, and unpredictable. I worked with a client yesterday and the idea of shame around having a body that won't just do what you tell it to came up. There is a feeling in our society that there isn't room for us unless we are actively engaged in making shit happen, whether it's making money, doing something creative, climbing a mountain, something.....just do something! But what happens when we can't? When we experience so much pain, illness, depression, etc. that we have to just stop. What happens when the only intelligent way for us to proceed is through stillness, patience, and rest? When we cannot or will not allow ourselves to be a source of financial gain, entertainment, inspiration, or motivation for anyone else. This can be a profound opportunity to experience ourselves at our most elemental. An opportunity to feel into the very nature of our existence without the momentum associated with productivity.
A little over a year ago an event caused me to stop abruptly. I suffered a severe concussion doing something perfectly mundane and I had no choice but to lay in the dark day after day. I wasn't able to care for myself or my home or my business in the most basic ways. I couldn't entertain my friends who came to help me, or even myself, I couldn't make money, I couldn't, I couldn't, I couldn't. I had no choice but to surrender to it completely. For the first time I was absolutely unable to push myself through it. Unable to take the right supplement or herb, to go to the right healer, to change my perspective, to look on the bright side.... I could not talk myself out of the helplessness I felt. And with it came floods of emotion: depression, jumbled thoughts, a feeling that I was completely broken and wouldn't be who I was before. A feeling that everything I had built my identity on was suddenly gone. This was the first and only time since I was a small child that I was allowed to rest and let myself be cared for by others. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. The idea that I was not participating, not giving of myself, not pushing or trying or changing something made me feel incredibly weak and ashamed. I had built my worth as a person on my desire to make a positive impact in the world. To be kind, giving, motivated, active, and engaged. I discovered that I didn't actually believe that I had worth if I wasn't doing that work. I felt guilty for needing help and taking up space.
As the days and weeks passed, however, I was pushed by necessity to surrender to the support I was being offered. I experienced the kindness and generosity of the people in my life. I understood that by allowing myself to be indebted to my community we were building the threads of interconnectedness that I had always been moving too fast and pushing too hard to notice. I had to acknowledge that my value was more than the commodity of action. That is was ok to just sit and rest. Slowly the shame transformed and I began to heal. I learned to accept kindness and generosity and thoughtfulness in others and humility in myself. My life is better now than it was. Though some things are harder than they were and I am not completely healed from the injury and I would have loved to be able to learn these lessons in a less painful way, I can say that in some ways I am grateful for my injury for showing me the value of not doing the thing. I learned something important about space and stillness and emptiness as well as coming face to face with my deepest fear. The fear of not being worthy of this life.
Back to yesterday....as we worked and I sank my awareness into that shame I saw that it looked and felt like tributaries of water, flowing from person to person in our society. I realized that our shame doesn't belong to us and it's not our fault. It doesn't start with us nor will it end with us. And as we, as individuals, heal and process shame it continues on it's course, moving through all of us from an unknown source. The best we can do is perhaps to listen to what it has to say as we might listen to a suffering friend. To offer love and care for the tender parts of us that experience shame. And perhaps as we allow it to pass through us we can offer some healing both to ourselves as well as to all others who might experience it. Offering kindness and patience and then letting it go.
Roxanne has been a massage therapist and herbalist for more than 16 years. She practices profound and subtle healing work with the intention of welcoming people back into their bodies and making space for individuals to live in strength, alignment, and integrity.