FREEDOM. Let’s pause for a moment and really reflect on that word. What does it mean to you? What images does it bring to mind? For many people, it likely is associated with some type of Independence Day celebration. Maybe fireworks, cookouts, parades, and patriotism come to mind. For others, maybe it’s associated with certain rights and privileges we’ve come to enjoy. Perhaps it’s a physical sensation in the body associated with lack of commitments. According to the Mirriam Webster Dictionary, there are lots of definitions of the word. The one that stands out the most to me is, “liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another.”
So...what holds us in bondage? Collectively as a society and individually? What holds YOU in bondage? For me, and likely I suspect, for you also, one source is shame. Shame. Now that’s an interesting word! Have you ever wished shame on your pet or child? (“SHAME ON YOU!”) Maybe you have distinct memories of someone wishing it on you as a small child. Maybe there’s a visceral, physical response that you even associate with these memories. Something so embarrassing that you hoped (or at least, hoped then) that no one would ever find out about it. Something that would stay hidden. That note that you got caught passing in class that you reallllllllyyyyyy didn’t want to read out loud. That email, job situation, diagnosis, or indiscretion that you hope your family and friends never hear about. That chapter from the book of your life that you silently pray doesn’t get read aloud in church… nope, not even at your funeral!
To me, shame is often associated with guilt, but it isn’t the same. Guilt is usually an empathetic response. You did, said, or influenced someone that directly resulted in someone else's pain and you regret it. Shame, on the other hand, can be the result of something you might feel guilty for, but you can’t make amends because you hope no one finds out what happened. Shame is also considered the result of others’ (particularly our early life caregivers) anger, neglect, or even their projection of THEIR stories! And then there’s trauma. Something terrible happened to us that was completely out of our control, but we’re stuck in the feeling. Shame is often experienced by those who are told that their human existence isn’t as beautiful and miraculous as other humans experiencing life on this planet at the same time we are. We stamp labels on ourselves and others and try to stuff this miracle of incarnation into a neat box with a pretty bow, and if things don’t fit, it makes us uncomfortable.
But it gets awfully heavy, doesn’t it? Walking around with our hands cuffed to the things. Sometimes it becomes so wearisome that we flip the switch and decide instead that we want everyone to see it, hear it, and experience it until it becomes our whole identity. Unfortunately, that doesn’t unlock the handcuffs, though. In fact, sometimes, it might even make them feel tighter.
So what can we do? How do we finally find FREEDOM? Well, it’s not easy. It may even require professional support to move through all the things. But if and when you’re ready, here are some suggestions:
Let me please reemphasize here that this is not an easy process! Sacred fire burns (figuratively, and sometimes literally) very hot! But when your whole sense of being longs to let go, begs for release, it can be very freeing. “The buddha called suffering a holy truth, because our suffering has the capacity of showing us the path to liberation. Embrace your suffering and let it reveal to you the way to peace,” Thich Nhat Hanh. Wishing you the freedom to find your soul truth and to live it unapologetically!
Would you like to dive further into Freedom from Shame? We have a go at your own pace COURSE available with additional tools for your process, including yoga practices, guided meditations, and journaling guide. Of course you're always welcome to book a one-on-one session with Gail virtually HERE.
Gail Allen and Danielle Schwartz are both 500-RYT yoga professionals trained in Hatha and Kundalini Yoga. They specialize in Holistic, Trauma-Informed Counseling, Chakra Healing, Curvy Yoga, Reiki | Energy Healing, Ayurvedic Science, and other modalities of healing.