Lisa Meuser: Shame is at the heart of suffering

 

In my own journey and in working w/ clients I’m finding that shame is at the heart of suffering. It’s at the root of identified conditioning and trauma. It’s what fuels harsh self judgment, and what keeps things in a state of separation. It’s what gets in the way of love. And it’s what least wants to get felt and acknowledged- when i come across it in a person who’s not ready/willing/etc to go there, it feels like an actual wall. It’s quite visceral. It’s the ultimate thing to feel- it’s the key to freedom, and also the most backed away from. It’s like jumping into death, and in that there is rebirth.

The thing is, like anything, once it’s seen and felt it doesn’t stay. In my own experience I see and feel it pretty fast now, and in that recogniztion and willingness to dive into it, it doesn’t stay for long. For the most part anyway. It also seems that shame about feeling shame arises! As if after some kind of awakening shame shouldn’t be here, or that there is a “doneness” with shame. In my reality tunnel shame is just like any other thing that arises. It’s just another aspect of being human. it’s normal, and natural, and always evolving.

Lisa Meuser

Shame is one of the gatekeepers. One of the things that holds us back from investigating what’s really there, when something seems painful. It’s also a sign that it isn’t quite investigated. That stories remain unquestioned and unloved.

Tantrum

 

In several recent inquiries, I see how I throw a tantrum to get my way.

As a young child, it did work, at least to some extent. I had a tantrum, and sometimes got what I wanted.

Even now, I go into tantrums hoping it will get me what I want from other people or God. Any belief is a form of tantrum, and what happens when I take a thought as true is a tantrum, including the more obvious ones of anger, sadness, grief, frustration, annoyance, despair, trying very hard, giving up, and even feeling numb or paralyzed.

It’s a way of communicating what I want. And it’s innocent. It’s confused love.

Some beliefs behind going into tantrums to get my way:

A tantrum will get me what I want.

A tantrum communicates what I want.

If I go into despair, God will give me what I want. If I go into despair, God will understand he/she/it made a mistake and make it good again.

If I am annoyed, he will give me what I want. If I am annoyed, he will be quiet (they nosy guy on the bus).

More than looking at these general thoughts, it’s helpful to identify a specific situation where I went into a tantrum to get my way, write a Judge Your Neighbor worksheet from that situation, and take it to inquiry.

I also see how embarrassment is a guardian of the treasure here. A thought says it’s very childish to throw a tantrum to get what I want, so I am am not open to explore if that’s what’s really happening. Embarrassment guards the treasure of seeing what’s happening, and identifying and inquiring into the thoughts behind it. And that too is innocent, and confused love.

“I know it’s not true” as a guardian

 

The thought I know it’s not true is one of the guardians of the treasure.

I find a thought behind fear or unease, and then another – I know it’s not true, and that’s one of the guardians of the treasure. If I believe it, I may stop myself from inquire into the initial belief and find the treasure there. And it in itself is a thought to inquire into it.

My mother doesn’t love me. Is it true, I know it’s not true? I can find situations in my childhood where I imagine/remember having had that thought, so I don’t know, through and through, it’s not true.  I may know it’s not true, at a certain level, and yet, a part of me may not know it yet. I can find situations where I don’t feel it, see it, through and through.

Why would I stop myself from finding the gifts in examining that thought in each of those situations?

Shame as a guardian

 

For some losses during the “dark night” phase, I notice shame is a guardian of the treasure.

I have beliefs about what happened, these create shame, and this shame sometimes prevents me from more wholeheartedly (a) open to the experience, and (b) identify and inquire into the beliefs around it. It’s also why I have only written about it in very general ways here, and avoided talking about it with most (not all) people in my life.

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The dream of the ego II

 

I keep returning to what Adyashanti calls the dream of the ego.

In short, it’s the thought life should be exactly as I want, always.

Most of us wouldn’t say it out loud, of course, and we may even shy away from thinking it consciously, because it does seem a bit silly. And yet, when I look at it for myself, I find this one behind most or all of my beliefs.

The underlying assumption is that if life is exactly as I want, I’d be happy always. If I go to heaven, if I reach enlightenment, if I have a nice (car, house, spouse, career), if I have 72 virgins after death, if I find Nirvana, if I go to Valhalla, then I’ll be perfectly happy and content, forever.

It may be helpful, to some extent, to inquire into these general thoughts. And I find it even more helpful to investigate this through inquiring into a specific thought in a specific situation. It makes it more real. More finely grained. It helps what I find sink in.

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“It’s obviously not true” as a guardian of the treasure

 

I am investigating the thought/feeling that my mother doesn’t love me, have found a few situations in early childhood where I remember or imagine I had that thought, and see it’s connected with some quite primal and basic fears in me.

I also notice I have the thought it’s obviously not true, and if that’s believed then it functions as a guardian of the treasure. It’s what may make me turn away from a more serious investigation of the belief that my mother doesn’t love me, and I may miss out – for now – of what’s there.

It feels true, somewhere, and at an emotional level. It felt true at the time, in the three or four situations that came to mind. It seems connected with similar deep and previously unseen beliefs such as I am unlovable. And an image of myself as a baby, in a crib alone in a dark room has surfaced for a while now, with the thought/feeling that I am unlovable. So it clearly invites attention.

Embarrassment as a guardian of the treasure

 

One of the guardians of the treasure is embarrassment.

As I trace beliefs back to (a) underlying beliefs, and (b) the earliest situation I can remember – or even imagine – having them, they seem to originate in very early childhood. (As much as Freud’s views were colored by his times and culture, many of his basics seem to fit my own experience.)

Some of these are quite primal: I will die. It’s terrible to die. Something terrible will happen.

Others seem – from my view some years later – a bit silly: Nobody loves me. I am unlovable. I am abandoned.

I notice how embarrassment is one of the gatekeepers, one of the guardians of the treasure. I see the thought as a bit silly and obviously not true, so even if it feels true somewhere in me and is clearly held as a belief, I sometimes dismiss it.

There is a set of beliefs here about these beliefs: I know it’s not true. It’s immature to have this belief. It’s embarrassing to have this belief. I don’t want people to know I have this belief.

 

Guardian of the treasure

 

In fairy tales and mythology, there is often a guardian of the treasure.

It may be a dragon guarding a princess or gold and diamonds, or – in the case of Greek mythology – Cererbus guarding the gates of the underworld, preventing those who have crossed the river Styx from returning to the world of the living.

And I find this in my own life as well.

My treasure is what’s revealed when I (a) meet and befriend what I am experiencing now, and (b) inquiry into the stressful thought that’s here.

And the guardian is my fear of doing just that. My fear of looking at what’s here.

My fear of meeting and staying with what I am experiencing now – whether it’s discomfort, unease, pain, joy or fear itself. And my fear of identifying and investigating the stressful thought that’s here.

This guardian, this fear, is created by additional beliefs: It will be too much. It will open a Pandora’s box. Reality is unkind. Opening to it will be worse than avoiding it. Something terrible will happen if I open to my experience, inquire into my stressful thought.

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