Healing ShameBy SHEPHERD HOODWIN
Shepherd: To start with let's do a little meditation . . . .
Let's begin by feeling our breath . . . notice how it enters our body . . . and then moves through the blood . . . feel the oxygen blessing every cell . . . Be aware of how wonderful it is to breathe . . . and how good it feels when we allow our breathing to be what it wants to be without any unnatural holding or pressure . . . just allowing the air to breathe us . . .
The entire planet has a single atmosphere that we are all breathing in, and so we are connected to one another; we are one because we breathe one atmosphere. Allow a knowing to emerge, that through the air we are one with everyone else participating in this session tonight, whether on line or on the phone or on both.
Know that we are all breathing in harmony as one. And now feel Michael's energy infusing this collective unity. And feel the healing power of all those who are present with us in spirit gathering with us to help broadcast universal love, beauty and well-being. Notice that all the parts of us, collectively, that have been physically uncomfortable, perhaps because of the heat, are now finding peace. And now Michael will begin speaking:
Shepherd/Michael: Greetings to you all.
The human physical body has been mistreated throughout much of history. For example, many religious and spiritual teachings have misunderstood the body, and have taught that most pleasures are wicked, or certainly less preferable than higher pursuits. The idea has often been to find spiritual upliftment by ignoring or even persecuting the body. Many, even in this day, believe that the point is to get the body part over with as quickly as possible.
The old story in Genesis in the Bible tells that, at one point, human beings were naked and unashamed, but then they learned to be ashamed. In this allegory, being naked does not only refer to nudity physically; it refers to all the ways in which a human being is naked. For example, intellectual nakedness might be all the things you do not yet know or understand. If you were not ashamed of that, you would not cover up this nakedness and pretend to know what you do not. Emotional nakedness would include being vulnerable, that you do, in fact, have feelings that can hurt. Very few people want to allow others to know that. If you look at the inculcation that goes on in children on the schoolyard, for example, you can see how much most societies are ashamed of emotional nakedness. And spiritual nakedness is covered over with sanctimony--"holier than thou"--the show of goodness rather than the actuality of it.
Where people do not wear much in the way of clothing, their bodies become stronger because they are interacting with their environment more and they have to adapt. We're not suggesting that you should all start going naked from now on, but this is symbolic of what happens when human beings are ashamed and cover up their nakedness.
Everything on the physical plane is symbolic. The soul, you could say, grows through working with symbols. This is the reason allegory is used so much in scriptures. In their spiritual nakedness, human beings often mistake the symbolic for the literal. The body is the central symbol for human beings. The physical body symbolizes the emotional, intellectual and spiritual bodies, as well as cultural values and beliefs. The attitudes people hold towards the body ultimately tell you how they feel about themselves. It is a paradox that while it is absolutely true that each of us is an eternal being, that no one is his or her body, at the same time, when you are incarnate in a body, your treatment of it speaks volumes about who you are. This has nothing to do with whether your body conforms to societal ideals: whether your body is thin, medium or fat; whether your body is muscular or flabby; whether it is young, old or middle-aged. However, it has everything to do with your relationship with your body--how you talk to it, for example.
The body, as the central symbol, is also the favorite scapegoat of those who do not wish to take responsibility for their thoughts, feelings and actions--in other words, for their choices. Most people expect to be able to mistreat their body, but then become angry when it fails to live up to their expectations. We are not implying here that you should become a purist and never eat anything, for example, that is not 100% raw and organic, or whatever your belief system is about what is healthy. You cannot escape some harm to your physical body; there is no such thing as a completely healthy physical body at this time on earth. You all breathe polluted air; the water isn't so natural or alive as it used to be; even organic food can be compromised in its mineral content, and you do not live a natural lifestyle. However, there is much that is within your control, and you continually make choices that affect your body's function. To blame your body for choices you made that affected your body is like someone in an abusive relationship blaming the victim; having treated someone poorly, then being angry at that person for not conforming to his or her expectations.
What would it be like to unconditionally love your body? Very few people have any inkling of this. Many like their body fairly well when they can ignore it, but if it starts to have some issues, often people get angry. "How dare you do this to me! You've inconvenienced me!" Then, there is the element of the new age movement that believes that everything that happens in the body is the fault of the occupant's thoughts, so instead of blaming the body, one blames the person and that can be as abusive as the other way around.
One of the great lessons of love is that although it can be useful to identify elements of cause, there is no usefulness in blaming anyone or anything. Blame has two elements: it says, "You caused this." and also, "You are bad because you caused this." Blame distorts perceptions, so the understanding is usually quite skewed to begin with as to the true multiple causes of any condition. Blame is a direct by-product of shame. Shame is pervasive in the world, and no one likes feeling shame, so blame is an attempt to put the shame onto something or someone else.
So how can people get back to what is sometimes religiously thought of as innocence? Innocence is where you are naked and you're okay with that because you are going to be naked whether you're okay with it or not, so you may as well be okay with it and not judge the nakedness. You will only experience a complete lack of nakedness when you have fully rejoined the Tao. Until that point, you are naked. When you are ashamed of your nakedness, you judge it, and whatever you judge, you step aside from: you split in two. There is you who is naked, and then there is a part of your mind that tries to disassociate--it looks down on the nakedness, and forms a judgment against it. So, as soon as you judge, you have separated from yourself and you are no longer fully being who you are. Innocence is simply fully being who you are. It was said in Genesis that, originally, people were naked, but they didn't know that that was the case. The implication was that as soon as you find out that you're naked, you're bound to feel bad about it.
What is really being outlined here is that when a soul is newly born into a universe, it doesn't know anything; it is like a new computer with a blank hard drive, other than maybe the most basic operating system. Then it starts to have experiences, and it finds out that there is a lot it doesn't know. Within an individual lifetime, in a healthy society, young children handle the fact of not knowing much just fine; an infant is not capable of intellectualizing that she should not be pooping in her diapers, or whatever, unless someone older tells her. A small child doesn't think that it should not be touching his genitals until some misguided older person introduces shame. With shame, some part of the very young mind separates from itself; it looks back on that thing that is natural and therefore feels fine, and tries to rationalize why someone seems to think that it is bad.
Eventually, most people absorb the imprinting because children need to be accepted by their elders or they will not survive. So the young mind finally decides that, yes, this is a shameful thing, whatever it is, and, ultimately, that belief becomes "My body is shameful." During adolescence, with this judgment against the body deep in the subconscious, it is hard for sexuality, which is most necessary on many levels, to develop in a healthy way. Most people manage to at least overcome the negative imprinting when in the throes of sexual oestrus. You might say that Mother Earth takes over to do something that is essential for the survival of the species. And some people do learn to enjoy it quite a bit, but many do not. Even those who seem to be quite sexual often remain disassociated from self, so it becomes the body doing it and not the whole person. Part of the tantric yoga tradition is meant to help people to bring intellect, emotion and spirit into physicality. It is a useful practice but it has limited success because usually the issue of shame stored at such a deep level is not fully addressed.
Most people, at some level, feel ashamed just for being alive, because, after all, they are naked, and all they have ever heard is that that is not a good thing. The more someone tries to put on some spiffy coverings, whether religious righteousness or even being sexually alluring or politically powerful, it doesn't matter. Much of the gyrations of the false personality are designed to try to present itself as not being naked.
Children remind adults, especially those who are relatively as-yet unsullied, that it is possible to be naked but not be ashamed. It is very difficult for children to grow up in this world and hold their innocence. The spiritual path involves taking on the shame, becoming conscious of it, and beginning to make new choices. That includes releasing the old imprinting, recognizing the nakedness, and finding peace about it. The ultimate statement of that is, "I am perfect in my imperfections; I love myself unconditionally; at the same time, yes, I am naked in a great number of ways, and that includes having numerous faults."
Again, a paradox: when a person totally accepts his faults, he has much more leverage to change. Those who are in the throes of shame are terrified that if there was love, acceptance and tolerance, then everyone would just be terribly sinful--there would be no motivation to change anything, and, oh, the terrible things people would do then when their so-called animal nature took over! However, when you are naked, unashamed, but also know it, then instead of splitting off from yourself to make a judgment about it, which is quite draining, you can simply see, "Well, this habit here is not adding to my happiness; I think I will work on changing that." Since you are not divided in half, you have more wherewithal to make a change. If you are innocent and conscious at the same time and, let's say, you spoke out of pique--you were irritated or angry in the moment--and you are present with yourself, you get instant feedback that "that didn't feel good."
It's not moral in the sense that there is a judgment of what is appropriate or inappropriate behavior; it doesn't come from the intellect or from a judgment. It is simply a direct experience, because when you are one with yourself, you are one with others, and your thoughtless words, in hurting others, hurt yourself. So you instantly realize that that is not something you want. You may be aware, "Oh, I overreacted because I was tired, or I was sad about this other thing," but you immediately know that you no longer want to take it out on another person, because that does not feel good. So there is a direct feedback system and, therefore, no need for shame.
Shame is a way for keeping people in line when they are not conscious. Shame is not a very effective means of creating a loving society, but, at one point, it was actually a step up. There is a certain point early in the development of both the soul and the individual person in which one is unconscious, naked, unashamed, and out of control. An example is when the dominant male throws his weight around in ways that hurt others, but there's not awareness of it because the body's hardwiring is in control and there is nothing to balance it. A little bit of shame might focus attention on an area where there needs to be more consciousness, so that there can be greater fairness. However, what has happened on earth to a large degree is that the shame itself has gotten so out of control that it has become the oppressor of all
Why are we moved to speak on this tonight? It is because you, those students who are listening now, are ready to move beyond this; to recognize and heal your shame, and return consciously to greater innocence. Some of you are feeling quite emotional on this subject, and that is because your inner self is already changing the imprints. There is a lot of talk in pop psychology about loving yourself, and that is useful, but it is impossible to love yourself when the hold of shame is unrecognized. Therefore, we suggest to all of you who wish to become free of this that you start to photograph shame as it hides in the background of your life, because, until you can see it, you cannot heal it. Then, you can begin to replace it with a kinder attitude towards self.
Be aware that the way you view and treat your body is your biggest clue to these deep beliefs. Can you be kind to your body? Can you stop criticizing it for its shape, size, features and so forth? Yes, maybe, once you find greater acceptance for yourself, you may choose to exercise your body more, give it a different diet, and so forth, out of kindness and love, not because you're ashamed but because you love your body. It is your home on the physical plane. The body is the quintessential slave in that it has little choice, and if its master--which is you--is unkind, it must endure. As the master, as the cardinal one in the relationship with your ordinal body, it is your responsibility to be kind and thoughtful of your body, and if you make choices that help it to feel better, you, of course, reap the benefits of that; you feel better in your body. In a more enlightened relationship, you and your body are a team working together for the same thing, so you do not blame or judge your body. Instead, you ask your body, "How can I work with you?" Each body has its own set of challenges, its own weaknesses and strengths. Some bodies simply have a stronger constitution than others; some are quite durable, while others are delicate by nature, but all bodies respond well to love: a loving attitude and energy, and a kind approach to caring for your body. Sometimes, you may ask your body to endure a stress because you deem it necessary; for example, maybe there is an emergency and you need to stay up all night; your body will be willing to do what needs to be done if you are as thoughtful of it as possible. However, if you ask a lot from your body, consider the self-karma and what you might do to balance the books--for example, give it more rest later or feed it extra high nutrition foods.
The standard American diet is not so much a problem of bad nutrition, although it is, but the culture's hatred of the body. The shadow of that is the worship of young bodies that look "perfect" because those bodies seem to say that you can abuse the body but it can still look nice and that is all that counts, because if it looks nice you will still be able to reproduce. So people routinely don't give their body enough sleep, and then they whip it with caffeine or other stimulants, like sugar. They don't eat foods that provide energy, so they stock up on simple carbs that can seem to make up for that.
The way that animals raised for food are treated is also symbolic of the views toward the body in general: that they don't count. For example, the way that cattle are raised as cheaply as possible, crowded and fed unnatural food just for the appearance of more fat in the meat. All these things speak of the shame that is carried so heavily in this culture, but really, in virtually every culture on earth to some degree.
Part of the abuses in the American culture is simply the opportunity to get away with it; it is ironic that poorer cultures, of necessity, do tend to be more connected to the earth, and a little more honoring of the body. They still tend to dissociate but they can't get away with dissociating as far.
You could also relate the whole global warming issue to shame. The same attitude that seeks the cheapest and easiest way to fuel things so that people can do whatever they want to regardless of the body shows up in the spewing of toxins into the air, water and earth that hurts your own bodies, and then people are surprised that there are ramifications.
You go from naked, unashamed but unconscious, to naked, ashamed and unconscious. You cannot go backwards, so you cannot remove the shame and yet stay unconscious. The only way out of this is to become conscious. And how do you do that?
The first step is to learn to dissociate less, not to step outside of yourself, not to comment so much in a judgmental way, but instead be at the core of your own experience. Feel your feelings; animate your own life rather than simply judge it, and try to see what is without an overlay of judgmentalness. If you sometimes act like a jerk, then just observe that as a fact, and look for what's behind it without wasting energy on saying what a terrible person you are. The shame can be healed. You will probably not heal all of it in this lifetime, but you can make a lot of progress in a short period. Simply realizing that you no longer need to be stuck in shame is an excellent place to begin.
Let's do a little meditation here:
Just be with yourself and invite all the old held shame to be present with you as you reside in love. Try not to intellectualize it too much, just ask for the energy of the shame to be with you, and observe it; feel kindly toward it, and if nothing else, just be aware of your breathing.
Would anyone like to share your experience? (Some people typed their responses in the Michael teachings chat room.)
"This topic has been so completely what I have been struggling with deeply these days/weeks/months. I have been feeling so in pain and hopeless lately.
WOW. Thank you Michael. Sigh."
"It feels that by inviting shame, creating room for it, it's like inviting it into an open field full of sunshine, which feels very different from looking at it inside a damp cellar, trapped with it alongside you."
That is a very useful image. You could say that all spiritual growth is a movement from darkness into light. Not that there is anything wrong with darkness, but in the dark is the raw material that, in interacting with it, perhaps struggling with it, one can generate the light of understanding.
We certainly would not wish to cause anyone to feel ashamed of having shame. The shame has been part of human growth for millennia. If it were not necessary, it would not exist. However, in any growth pattern, one begins to become aware that something that may have been useful at one point has outlived its value, and it is time to let it go. That is where you are now. Shame is really only useful for those who are not yet capable of being conscious, who cannot see, hear and feel what is right there in front of them--for example, the pain they are causing others. All of you are well beyond that, so you do not need shame for your growth.
There are many people, still, who will take any words of love and wisdom and filter them through their shame. They would hear tonight's words as, "I am a bad person and I need to be fixed." Someone who is completely enmeshed in shame does not currently have any other way that he or she could hear, and so there may be shame about the shame. Then, there may be a blaming of others: "Well, it's not my fault--my parents did it to me." Of course, someone did it to your parents, too--probably their parents--so you can keep blaming, or you can just wake up and say, "Look at all that shame! I don't need that anymore."
Someone on the chat mentioned a book about how cults manipulate and control members through shame. Offhand, we cannot think of any societal structures on earth that do not manipulate and control members through shame, including most governmental, corporate, and religious bodies. The United States was originally formed by some visionary people who thought that, maybe, other human beings did not need to be manipulated and controlled quite so much. They did not entirely trust freedom, but they themselves felt ready for more of it.
There are big arguments over whether human beings are basically good and learn to be evil, or are they fundamentally evil and need to be taught to be good. However, that discussion only has relevance to those who are unconscious, whether unashamed or ashamed. If you are referring to conscious people, or at least people who are becoming conscious (because no one is fully conscious yet), that whole discussion is left behind. When you become conscious of the results of your choices, so that you have that immediate feedback, you will not try to be good or even try to be evil. You simply understand the connections between your choices and their results, and those results affect you. If you are conscious and you are running a corporation, for example, you experience that what your corporation does to the environment is something that you are doing to yourself. It is not an intellectual process--it is visceral. Therefore, for your own well-being, which is the ultimate well-being of everyone, you try to stop causing harm. Of course, getting a whole corporation to change is not so easy, but you understand the point here: that you transcend good and evil when you begin to be conscious, and shame is all about good and evil, relevant only to those who are unconscious.
All of you are becoming conscious, and to become more conscious, you need to become conscious of the shame that is holding you in unconsciousness. If you are ever defensive, that is shame saying, "I am NOT naked; how dare you imply I am naked!" The opposite, though, is also shame. If you put yourself down, you are saying, "Oh, I am so very naked; isn't that awful?!" You try to cover yourself, cover your nakedness with an image of your nakedness instead of just being what you are. It is an attempt to get the stronger animals to not beat you up.
Perhaps it seems a little simple-minded to say the words "just be." Most don't have the slightest idea of what "just being" would be. However, if you want to find out, feel your shame and, increasingly, live in the direct feedback loop of the here and now: be aware of your surroundings, and what the results of your choices are in real time.
(Someone on the phone line commented:)
"While you were talking, I was very emotional; tears just kept coming out. I saw images of some of my past lives and the karma I have done, and the harm I have done to others. I kept saying sorry to them and saying to myself, I am ready to release that....How can we distinguish between being naked in a healthy, innocent way, and our nakedness being harmful?"
At this point in human history, people are probably not capable of being fully naked, unashamed, and unconscious. Those of you who have entered into shame would find it very difficult to stop being ashamed without becoming conscious.
Lets say that there's a person who uses other people, who is a manipulator; maybe he even knows it, and he's not apologetic for it, either. Perhaps he's being the top baboon, the alpha male full of testosterone, marking his territory. And let's say that he hears these words. Maybe he's had just a little bit of shame that kept him in line a bit; maybe someone convinced him that he better put the brakes on because he was going to go to Hell or something like that. He may hear these words and think, "Oh, good, I am not going to Hell." and go back to doing what he wants. Such a person has not entered very far into the shame phase of his growth, and there is no way to reach him; he is just going to have to do it through karma, which is growing the hard way--through pain, in which the results of his actions come back upon him.
On the other hand, someone who is hears these words who is in the depths of shame may also not be ready to make any real changes. Such a person may not have exhausted that growth path, may not be yet tired of it. Maybe there still feels like there's some benefit to beating himself up, that there is some juice left in the conflict, something still to be learned. For such a person, the shame may still serve. Those are the people who are likely to hear the words tonight as, "I am so ashamed of all my shame. Isn't it great I have another reason to beat myself up?" You will not reach such a person, either, because he is not done with where he is.
The words tonight are addressed to those who are about ready to pop out of that, who can honestly say, "I'm really tired of that learning game; I think I would like to try a new one, the one called 'growing through joy.' I've beaten myself up about five million times; I think that is enough. I've lived divided, part of me having experience and part of me standing off to the side judging it, and you know what? That doesn't feel so good any more." Those who are ready to leave that behind will understand.
You are looking back on past lives in which you were not a perfect human being. That is useful. Own it. "Hey, I was really naked back then and I didn't even know, and now I know I am naked. That's progress. I was really no different from other people."
Those who are ashamed just hate being lumped together with other people because, remember, "The body is inherently shameful. The body wants to have sex, and sometimes smells bad, and it's really disgusting!" So, if you are ashamed, you don't want to associate yourself with other people; you want to be associated with God and the Angels and those who aren't soiled by the body.
We are not talking only about religions here, either--a lot of governments have the same approach. Communism is equal to religion in its attempts to dissociate from the body. It has a rigid structure that says, "If you obey, if you fit in, you will transcend the shame you feel. If you just stop being bourgeois, then you will be clean."
If you are ready to transcend shame, you must pass the point where you say, "You know what? I am just like all of the other imperfect human beings who have bodies, and who don't always do nice things." Once you accept that, you can get past it and say, "Okay, now I am more conscious, so I am going to make different choices." There may be some things that you choose to make amends for, or karma takes care of that for you, and you accept that graciously. However, you don't get stuck there, either; you just keep making a choice about what you wish to create in this moment, and you can feel whether what you are creating in this moment is lovely or ugly. That's all you need. Mourn your past as much as you need to, but just feel it--don't indulge in self-judgment, because that is not helpful at your stage. Feel it as a fire burning off your bonds of shame.
To conclude, we invite you to feel emerging within your heart the healing of all shame. Feel your own loving nature bringing an end to the whole lengthy cycle of inner conflict that the "growing through shame" brought. Make a statement in your heart that you are now ready to grow through conscious awareness with joy. See yourself in the coming days, weeks, and months as learning a whole new way of being that does not involve shame. Feel that any heavy emotions that have been stirred up tonight are now burning off in the sunlight, and you are feeling increasing inner beauty and well-being. As you release shame in yourself, you are teaching others by your example and your energy that there is another way.
We have long spoken about the importance of choice. When you are unconscious and ashamed, shame makes a lot of your choices for you. When you release shame and become more conscious, you become aware of how much choice you really have, and this is quite liberating.
If you need some support, we encourage you to ask for it. We express particular thanks to Dave for setting this up and for all of his work, and we thank each of you for your willingness to go to this deep place that few would venture into.
Love and blessings to each one of you. Good night.
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