by Nirmala Nataraj
From the work I’ve done with so many men and women who are attempting to awaken to their true identities, I know firsthand that one of the most toxic and oppressive obstacles to living your authentic desire and actualizing your potential is shame .
Shame is a tangly ball of yarn that is woven through everything from messages we received in our formative years, to the diffuse desire-negative cloud that looms over our culture, to the thoughts that flit through our monkey minds when we’re engaging in intimacy with ourselves or a partner.
Because shame makes us feel so wretched, we seldom find ourselves engaging in a dialogue with this mysterious entity. We’d sooner train our attention on a pleasant distraction than get to the root of our sickness.
I believe that one of the most life-affirming things we can do is befriend our shame, however it shows up in our lives. Shame is simply another form of thwarted desire—desire that has scuttled underground because we have deemed it dangerous, taboo, or socially unacceptable.
When we begin to trace the threads of our shame to our deeper desire, we can begin to extricate ourselves from a legacy of self-silencing and learned powerlessness. We can heal ourselves.
Some of us don’t merely have monsters under the bed and skeletons in the closet—we boast entire houses full of them. Sometimes, after years of neglect and pretending they don’t exist, we grudgingly move toward them—perhaps in the hope that they will magically melt into thin air if we fling the doors open and expose them to the light of day.
But our darkness, our shame, isn’t a make-believe creature. It’s absolutely real. We must move toward it with the desire to engage it in sincere dialogue. Because the more we resist it, the higher the chances that it will assume monstrous proportions.
Feeding Your Demon: An Active Meditation
Here is a simple technique, adapted from a powerful Tibetan practice known as Chöd, a spiritual path that enables the devout practitioner to move through obstacles and self-delusion in order to purify her mind, body, and spirit.
This is a practice that helps one cultivate fearlessness, compassion, and the kind of curiosity that is necessary if we want to save ourselves from turning into hungry ghosts (those tragic beings who are driven by their animalistic urges but who never find satisfaction or succor).
Instead of turning away from that which we fear or that which disheartens us, the following meditation enables us to stay curious and connected. As an ancient alchemical precept notes:
The poison is also the antidote.
Begin by finding a place where you will be undisturbed for at least 20 minutes. Take several deep breaths, with your eyes closed.
Imagine that your breath fills the areas of your body in which you hold tension; let that tension be effortlessly released upon the exhalation. Allow physical discomfort, mental distress, and other obstacles to simply melt away.
Now, you are going to identify the “demon” of shame.
Take note of where in your body the demon feels most present. Notice your physical sensations (including pressure, temperature, texture), as well any other pertinent details. Let yourself intensify the feeling.
Next, you will allow yourself to effortlessly summon an image or physical representation of the demon. Don’t worry if you aren’t a “good” visualizer; use whatever senses make the demon feel most real to you and trust whatever comes up without thinking about it too much.
You can imagine such details as a head, arms, and legs. The demon may take on a human form, or it may be an animal, inanimate object, or something else altogether. Let qualities of color, skin, gender, size, character, and emotional state emerge.
You will ask the demon the following questions:
1) What do you want from me?
2) What do you need from me?
3) How will you feel if you get what it is you need?
Next, imagine yourself switching places with the demon.
Give yourself ample time and space to become this being, to imagine what it is like to be in its shoes.
When you feel that the transformation has taken place, answer the questions above, from the demon’s perspective. (Again, give yourself as much time as you need to answer the questions, but don’t overthink them; often, the first thought that comes to you is the truest one, even if it may not quite make sense to you.)
Now, you are ready to feed your demon.
Return to your original position and visualize the demon once again. Imagine offering the demon deep compassion for its experience; let the quality of compassion fill your body and transform you into a luminous healing nectar that has the power to take the demon’s pain away. Imagine yourself feeding the demon this nectar until it is satisfied and peaceful. Take your time with this step.
When the demon of shame is satiated, you will notice the presence of a new being in its place: the ally, which will help you on your journey toward working through shame. Notice the ally’s color, size, and other physical characteristics.
Ask it the following questions:
1) How will you help me?
2) How will you protect me?
3) How can I connect with you on a daily basis?
Once again, switch places with this entity and become the ally.
Then, answer the questions that were posed. Take as long as you need.
When you are ready, return to your original position, as yourself, and let yourself sit in the glow of support emanating from the ally. Journal about your experience working with the demon of shame and the ally that emerged.
What did you notice? How did your experience elucidate the way that shame impacts you? How did it bring you closer to an understanding of your desire?
Reclaiming Our “Darkness”
There is no better or more magical way to access our power than to take a journey through our own personal darkness . It allows us to build greater empathy for ourselves and others, and to choose nuance over simplistic assessments of our inner landscape.
It also releases us from the stranglehold of fear that prevents us from diving deeper into ourselves and surfacing with the treasures of self-knowledge.
It all comes back to awareness. Greater awareness gives you an amazing amount of power.
When you are face to face with the things about yourself that you believe are unbearable (for example, a “sick and twisted” sexual kink, the tendency to get violently angry with your spouse or children, or a bank account with a negative balance), you become clearer about what you wish to do with those parts.
In hiding them or denying that they are present, you turn them into demons that have seemingly intractable power over you. But when you fully own the qualities you’d prefer never to admit to yourself or others, you realize that they aren’t the “enemy.”
They’re simply information. And, depending on the choices we make, that information can be neutralized to our benefit.
While we usually tend to consider our darkness an abode for the least desirable aspects of ourselves, it is a place that teems with beauty, mystery, and intrigue. It harbors important aspects of our being that we may have even rejected or unconsciously kept buried. Once we learn to skillfully access these parts, we usually come to discover that they were our most powerful allies, all along.
About the Author:
Nirmala Nataraj is a personal mythmaker, desire coach, and writer whose tools encompass shamanic journeying, the wisdom of the Tarot, orgasmic meditation, and Tantric practices. For more information about her work, visit her websites and add yourself to her mailing lists: www.wingedserpenttarot.com and www.sacredfirecoaching.com.
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