This post is for all my friends and students who know these feelings all too well. May it be some form of comfort or support to you along the way…
I hit a rock bottom. It was a place I knew all to well. A place I lived every day until about five years ago. Five years ago a dear friend no longer wanted to be my friend. I didn’t understand and I felt shame as though there was something wrong with me and I wasn’t worthy to be her friend. I was ready to call it quits. Then I did some serious investigating and saw how truly hard I was on myself. I started practicing meditation and yin and working diligently to see my habits and learn from them. I began to finally find comfort in just “being.” Eventually I found my self-worth and started to believe in myself again. This life long habit of judging myself and not really liking who I was shifted.
I hadn’t felt that feeling in a while. A year after the dissolution of my marriage, I woke up in the exact same head space. Once again I found myself not understanding. The last year was fine. I kept showing up (even when I wanted to run away), I kept my head held high, and kept putting one foot in front of the other. The businesses separated with ease and the divorce was final with no upsets or catastrophes. Why one year later was I so full of self-loathing? One night a huge storm came through and I just sat on my porch watching and asking “What is this?” Then it hit. I was ashamed. I felt like a failure. I failed my marriage and clearly was unlovable. What triggered this? It was the event of a new person in my life. Someone who wanted to be close to me. Instead of allowing it to happen, I created stories in my head of how it wouldn’t work. I would ruin this like I did the last time. I am not fun or care free, so who would want to be with me? I felt shame for failing at marriage and I felt shame for wanting to move forward to something new. I made up stories about the man in my life predicting an outcome that was the same as the last time. That was far more safe to me then allowing myself to feel vulnerable and uncertain about the future. I felt shame that I should already know this and should have already learned this lesson.
The next morning, I had to lead a compassion meditation to our teaching group. I found myself weepy throughout as I realized I had lost all kindness toward me. I knew I needed to do something different so I didn’t carry this legacy on or pass it along to my daughter. I began simply. Each time my inner critic would arrive I would say this in my head:
May I be free from suffering
May I be at ease with whatever is to come
May I know happiness and peace
This helped me soften and at least stop the loop of negative chatter in my head. Next, I pulled out the tools I know and trust so well- meditation, good books and teachers that helped me before. I got out my Tara Brach CDs titled Radical Self-Acceptance. Her first words reminded me so clearly. Paraphrasing, she said that we will have done so much work, reaching new places in our lives and one thing can cause a brief undoing. It may be a divorce, another friend having a baby, losing a job or a loved one. This can bring about the all too well known feelings of shame that we are not enough.
I have kept listening to Tara daily and (perfect timing) Brené Brown’s new book Rising Strong just got delivered to my inbox. I have kept my daily yoga time and kept reciting my prayer of lovingkindness. Each day gets a little easier as I remember what I had forgotten along the way. Now instead of beating myself up for forgetting, when shame, fear and insecurity show up I remember “this too I can include.” These are pieces of me. They don’t have to run my life. They will never completely go away. When they arise I can investigate what they are here to show me. I can remember what may have disappeared momentarily. I can sit and breathe and be okay right here in the midst of this storm.
My point is this… we may feel we have learned so much and are doing so well at this thing called life. One thing can be our undoing. It may not be the thing you expect. Instead of being hard on yourself, get curious. Investigate with a sense of not knowing. This takes time. It took weeks of me not understanding what I was doing, then one day it was like lighting striking and I got it. I am still working with it, but at least I know what I am working with. Let these life experiences become the grist of the mill versus the reason you shut down and call it quits. Remind yourself of your resilience and all you have overcome thus far. This is just a temporary situation and if seen clearly it could help you make that next big leap.