Well-Being//

Beyond Shame Resilience

How embracing self-love can lead us to freedom.

The author and her grandfather, Louis Magnani, circa 1976, presumably in Massachusetts.

by Francesca Maximé

PART I

My grandfather was a stone mason. He often built walks, chimneys, and huge stone walls in and around the Massachusetts town in which I grew up. I still drive by many of those walls and walks and chimneys when I visit home today, even though he’s been gone for decades.

He knew what it meant to build something that lasts. To not only put in the right effort, the “blood, sweat and tears” or “elbow grease” to complete a project, but he also knew how to choose the basic, appropriate, and needed “ingredients” to make it right: just enough sand, just enough water in mortar, to make the concrete the proper consistency where it would “set” well and hold.

Today, it turns out that in many ways, the people I’m most drawn to, admire and deeply respect, aren’t so different from my grandfather’s creations. Like his walks, walls, and chimneys, they’ve found the right “mix” of malleability and solidity — they’re strong inside, but still usable. They’re fortified, but approachable and inviting. They were made with love, and then able to share their availability with everyone, as they invite others to walk along their paths.

To put it plainly, the people I’m most drawn to, love themselves. Not in a way that’s cocky, narcissistic, or built out of ego. But in a way that’s grounded, solid, rooted in a sense of inner dignity, virtue, and nobility. Mostly, the people I’m most drawn to had abusive pasts and fits of egocentricity, but have come to acknowledge their deeper connection to a universal energy that’s timeless, and they let go of what their concepts are, and rest in the mystery of what it really means to be fully human, warts and all.

There’s a lot of talk out there about shame resilience, or even self-compassion. But if I had one wish for people in 2017, I’d invite people to let go of those ideas, and consider a radical idea: that it’s OK, possible, and even a fine idea, to accept yourself — and love yourself — exactly as you are, in this moment, and in each and every moment.

What’s the difference between self-compassion or self love? And why do I take issue with “shame resilience?” Because to me, it seems to normalize shame in a way that acknowledging it’s presence does not. If you’re resilient to something, it means it’s always there — and you deal with it. But what if it weren’t there? What if you loved yourself, you realized there was nothing wrong with you (and never was) and there was and is no need to be resilient to something that’s just a delusional construct of survival techniques and conditioning from childhood and young adult life? What if we simply recognized that we have had vulnerable child parts that got trampled on, we learned how to survive it, but that those techniques no longer fit in our lives and now cause us suffering? And that we can embrace that vulnerability with tenderness, and without shame. And we can embrace our unskillful present-day actions with compassion, but with a deeper understanding that we are embracing with compassion, the action — but not the self — because the self of us, to the extent that it’s the part of us that is deeper and beyond our constructed egos and constructed personalities and identities — is, and always was, perfect, and that it always was, and always will be… no matter what we’ve done or what’s happened to us in the past?

Think of it this way: if we picture the planet Saturn and its rings, our core/true/inner nature is the planet: pure goodness, our true nature, from where we are most at home at the place we have within us we long to re-discover — and can and do rediscover, when we realize it’s possible to do so. Then the rings of Saturn is our ego: our conditioning, our preconceived notions of ourselves, the labels we attach to ourselves, in fact the very concept of our “self,” period.

OK, let’s get more specific: I’ll use myself as an example. I could identify myself as a poet. A writer. A television news anchor. A daughter. A Harvard grad. A Haitian-Dominican Italian-American woman. An abuse & trauma survivor, etc. etc. I could attach all kinds of meaning to those things, in much the same way someone can derive a sense of purpose from their job as a CEO of a tech company, their role as a breadwinner for their kids, or the idea of being the most fit gal on the SoulCycle circuit. But what about a more radical idea — that we aren’t any of those things in in the “Saturn’s ring” of ego and constructed personality? What if we realized the more we attached to fixed ideas and identities of who think we are, the more we suffered inside, and the more suffering we created for others, by trying to control whatever those identities or roles mean?

In my own experience, I’ve found that we continue to attach ourselves to certain “negative thought” habit patterns out of a certain kind of protective and habitual loyalty — to our painful experiences. Now, neuroscience, in addition to millennia-old ancient wisdom teachings, has also begun to show us that certain childhood experiences, trauma or conditioning can create habit patterns that can in fact be changed, if we direct our attention to them after recognizing they were constructed from trying to adapt to difficult situations and really only emerged as survival techniques. That now, in the present day in our adult lives, that those techniques are not only no longer needed, but not helpful to us living our best, fullest, more expansive lives — in the present moment — filled with our deepest desires. How much more could we get done in our lives, if we didn’t attach ourselves to those limiting self-beliefs or stories?

I’m also inviting consideration of another concept — or deep truth, you might say — for 2017, that I know has been profoundly helpful to me over the last year and a half. It enabled me to quit drinking (alcohol), change my diet (to vegetarian), start practicing yoga and meditation, and see things from a whole new perspective — a paradigm shift. That concept, or deep truth, is simple (although it may not be easy to implement or cultivate because it may initially feel foreign or weird): you’re already perfect. You always were, but the cobwebs of ego and delusional thinking, hardened beliefs (thoughts we repeat to ourselves, that aren’t true but we believe are because of survival adaptions and habits) and constructed identity that make the world go round, keep us on the hamster treadmill of life, and few of us take stock to invite the possibility of a deeper level of being.

We long for it — that deep relaxation and acceptance within. Less loneliness. A deep “co-being” and healthy interdependence with all. That’s what “spirituality” is all about, in a way, isn’t it? That quest for some connection to “more,” whatever “more” is. In the Western world, we’ve been taught buying more “stuff” or cars, or makeup, or fancy appliances will make us happy. Or that having the perfect partner or job or lottery ticket win will smooth everything out. But the truth is, nothing gets smoothed out until we’re able to reconcile our deepest, innermost fears with the radical idea that we’re just fine — and always were. And then, we can begin to do the footwork of a continued cultivation to letting go of past resentments and fears, and opening to a new sense of curiosity, wonder, and joy. Happiness isn’t a place to attain and stick with or stay. Eudaemonia, or wellbeing, is a moment-to-moment manner of simply being and existing in this life and on this planet… a way of relating to the vagaries of our lives, and of the ups and downs of the world, from a deeper truth and source of love that already exists within us.

We live in a world where things are upside down. While apps, tech, and screens are useful in many ways, the left-brain concepts of, for example, machine learning, artificial empathy, and data mining are in many ways becoming more important in our culture than feeling grass underneath bare feet, touching the bark of a tree, and smelling the scent of autumn leaves.

As embodied humans, re-connecting with who we really are — that core of the planet, so to speak — not the Saturn’s rings of ego, personality, and attachment to delusional false ideas and concepts about ourselves and others (either of high self-praise, or deep unworthiness) would be a gift to ourselves, and to all beings. It’s a radical act of self-acceptance and a claim to worthiness and love that is, as we’ve all come out of our mother’s wombs with pure innocence, our birthright.

So, how do we do this? What does this mean? What does it look like in my daily life when I love and accept myself — in this moment and in each one that follows — exactly as I am? It means we can actually begin to give ourselves the unconditional love that is the baseline energy for all good things to manifest, and it starts with our ability to dig beyond “ego” and being “self-compassionate” to actions we may perform, that may be unskillful from time to time, to something much greater and more profound: a love and deep appreciation for one’s own very being.

If we look deeply, we can ask what is behind the feeling of shame. We may find that often, it’s the idea of abandonment or rejection. But what if we were to create space for the feeling of being accepted, before we even became fully acceptable to ourselves? Often, this kind of grace appears when we are, to quote a 12-step slogan, “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” We no longer need to struggle to be something we’re not — something we deep=m “acceptable.” We can begin to open to ourselves in a profound way when we can begin to accept ourselves exactly as we are right now. The burdened feeling of self-hatred many of us carry or have carried, we can put down. And while we may at first appear a bit battered or bruised on the outside, we can heal our wounds and deliberately take on responsibility for a new path, once we have given our fears, hurts, and pains the friendly attention they need and deserve, and the permission to be there, without holding on to them as the only story of our life that can unfold.

In my view (and all of this is simply that — my view, my experience) one of the places where “shame resilience” falls short is in the very notion that our egos and personality are even real to begin with. They’re not; they’re mental constructs. We are, of course, a series of projections, based on our own conditioned ways of thinking. What would it mean, if you didn’t feel guilt (a feeling based on “wrong” action you think you’ve done) or shame (the idea of thinking there’s something fundamentally wrong with you/who you are/your very essence)? It would mean you could be radically free. What would it mean, if the “mean people” who made you feel bad to begin with, were wrong, ignorant, or deluded themselves, caught in their own web of confusion, and that you could actually come to a place of self-acceptance and self-grounding where you could see their own flawed actions with compassion, recognize they, too, have inner goodness, forgive resentments and let them go? Even Dr. Martin Luther King said, hate segregation, love the segregationist. That’s compassion in action, while recognizing the difference between the ego’s “Saturn’s rings” of (harmful) action, and the inner goodness and core of the planet/person/self, beneath it all.

I’m not saying any of this is particularly easy. I am saying it’s a relatively simple concept. And I’m saying it’s possible, because every day that we aren’t bound by our conditioning and limiting beliefs, we get to choose how we see ourselves, others, and the world, differently. But while we think we have choice when we’re identified with our egos — we really often don’t (and sometimes our attempts at self-nurture, like addictions to food, alcohol, or spending, for example, further get in the way of real choice and responsive, versus reactive, decisions). With a false belief that our ego is our true self, we’re often acting in reactivity to the roles we feel we must play, the scripts that have been given to us or we’ve created through childhood survival mechanisms, or other techniques that are often based from/on fear and anxiety instead of love and trust.

So whom do we love? And how can we find a way to place our trust in the world, if we’ve been hurt, hurt ourselves, or hurt others? Many of us have experienced traumas large and small; isolated in event, or experienced interpersonally with people close to us, over time. Whether it’s a car accident in which a loved one died, an abusive childhood, or a lawsuit claiming untruths about us, these events can shake us to our core…

Unless…. our core is that foundation. That cement. That stone path. That brick and mortar, solid but inviting place where we know we’re rooted in — and connected to — the earth itself, and the universe that contains it. Our true nature. Our inner goodness. The love that’s within us. The love that we are.

We can always have an understanding that compassion will be necessary for our inevitable unskillful actions, meaning, when we’ve hurt someone or ourselves, despite “knowing better” or not wanting to have inflicted or have had the intention of causing pain. We can always recognize we’ve felt shame in the past — and then get to a place where we respectfully bow to it and even laugh at it — because we realize that in truth, it only exists as a mental construct and that our emotions and even our habit energy and patterning can be changed easily and readily by ourselves, when we realize we can let go of it.

Picture this: your hanging onto the rim and placed in the shallow end of the pool, but you think it’s a 200-foot-deep tank, and you haven’t learned how to swim. What if we could learn to float? Relax in the buoyancy of knowledge and experiential understanding that our inner wisdom will literally carry us? What if we could open up to that kind of trust within ourselves and see what kind of positive manifestations that kind of willingness to surrender to grace can provide?

Many of us in the Western world feel we’re in control (and that we have to be, at all times — a sort of hyper-vigilance that can create panic and anxiety). But control, or the concept of control, is funny: we are, and, we aren’t. Once we come from that place of deep self-love and self-acceptance, we are then able to step forward with skillful, kind and compassionate actions to do no harm in speech, deed, or thought towards ourselves and others. We are able to recognize that we cannot control the things that happen “out there,” but that we can control the kinds of things our mind attaches to, and the emotions “it” (our mind) thinks are real. As one of my teachers has said, our thoughts and emotions can be real (to us) — but not true. But only we can recognize this, over time, by asking ourselves, “How do I know this? Where did this belief come from?”

For 2017, I’d invite you to consider letting go of “shame resilience” and even letting go of “self-compassion.” Yes, I feel we need to be compassionate towards ourselves and others for any unskillful acts that inadvertently, unwittingly, or even “when we know better,” do cause harm. We need to recognize whenever we’ve felt shame, and then investigate with compassionate inquiry as to how and why we came to feel that way, and bow to that feeling with tenderness and understanding presence. And then we need to then be able to let it go and unfold into a deeper knowing and awareness that connects us to something beyond just our single self. It’s that place deep within us that we’ve longed to return to. It’s that place inside us, that is our true home.

When we do this, we’re able to then release all attachments to those Saturn’s rings overall. We don’t cling to people or relationships, titles, addictive behaviors (whether food or alcohol misuse, gambling, promiscuity, co-dependency, etc.). We are able to simply befriend ourselves, get to know ourselves with kind attention and genuine curiosity, and start to act out of a place that is our loving heart’s true desire and wisdom.

Many days, on a regular basis, this may include setting an intention for our day, at any moment in our day. We can set our compass towards the north star of kindness, for example. Or towards compassion. Or towards acceptance. Or even towards a non-striving kind of effort that enables us to keep taking another step along the way, without the tightness and anxiety that striving and achievement can bring.

We know so many of us are on anti-depressants as an aid to cope with difficult circumstances. We know things seem unmanageable, often, because they are. I’d invite you to consider this: saying yes, to giving yourself the gift of self-acceptance, and letting go of any kinds of thoughts of shame. Be compassionate to unskillful actions, sure, but there’s no need to allow feelings of shame — loosely defined as “there must be something wrong with me because of x, y, or z” — to fade away. Let’s be resilient to the occurrences “out there” in life that can be challenging — not to shame itself. Let’s just say hello to the shame, acknowledge it, and then let it go. What helped us survive in the past is often what is creating suffering for us now. So, it served its purpose. Now, we no longer need it because we have survived and are here, and can make true choices from an inner wisdom grounded in balanced discernment, compassion, joy, love, and moment-to-moment awareness.

We are so much more than we often give ourselves credit for. We are amazing, beautiful creatures (that yes, sometimes do silly, hurtful, or unskillful things). When we hate ourselves and accept that we are shame-worthy (implied in the term “shame resiliency”) we give license to something that simply isn’t true. The truth is, we’ve often felt shame, sure. And that’s entirely legitimate and worthy of our tender attention. And, we also have to know that it in no way has to remain within us. That our true liberation lies in recognizing that it’s possible to let it go. And that in doing so, we open up a world of connection with ourselves and all others that isn’t coming out of defensiveness, reactivity, and “my insecurities meets and projects onto your insecurities,” but comes from a place of “my true light and inner goodness meets, respects, and bows to the light within you, and connects all beings.”

Indeed, if shame is the idea or concept that “there is something wrong with me” or “there is something wrong with who I am,” the idea or concept or philosophy of “shame resilience” implies necessarily that one is resilient to the idea that there is indeed something wrong with you (even if it is something to be “coped” with). But that kind of resilience isn’t eradicating the shame — it’s not pulling up the tip of the root. What would it mean to actually pull out the “shame” weed, once and for all? Clearly, we can co-exist and befriend it for as long as needed — but what if shame were, like the viral disease smallpox, deemed completely eradicated in 1979 by the World Health Organization (and not just eliminated or reduced) — what if shame itself was gone for good? Who would we be then? What kind of emotional health would be possible?

It’s often been said that “you don’t know, what you don’t know” — until you know it. I appreciate the fact that “shame resilience” has opened us up to a place of trying to recognize that often-familiar feeling of unworthiness (or it’s the other side of it, narcissism and like pathologies) within us… but that there is a way to open even further to recognize it needn’t be there anymore. That it served its purpose of providing us with a direction for our quest, and now we know we can chart a new course. In essence, we needn’t continue to give the idea of shame new life. It’s often been said that “what we resist, persists,” so of course, let’s not resist that we feel anxious when we uncover our vulnerability or recognize feelings of shame. But let’s also not feel a need to attach to them or continue to let them define our life story. If what we turn our attention to is what grows, whether helpful and positive thoughts, or negative ones, then let us consider the Native American tale of two wolves. It’s said that when the grandchild asked the elder which wolf — the one representing kindness, bravery, and love, or the one representing greed, hatred, and fear — would grow, the response was: the one you feed. Will we feed our unworthiness, or our worthiness? So, the idea of radical self-love, and the deep knowledge that there’s nothing wrong with you — and never was — may feel like a new concept, and one that seems uncomfortable if for no other reason that it’s unfamiliar, based on our old ideas and habits. But those can begin to change (can be changed, by us, actually) — usually, in anywhere from one to three months. We can develop new, healthy habits and ways of thinking, with regular — often daily — cultivation.

The idea is to try and water the fruitful seeds in our own gardens, and then share our ripe fruits with the world. We can’t pick the fruit before it’s ready, for then it won’t taste as sweet. The parable in Zorba the Greek comes to mind, when he blows on a cocoon to make the butterfly come more quickly, but it dies instead. So, we can give our fruits time to ripen — and with patience, sunshine, watering, weeding, and kindness and love — this fruit can be our gift to ourselves and the world. And just by being the tree we are, we will feed others just by our presence, and become a model for others in sharing our gifts. Humbly, simply: by being truly who we are, we are connected to everything. We become everything. We recognize we always were everything, and that we already that which we seek.

So now the question is, it sounds simple… but is not so easy. Yes, it takes some effort and time — but you’re worth it. You only have one life, and probably don’t want to think, on your deathbed wondering, what became of it. The truth is, the more we can prepare for our deaths as we live now, the better off we are likely to be — the more we reconcile our existence and past hurts today, the less we’ll be confused, confounded, and stymied by death when it comes knocking. And, the more joy and release we can experience day to day.

PART II:

So, how do we get there, tactically? Each recipe for personal fulfillment will be different. A few key ingredients we may want to use, that I can think of off the top of my head, and in no particular order (this is not a comprehensive list by any means), may include but is not limited to:

  1. Therapy: letting it out all out, or processing and unpacking our “stuff” in a safe way. Feeling listened to, valued, heard, and affirmed. Being mirrored with and by someone who is trustworthy and holds “space” for us to see our own reflection as it is, and not in the negative /“less-than” or ego-inflated light we may think it to be. This process requires a true curiosity, letting go of judgement of self and others, and a real ability to be rigorously self-honest. It also requires an ability to let go of what we think we know, and experience what is real and true for us today, in this moment. That often involves making sense of our pasts through creating a cohesive narrative. And it also can be helped by knowing that when we’re seeking and talking about our quest for what’s true, it means what’s true for us — this isn’t about factual truths, or the intentions of another, as much as it is about acknowledging and recognize how we felt when something happened or went down. There are different kinds of therapy, including CBT, DBT, body-oriented, trauma-releasing somatic experiencing therapy, etc… these are all ways that can help. Interviewing at least three therapists before choosing one is key, to finding the one you want and feel you can trust. Group therapy may also be helpful, around a specific issue, or around a particular age group, or collective experience. Often, with any kind of personal growth, things seem to get worse before they get better. Meaning, it may bring tears, or sadness, of events or thoughts we have long tamped down or denied. But we can safely unpack them in a proper therapeutic environment, and if we uncover a particular trauma, we can work with specialists in that particular area. Understanding our childhood attachment styles (secure, avoidant or ambivalent, or disorganized) may also be helpful, in determining whether we should go “right” or “left.” There’s no one recommendation for everyone. What’s good for you may be the opposite of what’s helpful to me.

2) 12-step programs: if your longing for “something more” has led you into a compulsive or addictive pattern with a substance (for example, drugs or alcohol), activity (gambling, spending too much), or people/persons (co-dependent or abusive relationships, enmeshment or helicopter parenting or the like), then these types of programs and the structure, community connection, and spiritual grace and surrender they offer may be helpful.

3) Dance/Singing/Exercise/Yoga/Walking: these kinds of physical activities open us up in ways we’ve often forgotten. When’s the last time you danced freely in a field? Sang at the top of your lungs without worrying about what others thought? Looked at your body in the mirror with appreciation instead of judgement? Tried to connect with your body by stretching it out consciously instead of staying tightened up, in a contracted and fearful state? Belly laughed out loud? Children, for example, can often be our teachers in this regard. Really watching them play, taking it all in, enjoying and feeling their sense of wonder and joy. This can remind us of our own ability to tap into our own present-day curiosity, appreciation, and sense of adventure.

4) Creative endeavors: art/theatre/music/writing, etc.: expressing ourselves, creating things uniquely our own, manifesting our own vision can be critical to our own exploration of ourselves. Many local community centers, libraries, museums, and music halls or symphonies offer free or reduced-fare programs. This is where internet searching can be helpful! There are lots of online groups and communities that can be supportive and free of charge, too, like online writing groups.

5) Meditation, mindfulness practice, and other traditions like Tai-Chi, Qi Gong, and martial arts like Tae Kwon Do or Jujitsu: often these practices engage focused concentration, physical movement and strength training (which often leads to mental and emotional empowerment), and relational activities (with classmates, teachers/instructors, and even “opponents” ) that give us a proper introduction into the ways in which we can “stand on our own,” without loneliness or fear, but with strength and a sense of place and purpose. You may do visualization practices, or even affirmations, if those seem helpful. As with any of these activities, the focus, however, isn’t on propping up the ego or to keep it going or to make it feel better (because when it feels threatened because it’s actually a sign you’re starting to get to your own inner core of goodness, and the ego can react and lure you back into old habits) but rather, to help fortify and ground you in your own true nature of basic goodness.

6) Deep listening: being fully present to the moment and the people in it. Focusing our eyes, ears, nose, taste, touch, and body’s orientation toward and with the person we’re with, without speaking or thinking ahead. Letting that person share themselves fully with us, and trust we are to be trusted to not blink, shift away or avert our gaze or presence and awareness. This is when we put down our phones, and close our mouths and listen without judgement. Really seeing someone else and being with them can be quite therapeutic and helpful to not only them, but to ourselves. We can, by being attuned and in service to others in this way, be attentive and attuned and in service to a new level of self-understanding.

7) Service and gratitude: often, it’s in giving, when we receive. Sometimes we give to ourselves in the form of giving ourselves our own love; sometimes we express our love for others though active service, or simply through kind well-wishes of good intentions. Also, a deep appreciation and gratitude for the good things we do currently have — rather than a fixation on past painful memories or anxiety about future events that have yet to manifest (and may never manifest) — can help us in our ability to be more at home in ourselves.

But don’t take my word for any of this. There is a certain sense of all this that may sound “woo woo.” But aren’t our lives crazy enough? This costs nothing, isn’t asking you to convert to anything, or really abandon anything. It’s an invitation to create more space — it’s a deeper quest into the mystery of our lives.

So what do we do with all this? We continue to do the steady and noble work of living. Of being an embodied human on the planet. We cling less to ups and downs, and we concern ourselves more with how well we are relating to events that happen external to us, that are either pleasing or displeasing to us, and attempt to respond with greater and greater discernment and balance, wisdom, compassion, and less reactivity of conditioned thinking and old, defensive (and perhaps once seemingly-protective) habit patterns.

We do the steady work of living. Each breath, each step. Each moment, fresh and new. We find the north star, set our intention in its direction, and keep going.

PART III:

It’s a new year. Perhaps it’s time to give yourself a break. There’s enough violence out there in the world. There’s no need to continue to perpetuate the violence in our own minds, based on limiting self-beliefs. We have more incarcerated fellow countrymen and women than any other nation, and yet so many of us walk around every day in the prison of our own minds. Yet we hold the key. And maybe the door is even unlocked, but we don’t realize it. If beliefs are hardened thoughts, and thoughts are often real but not true (deluded, meaning we believe things about ourselves that have no actually “proof” — i.e., that we’re bad people, unworthy, or to blame for whatever’s wrong, then we have to recognize those thoughts grew out of a survival instinct pattern created to help us adapt to untenable situations within us that we couldn’t make sense of as children, that no longer are applicable to our adult relationships, but that we’re so used to we have a hard time being an adult in the present moment and meeting/seeing the person before us in the present moment… and that if we peel back more layers, where we can pull back to our core/basic nature, we recognize our own true goodness and beauty and our own true nature. In fact, science now shows us that if we start attuning to more “positive stuff,” meaning, events, experiences, and people that make us feel wholly good (not just superficial grasping, like munching on a brownie or buying a new pair of shoes, for example), it’s not just anecdotal that we then cultivate even more “good stuff” in our lives. Neuroplasticity and changes in the brain are real, and scientific research supports this.

Recognition of, and tender appreciation for, our own inner vulnerability, is critical. It’s what I believe therapist Richard Schwartz is referring to when he terms certain parts of us the “exiles” in his Internal Family Systems therapy model. The “ego” is often what he calls the “firefighters” and “managers” roles and parts within us, that are the ways in which our conditioned responses have grown, to try and protect us from those unfamiliar, disquieting, often young/child parts of us still within us, that were vulnerable then and are now needing to be held and accepted by our adult selves, with love and attention.

But don’t take my word for it. Sit with yourself and see if you can’t befriend yourself, kindly, with tenderness. See if you can’t notice your thoughts and feelings without judging them. Perhaps start small, with a five minute meditation, and grow slowly over time. Often, therapists and good friends, even, have traditionally “held the space” for us about seeing ourselves as we truly are, instead of our constructed and untrue and unkind thoughts about ourselves. Meditation isn’t so much about learning your mind of all thoughts as it is about recognizing the thinking, without getting caught in the storyline or judging it, or judging yourself for even having it. (There are plenty of meditation apps out there to get started, and online groups as well as in-person groups, both secular, and affiliated with various traditions).

Again, don’t take my word for any of this. Try it and see how it feels. It’s not that you’ll be coming from an “uppity” place, once you begin to recognize your own inner beauty. But people may at first think you’re acting differently, notice it, and even reject or condemn you for it. That’s OK, find new friends. Cultivate your inner knowing by bowing to their own inner knowing, and let it go. Remind yourself that you have a right to be who you are… and coming from that place, good things will come to you, if you continue to practice touching base with your true self, deep within. The part of you who knows who to love, how to love, that you yourself are lovable, and that in fact, you, yourself, are love itself.

And finally, lest I should sound like I’m shaming those who are attached in any way to “shame resilience,” please know that’s not my intention. I have no desire to shame anyone… I recognize it’s very hard and takes practice for each of us to let go of the stories of who we think we are. We’re often unconsciously loyal to our pain and suffering, and I absolutely agree it should be treated with respect. But we often think we’re less than we are, because we’re accustomed to those limiting concepts. I would just love for all to know — and to experience! — in 2017 and beyond, that it’s possible to tap into something within yourself that’s pure, beautiful, amazingly strong, resilient, and kind. That your true nature — just as you are — is perfectly noble, virtuous, and dignified. Believe it. Know it. Try it on for size, and see how it feels. You might like it. And then try going forth into the world with that true humility that knows everyone possesses this.

That’s real love.

That’s the kind of strength that lasts… for much longer, than even my grandfather’s stone walks, upon which, with each step and with each breath, we can begin anew, walking gently toward ourselves, in love.

P.S. Also, of this piece, I’d also say that as with most things, “take what you want, and leave the rest.” Meaning, if this doesn’t ring true for you, then please just let it go. Also, I recognize these invitations to reconsider our “self” in a loving way, don’t address deep issues of, for example, poverty, racism, and food insecurity — and that many folks with and for whom these invitations may resonate, may come from what appears externally to be a relatively comfortable, or middle-class place. There is much to be done on all levels, regarding all things, and the service of those capable to give is asked for, to help our earthly community: we’re all in this together. That said, one way to begin to do that most effectively is to start with helping, and healing ourselves. This is simply an invitation as to some suggestions as to how to possibly jump-start — or continue with — that process. To use an old slogan, we know that “hurt people, hurt people.” So let’s acknowledge if we’ve been hurting, and then perhaps open ourselves to seeing things differently in order to help ourselves heal… so we may then open up even more, to a greater kindness towards ourselves, and others, for the benefit of all beings.

#mindfulness #meditation #self-love #shame resilience #compassion #kindness #forgiveness

*****

Author Bio: Francesca Maximé is not a therapist, doctor, or Ph.D. She is simply a girl (woman, to be truthful!) living in New York City, who’s suffered and wants to help others alleviate their suffering, if at all possible. She is, however, if it matters in any way, a graduate of Harvard University, a broadcast journalist, published poet/author, and certified mindfulness meditation teacher. She creates widely available content for her “WiseGirl” vlog on her YouTube channel, and on Facebook, where she invites each one of us to discover our inner wise girls and wise guys. She is a published author of two verse memoirs, “Rooted” and “Re-Routed,” where she has described in greater detail, the events of her life that have opened her to pursuing this path. She can also be found on other social media channels like Twitter and Instagram May all beings be well, safe, and happy, in 2017 and beyond!


Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on January 1, 2017.

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