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Heron as my Witness

On an overcast day, I gathered my shame and unworthiness and went for a ride. We were going to settle the matter of their presence in my life once and for all. I’ve addressed many emotional layers over the years and it has come down to core beliefs of shame and unworthiness. They no longer serve me.

I’ve battled back and forth with both emotions. Finally, I am settled. I found two stones and wrote the words ‘shame’ and ‘unworthiness’ on each, deeply feeling the control they have had in my life. My intention was to heave them into a pond and let them go.

Brene Brown is a guru on shame. She says:

"We all have it. Shame is universal and one of the most primitive human emotions that we experience. The only people who don’t experience shame lack the capacity for empathy and human connection. We’re all afraid to talk about shame. The less we talk about shame, the more control it has over our lives. Shame is basically the fear of being unlovable—it’s the total opposite of owning our story and feeling worthy. In fact, the definition of shame that I developed from my research is: Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”
“Shame keeps worthiness away by convincing us that owning our stories will lead to people thinking less of us. Shame is all about fear. We’re afraid that people won’t like us if they know the truth about who we are, where we come from, what we believe, how much we’re struggling, or, believe it or not, how wonderful we are when soaring (sometimes it’s just as hard to own our strengths as our struggles). People often want to believe that shame is reserved for the folks who have survived terrible traumas, but this is not true. Shame is something we all experience. And while it feels as if shame hides in our darkest corners, it actually tends to lurk in all of the familiar places, including appearance and body image, family, parenting, money and work, health, addiction, sex, aging, and religion. To feel shame is to be human.” Brene Brown

This ritual I created took place at a small, local pond next to my UU church. While I was driving, shame and unworthiness sat in the front passenger seat. At first I had the labeled stones in my pocket, and decided they deserved to be visible.

I was astonished to find a beautiful Great Blue Heron sitting on the edge of the pond. He meandered down farther to accommodate me. I had a witness. Coming to terms with releasing shame and unworthiness occurred over the last few weeks, leaving the last act of heaving them on this day.

First, I let go shame. It easily slid out of my hand and kaplunked into the water. The heron didn’t flinch. The bigger stone of unworthiness wasn’t so smooth. I heaved it over my head and my fingers held onto it. It looped up over my head and landed behind me. Interesting. I tried again using a different angle and let it go. All witnessed by a Great Blue.

Tanya Casteel, a visioniary artist in North Carolina shares her wisdom on the Great Blue:

“Blue Heron asks you to look inside and nurture all aspects of yourself. Embrace your 'flaws', uniqueness, and feelings of shame with self-love. Once you love your whole self and find your inner peace, you’ll be able to bring peace to others, spreading healing throughout the world.”
“Breath deep, stand in each moment, feel the full spectrum of emotions, and lead with your heart.”
“Blue Herons walk slowly or stand still for long periods of time when waiting to catch fish, trusting that what they need will come to them at the right time. What areas of your life could you bring more patience to? Sharpen your awareness so you’re ready whenever 'it' arrives.”

I’m grateful for this ritual and delighted with my unexpected witness. Shame and unworthiness are another level of deep-seated fear in my life. They have existed underneath all my life experiences. The longer I ignored them, the longer they stayed hidden.

Participants' Reflections:

  • Thank you so much. I never thought about the opposite of shame and what it means. I do have abandonment issues so I can see why shame that is big in my life, that I’m not loveable. I’ve had to work through that. During the meditation, I reflected on ways I’ve done that and the types of things I’ve been learning here over the last 500 days. This is an important thing for me to think about more. I am glad you shared your experience with us today. Thank you.

  • Thank you. What came to me during the meditation was a memory of my dog as I was growing up. I spent a lot of time alone as a child but I had this beloved dog who was my best friend and lived through most of my childhood. I had this thing I used to do when she did something she shouldn’t do. I would have her sit on a chair and look ashamed, which is bizarre. I am guessing I was projecting from what I was experiencing. That was a powerful memory, to realize a lot of buried shame I am carrying. Thank you for the ritual with the stone. I’ll do that.

  • Thank you so much for sharing on this subject of shame. What came to me during the meditation was a question about what would a children’s book on shame look like? What would the story be? What would it look like?

  • I’m reminded that when I was growing up, I had shame about disagreeing with my mom, and how that has really influenced my ability to express my opinions. It’s amazing how I sequester myself so much so that I don’t feel ashamed for voicing my opinion. What I heard a lot when I did express myself was the word ‘ridiculous.’ So thank you for the reading and for focusing back to childhood. I’m surprising this didn’t come sooner to me because it was so prevalent in my life. Thank you.

  • I really appreciated the reading today. I love the experience of the blue heron. I think it’s magical. I reflected on the feelings I have when I feel shame. I understand my core beliefs but sometimes the feelings of shame can be strong in me or subtle. When they are more subtle, I feel myself having an uncomfortable feeling and then a need to eat something or distract myself. It’s a subtle response to something and I don’t know what that is. I don’t let myself know, because in a way, the subtle feeling is equally disruptive of my being. Thank you.

    • Shirley says: Having awareness is 50% of the work to deal with the things we uncover. It’s a huge aspect. Using our awareness as we sit in reflection is very powerful, as you demonstrate.

  • It reminds me of a conversation I had with my dad when he was dying. He would say I don’t want a funeral. What came up for me was sadness about that. He was labeled as depressed, but I think he was sad and ashamed. I concluded that our basic fear is that we will die and no one will come to our funeral, that we don’t matter. In conversations with my kids as they were growing up, they talked about the popular girls. My daughter said the popular girls have no problems because they have it all. I remember telling her that they are just the same as you, they just hide it differently. That takes us to the whole shame thing, of not feeling worthy. I don’t know if it’s inner child, and I’m not clear where it comes from, but I think it’s universal, or it may be that we come to the place where we don’t matter, where we are one with the Universe and one with the world. We feel ourselves more as a oneness as opposed to a unique person. I don’t know. It’s a work in progress.

  • That was beautiful, the heron, your physical action to symbolize letting go. The shame and unworthiness I’ve made some progress on but I have a long way to go. My chronically-ill family member has a lot of shame, some of it around him being so sick and feeling worthless not being able to do things for himself. That’s heart-breaking for me to know he feels that way. Our society in general doesn’t recognize or give respect to chronic illness and the bravery people have to keep struggling every day and the strength it takes. You know, we are all going to be there. Thank you.

  • Thank you for joining me. It was quite an experience yesterday taking the stones and putting them on the front seat. They were so real to me, I had the thought ‘should I use the seatbelt?’ Oh, they are just stones. And if I get stopped, is someone going to see them? Oh, that’s okay.’ It was an experience. I created it all myself and I walked myself through the ritual. I didn’t have any other authority telling me to do it because I am my own authority. That feels good. It is within our own control to change these things when they are ready to be changed. We know it when they are ready. If we don’t know we’re read, then we’re not ready yet and that’s okay. Just keep moving forward. It’s all about self-care, self-love, self-respect, and self-knowledge. With that, I wish you all a gentle day.

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