Shame. It impedes so much.
It’s easy to succumb to the impulse to think that it’s something to be overcome, and that’s the end of it. Freedom, eh?
Someone completely without shame is a sociopath.
Shame is a guide. It can help us to understand how best to fit to the fractal puzzle which is human relations. And once having learned its lessons, it’s time to let it go.
But we don’t.
Unfortunately, we tend to seize it too closely, to internalize its voices, to make into Big Truth About Me what should really only be a gentle nudge, a wise voice about how to be a Better Me.
And because Shame is so powerful, we can learn to cower from its view. We can learn to be timid about expressing ourselves, for fear of feeling shame.
And so we come to the challenging work of Letting Ourselves Shine. Of overcoming the excess of Shame with which we have been laden. Of stepping out into the sunshine to dance. To sing.
All of which sounds like a load of pontificating, but what I mean to do is to write about doing ritual.
Doing ritual sometimes feels awkward, especially when you’re new at it. I’ve been doing Pagan ritual for more than 25 years and I still get self-conscious about it sometimes. The biggest impediment I have ever experienced to my expression of my religious life has been my own embarrassment. Even when I’m by myself.
That’s because I’m not really alone, of course. The voices in my head are with me: the ones we all have, the ones that ridicule you, try to keep you small and timid. The internalized voices of bullies and abusers. They mock the earnestness of devotion, of love, of symbolism. They hector us that it’s all just pretend, anyway.
Basically, they do what they can to fuck up our ability to enter the Ritual State of trance, and to experience the transporting awe, wonder and joy of religious experience. Which is not pretend. Which is as real as love, as fear, as rage, as courage.
So I take a little time for confidence building before I do ritual. Some of it is the donning and deploying of trappings: special dress or special jewelry, laying out of ritual tools. And then the speaking of intention: I am Mark Green, I say, of the good Planet Earth. I am a miracle of the Universe: I am made of stars. I come here to speak my love, and sing.
This varies somewhat depending on what the ritual is about. But for me, rituals of celebration and humble wonder are the baseline, the typical.
What we call “confidence” is basically a feeling of safety. It gives us permission to stretch, because the stakes aren’t so high as when we feel our survival, dignity, or social standing is at stake.
I cannot express how much richer a life becomes when you are free to express yourself in this way. There is so much more to us than the cognitive. There is deep joy and reverence and realness to be had if only we have the courage. If only we step forward to declare ourselves and our passion. And even more so with a lover, with a partner, with true friends, with a community.
The glorious world is filled with beauty and horror. It is everything we long for, and everything we dread.
Step forward, friends. Show us the unique glory that is your particular self. Shame is too tawdry a thing to hold you back.
Light that candle, and murmur those reverent words. Sing. Weep. Laugh.