Thoughts on DIGNITY
At the end of my drinking, I was so filled with shame, I never thought I'd have self-respect again. In fact, that's what kept me drinking for a long time; I was terrified to stop and confront my past. But I've come to learn my shame-based thinking started much earlier and was actually at the root of my desire to medicate. Shame was both an integral cause and effect of the cycle. Starting from a young age, believed there was something fundamentally wrong with me. I was really embarrassed of my feelings, ashamed of anything around my sexuality, and thought that "liking" a boy/man or desiring a partner was a sign of weakness.
Most of us, through social conditioning, messages we received from family, teachers, or partners, and from a Western puritanical culture, grow up inheriting ideas about what's "right" or "wrong" without ever really learning or believing that we have our own internal compass. We are taught by having shame applied to us, which then disorients our healthy shame, which is meant to align our behavior with our ethics and values. Additionally, we get the message we're not worthy of honor and respect...that it has to be earned, that it’s something like a checking account where we start at zero: good behavior builds it up, bad behavior takes it down. The true message is that we are worthy of honor and respect simply because we exist. Because we are made from the Divine.
Last week, we worked to connect to our foundation. The practices of meditation, morning pages, and daily mantra were established and will continue this week. This week, as we travel up the body into the second chakra, we go into the world of movement and emotion. If we have a secure base, we are able to yield to this inner flow of prana (vital energy) and follow its natural course without losing our center.
You may feel your emotions are not safe—they are too much or not enough. You may also feel that your sexuality is not safe, that movement within that area of the body is not safe. Balance in this area of the body means we have the freedom to feel all emotions, there is a deep emotional core that is grounded enough to be contained and open enough to flow and connect.
This week, we are concerned with emotions (specifically shame) and movement. Both need to be streaming through the body freely to have balance, like water, the element of this chakra. The streaming of energy through the body is the body’s way of restoring balance. Feeling this stream while simultaneously providing a safe container will promote much of the healing.
Movement and emotional are essential. When movement is restricted, so too is the healing process. If your innate reaction to a given situation has been thwarted, then there is a constant tendency to recreate similar situations so as to complete the initial pattern. If the block is severe, similar situations may not allow completion, leaving us in a hopeless cycle of repeating negative traumas without being able to resolve them and move on.
Take great care of yourself as you do this homework and do your best to do the work from a place of compassionate observer and not harsh critic. You are on your path to healing.
Watch or Listen to The Class
Continue from Week 1. WATCH: Julia Cameron on Morning Pages.
When Triggers Arise by Destiny Love (4:57)
The mantra for week one is: I am not my past. I am a woman of dignity and honor.
- Write it down in your journal each morning before you begin morning pages.
- Put it as a reminder into your phone to show up at noon each day.
- When fear comes up, repeat it out loud or in your mind.
Note: Assignments 1, 2 and 3 are to be done in order and should be done in one session if possible.
Assignments 1 and 2 can be heavy and assignment 3 is meant to shake that off and free yourself from the negative charge of shame, guilt, or regret.
1. Write out your drinking and drugging history.
Write out the history of your substance use with the following format. Be thorough, but do not go into long narratives. You are doing an honest inventory of the past, what you used, when, and what consequences it had for you physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually. Note: it does not matter how drastic or frequent your behavior or the consequences of your behavior were compared to someone else. This history is meant to inventory your experience and specifically the emotional, spiritual, and physical consequences of your drinking (or whatever behavior(s) you working through.
Set a timer for 30 minutes and see how far you can get. If another 30 minutes is required to be thorough, do that. An example of mine is below. It took me 40 minutes to do this.
- AGE/TIMEFRAME: e.g. 18-21, college
- SUBSTANCE: e.g. alcohol, marijuana, food
- FREQUENCY: e.g. alcohol 3-4 nights/week, to blackout or pass out. Marijuana daily. Food restriction daily + weekly bingeing.
- CONSEQUENCES: Blackouts, loss of friendships, missing classes, unprotected sex, constant feelings of shame and guilt, wrecking car.
- Did you learn anything new by doing this?
- How did it feel to write it all out?
2. SHAME INVENTORY, PART 1 (part 2 will happen in week 3)
Based on the applied shame vs. authentic shame discussion in the class, answer the following questions.
- What messages did you receive as a child (from parents, teachers, peers) about what is right and wrong? E.g. "Good girls don't dress like that, good girls don't like sex, no one will love you until...). List them out.
- After reviewing your drinking and drugging history, can you see a connection to the messages above and your drinking/drugging/numbing?
- Which messages do you hear now (from parents, peers, partners, media) about what is right and wrong? (These often come through as "should" statements or places where you feel guilty.)
- How does this influence your behavior now?
3. BODY SHAKING!
You live an animal that needs to move—it desires movement, for energy to flow through it and to express itself through the physical being. Your body is a record of everything you’ve ever experienced. And much of what you’ve experienced has been “locked” in your body, meaning the energetic result of your experiences were never discharged. This expresses itself in the body through physical pain, disease, and other difficulties.
This practice is simple. You are going to let yourself be in your animal and move it the way it wants to move. Now, if you haven’t done this before it’s going to feel strange and maybe even embarrassing. You may think your body doesn’t actually WANT to move or know how to move, but it does—trust me. If I can do this despite being self-conscious + terrified of showing my whole body AND post it on Instagram, you can do it too! No, I'm not asking you to post it.
Simply turn on the music (playlist to the right and here) and start shaking. Quite literally, shake your hands and arms and feet and legs. Shake your butt. Don’t try to look good or coordinated. The weirder, the better. You’re trying to turn into a primal rhythm and it may take a few minutes for you to forget yourself (ego) and allow yourself to just move. You will also get winded and sweaty and this is exactly what you want. The list is 14 minutes long...do the whole thing, even if it means you take a couple breaks!
- Post a photo of yourself after the shaking exercise and tell us how it felt!
Draw a picture of your body in SHAME.
Using any medium (crayons, pencil, pen, paints) in your journal: draw a picture of your body in shame. This does not have to be a literal drawing of the body, it can be an expression of what fear feels or looks like in your body.
SIT UP STRAIGHT!
How you carry yourself means everything. Set a daily reminder on your phone for 10 am, 2 pm and 5 pm to sit up straight. Practice using the prompts below.
- Lift the crown of the head up, lengthening your spine.
- Tuck the chin slightly toward the chest.
- Draw your shoulder blades back, lifting the heart up.
- Take a deep breath into your upper chest and exhale. Take another deep breath into your belly and exhale.
- How does it feel to sit up straight?
- How often did you find yourself slouching or make yourself "smaller?"
- Did anything else come up while doing this?
Find an aspect of your physical world that lacks dignity? This is different than the foundation exercise where you’re looking for things that are wobbly, off balance, or unstable. This time you’re looking for something that feels shameful or lacks honor.
- What did you find?
- Do you see any correlation to these things and the general stability you feel in your life?
- Is there something you’re willing to fix? Why or why not?
Supta Badho Kanasana
Step 1 - Sit down, bringing the soles of your feet together, knees out. Exhale and lower your back torso toward the floor, first leaning on your hands. Once you are leaning back on your forearms, use your hands to spread the back of your pelvis and release your lower back and upper buttocks through your tailbone. Bring your torso all the way to the floor, supporting your head and neck on a blanket roll or bolster if needed.
Step 2 - With your hands grip your topmost thighs and rotate your inner thighs externally, pressing your outer thighs away from the sides of your torso. Next slide your hands along your outer thighs from the hips toward the knees and widen your outer knees away from your hips. Then slide your hands down along your inner thighs, from the knees to the groins. Imagine that your inner groins are sinking into your pelvis. Push your hip points together, so that while the back pelvis widens, the front pelvis narrows. Lay your arms on the floor, angled at about 45 degrees from the sides of your torso, palms up.
Step 3 - The natural tendency in this pose is to push the knees toward the floor in the belief that this will increase the stretch of the inner thighs and groins. But especially if your groins are tight, pushing the knees down will have just the opposite of the intended effect: The groins will harden, as will your belly and lower back. Instead, imagine that your knees are floating up toward the ceiling and continue settling your groins deep into your pelvis. As your groins drop toward the floor, so will your knees.
Step 4 - To start, stay in this pose for one minute. Gradually extend your stay anywhere from five to 10 minutes. To come out, use your hands to press your thighs together, then roll over onto one side and push yourself away from the floor, head trailing the torso.
Child’s Pose (Balasana)
Step 1 - Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips.
Step 2 - Exhale and lay your torso down between your thighs. Broaden your sacrum across the back of your pelvis and narrow your hip points toward the navel, so that they nestle down onto the inner thighs. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of the pelvis while you lift the base of your skull away from the back of your neck.
Step 3 - Lay your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms up, and release the fronts of your shoulders toward the floor. Feel how the weight of the front shoulders pulls the shoulder blades wide across your back.
Step 4 - Balasana is a resting pose. Stay anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes. Beginners can also use Balasana to get a taste of a deep forward bend, where the torso rests on the thighs. Stay in the pose from 1 to 3 minutes. To come up, first lengthen the front torso, and then with an inhalation lift from the tailbone as it presses down and into the pelvis.