Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


The Topic I Avoid

A little over a week ago I finally screwed up my courage to discuss a topic I've been avoiding. It was easy to avoid for several weeks while my teacher was traveling, but HB was back in town, I was going to be at the Dharma Center just before zazen teaching yoga on the day when sanzen is available. Months ago I had mentioned the feeling to him and he said I could not work on that for a while, to focus on understanding the anger and other emotions.

For the last several weeks I've felt shame very acutely. I am embarrassed by the passion I feel. On some level I've thought the intensity of my body's response to CK might settle down, but it has only grown as we go more deeply, feel more comfortable with each other. I feel like I'm being inappropriate, wanting too much, unable to control my body, and as though I'm 14 again.

When I've talked to GM about it we've discussed how it very clearly relates to a childhood of being told my emotional responses were out-of-control. A pattern that continued during my first marriage. That I also have a traumatic experience related to being caught naked with a female friend as a child only compounds the problem. Since I'd never been in a very deep, open relationship with a woman before most of this seethed below the surface.

GM said I needed to spot the shame, watch it come up and know that the shame itself is what is inappropriate. Know that when inappropriate feelings like the shame arise it is the voice of my Inner Critic speaking. Remind myself of where I am at, that CK loves me and, far from finding me inappropriate, delights in my passion for her.

Yet still the shame comes. I watch it, name it as wrong, say to it I know where it comes from. And there we sit in impasse, my shame and I. So off to sazen with the impasse.

HB first said that reflecting on where it all comes from is irrelevant, truly, since the events already took place and nothing can be changed about that. He said to use the Precepts as a touchstone, run through them all to be certain I am observing them. If I find I am in accordance with them then I clearly do not have to experience shame for being who I am.

I realized this is another way of exactly what my therapist wants me to do, only deeper. Not only do I bring myself to the present moment but I have my ethical guideposts to affirm that I am not making a poor choice. I thought about this a second and asked HB, "Then what?"

I went on to tell him that I have reached a point in my life that I feel I am living more honestly, true to my essential self, than ever before, ever. It feels exposed most of the time, fragile, I'm more accustomed to maintaining a persona. It is the truth, even when it feels hard.

He said then I need to work on drawing the shame in. Not to hate my past. It isn't that I have to love the trauma, but I should include the child I was in my love. I want to do this, it is why I have tried to mourn that child in ceremony. Yet when I try to process, touch these places that hurt so much, I feel myself recoil. The fear, the shame, the humiliation... all of these feel sticky, like tar, and I feel myself resist going into them.

"My pain." This is the answer I give when I see HB in sanzen and he performs the ritual of asking, "What is your practice."

Sometimes the practice is my physical pain, the fear and tightness around living with that. Other times it is the deeper, darker emotional pain.

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