Shame And The Power of Community

You know you’re in a solid community when you humiliate yourself, blame and shame others, then feel shame, and are still accepted and loved. That was my experience this past weekend…

I want to cover two simple points in this blog post: 1) Shame and the power of community, and 2) How humiliation serves to bring me back to my true nature.

Shame and the power of community

This weekend I embarrassed myself pretty good. I shamed and blamed a large group of friends and strangers who were all doing some deep inner work. I made a mess. In doing so, I felt some deep shame, humiliation, and big fear. I felt banished and alone. Somehow, I did this to myself. However, in the hours following my “act,” I was able to burn through all of my shame. What I’m learning about shame is that in its pure form, it is short-lived. Shame is designed to bring us back home to our inner most being. Shame is an incredible reminder to check myself. Shame is a brilliant sign that I’ve done something “wrong” and am out of alignment. Shame is so helpful. I’m grateful for shame and its intrinsic purpose because it keeps bringing me back home to who I am.

That said, it seems like most people get stuck in shame. And, that is often supported by our surroundings. For example, this community I’m a part of could have easily shamed me and asked me to leave forever. They could have blamed me for their “bad” experience when I was with them behaving like I was. In doing so, my shame would go further inside and get further imbedded in my psyche.  By shaming me, they could have added shame to my shame pile which was already serving me up the perfect dose. It seems that this is often how people deal with someone who wreaks havoc, does something hurtful or wrong, or just plain messes up. We shame those who already feel shame. Adding shame on top of shame is completely unnecessary if we trust the true nature of shame. Most of us grew up in families where we got externally shamed on top of our internal shame. This is a sad, but common parenting blunder. Shame the kid who feels shamed already. This keeps kids in shame, who then turn into ashamed grown ups.

This amazing group of folks simply loved me with divine grace and gave me space to feel my shame. Within a few hours, my shame was done (DONE!) and I received the lessons. Granted, I might be unique in that I dove directly into my shame and explored all of it. What also helped me move through shame was the fact that I didn’t leave or run away in my shame. Instead of bailing and being fused to my story, I felt the entirety of my experience, faced my fear of being “outcast” and banished, and “stayed in-relationship” with people, got very curious, and then asked these people to share the impact of my behavior on them. I didn’t run away like I had threatened to do, or like I did when I was a kid and felt unsupported and shamed in my shame. I stuck around and faced the very people I was afraid might shame me or banish me.

This serves to demonstrate yet another reason shaming the shamer doesn’t work.

Humiliation serves to awaken me to my true nature

Another layer of this whole thing is how divine universal law keeps me in balance.

Leading up to this community retreat, I had been riding a high with some new insights, discoveries and results from my life. When I feel like this, without fully being aware of it, I start to get arrogant and put myself on a pedestal. I don’t even see that I’m doing it, even though it might be obvious to others. I get self-aggrandized and self righteous. I then see others as “below me” or inferior. “Ha ha. I have the answers way up here and I’m better than you.” Ego takes over and I get high on myself. I’ve been here many times. But fortunately for me, Life has a brilliant way of cutting the legs out from under me and I come crashing down. Usually I go out swinging and this time I went out with my guns blazing in order to fall from my throne on high. As explained above, I made a scene and really let it rip.

Apparently I like to be witnessed in my mistakes, which is where the deep healing is. The entire community got to see me, naked, raw, unfiltered, human. I felt safe enough to reveal a lot of darkness I’d rather not show most people. Everyone watched me essentially cry out “HELP ME MOTHER FUCKERS! SAVE ME. ACCEPT ME! LOVE ME!” And guess what? They did. After checking in with over half of the community in the hours following my debauchery, I felt nothing but loved, held, and accepted. Sure, some people said they were scared, contracted, and one said he felt violated. And, even still, I wasn’t banished. No one shamed me. I felt loved, which in turn helped me love this seemingly unlovable “dark” part of myself. WOW. Supercharged healing indeed.

As Trungpa Rinpoche has been known to say, “The path to enlightenment is one humiliation after another.” I heard this years ago and think I get it now.shame

Is this how I want to behave? Certainly not. But I’m learning that in order to awaken to who I truly am, there are some things that I don’t need to control. In other words, God is holding me and will take me right where I need to go in order to get the lesson and grow, even if it means I humiliate myself. I can continue to relax…

So, needless to say, I am deeply grateful that I went there. I have been checking myself daily since that night and I can see just as many benefits as there are drawbacks to this experience. By balancing it out in this way, I am able to be grateful and even appreciate of myself for my tirade.  Next, I am sitting in awe of the community members and their ability to send me love and light. Several of you, who helped escort me out of the room, are angels, lovingly helping a very enraged, wounded me, exit the room as gracefully as possible. And to the rest of you brothers and sisters, I say thank you. Thank you so much for loving me in my rage, blame, shame, terror, and unlovability.


Some of you might be wondering, doesn’t this guy teach “relationship as a path?” That is correct. And this is exactly the kind of experience which requires me to walk my talk. Thankfully, by having the context that relationship is a spiritual practice, I am committed to staying in-relationship, even when I want to run the other way. By doing so, I get to reap the huge rewards and heal old wounds, while deepening my connection to members of the community.





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