"Make me ever ready to come before you with clean hands and a straight eye, so as life fades away as a fading sunset, my Spirit may come to you without shame."
-The closing words of an Anishinabe prayer.
I heard this word frequently as a child. Usually it was punctuated with a finger pointing in to my face. "Shame on you."
Early in recovery, this vision was a constant reminder of the results of my addictive behavior. I could find not peace in a life of lies and half-hearted efforts, densely clouded in my mind which was fixated on my next opportunity to use.
Shame! Humiliation! Self hatred! No respect of any kind!
Shame was accompanied by a gut wrenching fear that everyone would find out and I would be left alone.
Loneliness! I was afraid of loneliness!
This fear was about being left alone as no one could love someone like me.
Where did the healing begin?
As I look back, I can see, now, that there was never an abandonment, especially by God. The perpetual ache of shame, fear and loneliness was a voice calling me to heal. The emptiness was a hand reaching out to offer fullness. My first contact with a sober addict was the initial source of connection, relief and hope.
The fellowship of forgiveness, acceptance and support put recovery in a confusing mix of grace and skin. Readings and sermons became alive. All the stuff of formal religious education was embodied in the people who were willing to share their suffering: self hatred, anger, fear, and shame were all with me, in the flesh. Forgiveness was also there, in the flesh.
Forgiveness was also there, in the flesh.
This reminds me of a Christian scripture. A woman was set up, to be caught in adultery. Men dragged her before Jesus looking for his permission to follow the law and stone her. Jesus knelt in the sand and wrote something. Then spoke: “You who have no sin cast the first stone”.
I can hear the deafening silence following Jesus' words.
Then, one by one I hear stones falling on the ground and footsteps fading until the woman is left alone withe Jesus. "Where are those who would condemn you?" he said to her.
"There are none." she whispers.
That was the relief I experienced with my first contact and my first recovery meeting. There was no one there to condemn me. There was no one there to point their finger and shame me. Every one of us in that room, in one way or another, had been dragged before those ready to condemn us. We all experienced the shame of our truth. Yet, together, we found a safe space, a forgiving place, a hopeful place.
Together, we create space that is safe, forgiving and filled with hope.
Together we bring to skin the voice of our Higher Power: "Nor do I condemn you!"
These words, within the vision of the people in our fellowship, are my mantra. This vision is what I practice in my soul as a growing reminder of the source of hope and forgiveness. In the time it takes to inhale and exhale, I can be surrounded with this peace.
Shame is an experience of the past which I do not release. Often, there are those who do not want us to release our shame. Meditation is my source of peace and safety. Here, in meditation, I can be with you in safety and peace.
What is your source of shame? Who or what is the reminder that keeps you in your shameful experience? With whom do you experience forgiveness, hope and peace? We have a power, together, that is a source of forgiveness, hope and peace. Together, we release the experience of shame, fear and loneliness. As we practice meditation, we can be together in a breath.