Shame and The Juniper

Shame and The Juniper
by Michelle Katz

Shame is a wide-spread epidemic. Across our culture and the world.  If we are human we have felt shame, some of us more intimately than others, some of us more engagingly than others. This week alone, I felt shame about my anger, my decision making, the inconveniences of my health issues, and my sexuality, and that’s only the big stuff of the week!  Additionally, I have felt shame sneak in from something as small as how my dog responds to someone, how I parked my car, how tidy my house seems to guest, or a typo in an email.  As I grow up and older the smaller stuff losing it hold but the bigger shames take me for a wild ride.

There are many big shames I have known in my life.  You know, the ones that seems to take up years of my life in one day, that absorb my spirit, keep me up at night, add a couple grey hairs to my head, stimulates all sorts of anxiety that trickles into my physical well-being; the ones I hide so deep in the crevices of my being.

Brene Brown speaks to shame in many of her inspiring books and in her encouraging TED Talks. The greatest take away about her study and knowledge on this topic is: that healing shame can be found in vulnerability.  Exposure and uncertainty can be terrifying, no doubt about it, and that is all tied up in deep fear of rejection.  Brene tells us how our vulnerability is incredibly courageous and it is a way that we step into our lives more honestly.  And if we step into talking about our shame, we stop being and keeping ourselves small, and we generate change.  All important parts of a Rite-of-Passage.

Shame is our way to access the soul.  Francis Weller also speak to this, reminding us that shame shows us how deeply imperfect we are, and thus shame is linked to our feelings of inferiority. It breaks us apart and open.  In shame we know, so gut-wrenchingly, that we are not who we think we are.  That our image of self and our actually authentic self is incongruent.  And we feel this contrast so profoundly and with such discomfort we come to harbor it in the quiet recesses of our being.  Which just happens to be where our soul resides.  Thus, our inferiority shows us the way to soul and invites us into a deeper relationship to the parts of self we would rather hide from the world.  The soul, is all about the caves, failures, mistakes, defeats, it is all about confessing our fallibility and inferiority and showing up bigger and more fully than ever!  Soul begs that we show up in our bigness!

This week, in my moment of shame about my sexuality and my health, in a society that shames sexuality constantly and believes that people should be healthy and happy all the time, I took myself on a walk.  I walked with my shame.

And, as the path turned, I saw The Juniper.  This one different than the others surrounding it.  In looking closely, it has 3 small patches, in different locations, that were bright yellow, thick and swollen and resembling coral reef.  And these parts, revealed themselves openly, honestly and authentically, without shame.  Though I could only truly imagine this is some form of dis-ease for this tree, I felt its strength, as it did not question its ability to live life or who it is, though this may be something is struggles with daily.  It did not hide these parts, but showed them fully, as opposed to the other limping bland-brown pine needles hiding in the thicker parts of the other junipers. 

I began to recall another moment of deep shame in my life, and how intently I kept my secret and subsequently I kept myself small, hiding, and truly believing that sharing this shame would kill me. (Realizing now that keeping it was killing me more certainly.) I recalled coming out of this with vulnerability, tearfully disclosing this secret, showing my imperfect pine needles, which I once thought would make me utterly unlovable and rejected.  And nearly everyone, showed up to love me even more than before.  I felt my humanity. And you know what?  My life wasn’t over; however, it was forever changed.  This initiation experience was especially profound.  As I let go of who I believed I was, each time in my sharing, severing from the past, I found the room to discover and be who I am, rather than fighting to be the image I had of myself.  Sitting in the unknown of who this new me was, I was finding my people, those who I knew were witnessing me truly live into myself.  A Rites of Passage of the soul.   

More than anything, I found myself inextricably drawn to this Juniper, and the beauty of these different parts.  These patches were undeniably bright, with ocean-like aliveness in foreground of the contrasting desert and so strong in its’ broad and distinct stance.  It seemed to know its own nature, and revealed to me, the bright-strong-aliveness of my own human nature.  What makes me fallible, deepens my existence, nurtures my true nature.

Come explore your human nature, shame, vulnerability, Soul into a deeper knowing of Self with Oaks Counsel’s nature-based healing practices.  Be sure to check out our upcoming Day Quest: Sexuality Circle on January 28th, to dive into this rich conversation.