Shame on you!

A chick is bornEvery crack is also an opening… begins the lovely poem by Mark Nepo. It was read out loud at grown-up sleep-away camp in Albuquerque where I, along with 24 other eager beavers, worked on the shame carried deep within. Lovingly dubbed “Shame Camp” by last year’s attendees, each of us met our internal shame carried by the parts of us that were wounded as young ones by an unintentional – or perhaps intended – event involving an adult. In our little, uninformed minds and purest of hearts, we made meaning about words or deeds that felt wrong, painful and shameful so that we could survive with the hurt, fear, guilt and worthlessness we felt afterwards. In so doing, we unwittingly locked away our vulnerable and sensitive feelings so that we felt safe and held within our internal system. At times, adults let us down and as humans, we have the capacity to survive most anything.

Perhaps you were one of us whose teacher expressed dislike for us. Or were teased by the pretty kids about wearing glasses or being a geek, or separated from the group by an adult leader because you couldn’t contain your affection for another classmate – you were bothering them and they deserved peace. Maybe it was bigger, a molestation or emotional and physical abuse. I wonder if you were forced to be the grown-up to care for an alcoholic or unemotionally involved parent. Maybe you felt hungry and weren’t fed because you were a picky eater and Mama didn’t believe in catering to such. In any event, we questioned ourselves. Do they like me? I think they hate me. I must’ve deserved that. This is too much for me but I have to keep doing it. I have to keep my mouth shut – I can’t tell. I don’t know why that happened – it was bad – that means I’m bad.

Until we take time to explore and listen to their stories, every time we shift behaviors to make change in our lives, whether it’s food changes, decreasing our alcohol intake, or polishing up our job skills, we stir up the sadness, worry, and frustration of our tender and younger parts that hold these mistaken beliefs formed in error. Changes lead them to believe their world is crashing around them, and they get even more excited and frenzied in their behaviors exhibited through us, now adults – binge eating, drinking, wayward sex, over-spending, isolation.

The deep inner work at adult sleep-away camp was intentional. Go inside, go deep, with compassion and curiosity, and see who needs your attention. Which part(s) of you is hurting, aching to be held, loved, noticed, seen, heard and understood? When our parts are witnessed in a loving, hopeful way, and they get to know you and you them, they lose their charge. They turn over their burdens and rest in your care. Your heart is big enough to hold each and every little part of you that exists (see tomorrow’s blog for Liz Gilbert’s story about her own parts). For now, enjoy A Chick Being Born.

A Chick Being Born ~ Mark Nepo

When in the midst of great change, it is helpful to remember how a chick is born. From the view of the chick, it is a terrifying struggle. Confined and curled in a dark shell, half-formed, the chick eats all its food and stretches to the contours of its shell. It begins to feel hungry and cramped. Eventually the chick begins to starve and feels suffocated by the ever-shrinking space of its world.

Finally, its own growth begins to crack the shell, and the world as the chick knows it is coming to an end. Its sky is falling. As the chick wriggles through the cracks, it begins to eat its shell. In that moment – growing but fragile, starving and cramped, its world breaking – the chick must feel like it is dying. Yet once everything it has relied on falls away, the chick is born. It doesn’t die, but falls into the world.

The lesson is profound. Transformation always involves the falling away of things we have relied on, and we are left with a feeling that the world as we know it is coming to an end, because it is.

Yet the chick offers us the wisdom that the way to be born while still alive is to eat our own shell. When faced with  great change – in self, in relationship, in our sense of calling – we somehow must take in all that has enclosed us, nurtured us, so when the new life is upon us, the old is within us.


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