I had a wonderful experience yesterday. I was invited to lead part of a special workshop.
Stacy Makishi has been leading three workshops for performers and artists. It all culminates with tonight’s ceremony - the “Uncivil Partnership” where people have the chance to marry themselves - an opportunity to commit to accept and love oneself for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health… everything.
Yesterday was the third and final workshop of the three and Stacy asked me if I’d like to come along and lead for about an hour. The participants had done a lot of work already over the previous workshops. They had shared a great deal and opened themselves to each other.
And I walked into that charged environment - a stranger - a minister in a group mostly suspicious of religious things - and we stood together and Stacy asked me about my shame.
Where to begin?
So I thought a moment… looked within to see those places that feel so vulnerable and tender… I chose just one of the ways in which I had learned I was unacceptable and unloveable. I spoke and they listened.
Perhaps what was most important is what they didn’t do. They didn’t laugh. They didn’t minimize it with “oh, don’t be ridiculous.” They didn’t turn away in embarrassment. They didn’t look at me with derision.
They held my truth. They looked at me with warmth and compassion. And they looked at me knowing that every one of them also held such places as well.
Do not keep to yourself the secret of
your heart, my friend!
Say it to me, only to me, in secret.
You who smile so gently, softly whisper,
my heart will hear it, not my ears.
Speak to me through hesitating
tears, through faltering smiles, through
sweet shame and pain, the secret of your heart!
As I began to love myself…
Shame marks the places we fear - the places we dislike - the places that are tender - the places where have learned not to love ourselves
And shame marks the places we hide from others. It is the reason for the facades we wear. It is the reason for the walls we build to keep others from getting too close.
Shame keeps us from dancing freely.
But, wait, I hear you say… don’t we live in a time of incredible selfishness? Isn’t one of the greatest problems in our time that so many people think only of themselves? We buy ourselves gifts, pamper ourselves perhaps… Shouldn’t we be focusing on love for others rather than yet more love for ourselves?
And isn’t it the thing right now to label everyone we don’t like a narcissist?
I have never seen anyone who loved themselves too much. I have seen many people who need to be loved and need to appear great because - deep down - they feel so inadequate and so unloveable. We aren’t selfish because we love ourselves too much - we are selfish because we love ourselves too little and try to find ways to soothe the pain that comes with feeling unworthy.
As Hafiz wrote, "I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being."
Each one of us is loveable. Each of our shames grows larger in the darkness and shrinks in the light of compassionate acceptance.
And this is work - it is a struggle and a practice to learn to love ourselves more fully.
Throughout the month of September, this will be our aim. I hope you will join in this work. In addition to the Uncivil Partnership event here this evening, there are four small group workshops involving meditation, art, play, and recognising our unique styles of being. Please participate if you can.
A number of you are also spreading the message beyond our walls through social media. If you’d like to join in that effort, talk to me after the service.
Today, as we begin this month of loving ourselves, I’d like to invite you to an initial commitment and contribution.
You’ll need the paper love-heart you received when you came in. There will be some time for reflection and then, please write something you find hard to love about yourself on the heart. We’ll circulate a basket to collect them.
Please write only only one side of the heart - these will end up as part of the collage workshop on Saturday the 20th.
Every part of you is acceptable. Every part of you is loveable. May this be a time of coming to accept ourselves and one another more fully and more deeply. May this be a time of love.