#2 On Shame and Superfood

Wild Blue-Green ( Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, for lovers of Latin out there~hip, hip, hooray! ), a fresh water algae cultivated in klamath Lake in Oregon, is said to have optimum nutrition owing to heatless processing and the cold, pristine waters where it is grown.  Yet under conditions not fully understood, Wild Blue-Green can transform into a deadly toxin that kills just minutes after it is eaten.

This easily-crossed divide between life boosting and life threatening I find deeply compelling, and a welcome reminder that the seeming  nature of things is essentially fluid and can dramatically change in any given moment. (What a fantastic inducement to hold our experience lightly)  A powerful healing plant holds within itself the power also to take life.  The natural world holds up many such mirrors, and I find great hope for myself (and for us all) in this instance of life reconfiguring to death since then, surely, what appears initially in our human dimension to be destructive has the capacity to yield imagination, love and cooperative action.

I am neither social scientist nor scholar, but I am ever-so-slowly learning to respect and trust my own experience more deeply, and to turn towards that experience as a signpost to freedom and happiness.  Perhaps like some of you reading this now, I sometimes (wrongly) believe that my person is essentially flawed and that renders me less; the lie, whispered over and over within proves why I will always fail.  Usually, it's some tired, reiteration of 'not... enough'.  This is shame.  It consumes life and possibility the way a fire consumes oxygen as it ravages.  Shame reduces  the loving heart and fertile mind to a stupefied stillness and silence, and so keeps the infinite gifts contained there locked in secret chambers.  More, shame can so fully eclipse the nature of our own radiance, that the nearly flatline of withdrawn, minimized life becomes the only life we know, and aspirations long ago surrendered hover in the mind like stories from the next table we once overheard.  

Enter yoga.  Yoga is the intention and conscious movement toward remembering and re-collection, gathering all the estranged fragments of our experience again and again into loving awareness.  Yoga practice is the antithesis of shame which alienates, denigrates, and deceives us.  The lie that is told almost constantly, by sharp and silver tongues, is that no one could possibly understand, never mind love our wretched selves.  A subtle shift of tone, a side glance, a call that does not come on time, all can unleash a flood of shame.  The paradox is that it is precisely in opening those defended, precious rooms of the heart we begin to heal, we begin to know our own intrinsic value within, and in the world around us.  We start naturally with the body, the most immediate and accessible gateway for most of us, and from there proceed to the breath, feelings, thoughts, stories, judgements, memories, opinions, attitudes and hopes.  This fluid, shifting gallery of experience provides infinite chances to embrace our selves, in all of our sometimes ragged glory.  Most of us, like myself, choose the world of family, relations and work, and thus does relationship present some of the most profound moments to practice, to open the shadowy, entrenched habits to the bright fields of love, where surely the shadows are made thin and the horizon opens before us.  

(510) 704-1351     jamesryderyoga@gmail.com