We know how to listen to shame.
The bear in the closet speaks with the voice of shame all the time, loaded up with a list of our failings and our limits, programmed with tapes of every time we have been hurt, telling us to keep up the armour, to stuff our empty places, to do anything we can do to avoid discomfort.
I am very clear on how dangerous the world is, how others have failed or hurt me, how I have been taught to modulate myself.
For me, though, the challenge has been to be able to listen to shaman.
I have worked to listen to the voice of connection that speaks of how we are all a part of the same firmament, how a human life is something to be grateful for. That voice reminds me that the journey is the reward, that moving beyond comfort is the only way to open to new experiences, new understandings and new rewards, transforming the hell of other people’s rejection to the heaven of other people’s love.
The shame voice is easy to believe because shaming is threaded so much through my experience of the world. Every attack or missed understanding left scars that reinforced the social pressure to play small.
The shaman voice is harder to believe because it seems like a small voice against the tide of social pressure. To keep control, society has worked to undermine and discredit that voice that calls the beat of our own different drummer.
Neither our wisdom nor our shame directly controls our actions. They inform our choices as we struggle to neither pander to our deepest fears nor get mislead by our own dreams.
A human life is always about choices in a finite world, choices which can never be perfect, choices that always come at a cost. We have limited attention, limited endurance, limited tolerance, limited energy and limited time. We are human.
The voice of shame asks us to surrender to our limits, to create barriers that isolate us in comfortable habits.
The voice of shaman as us to transcend our limits, to create openings that let us make divinely touched choices, reminding us that we are not humans living a spiritual life, we are spirits living a human life.
I hear my shaman voice most clearly when I am encouraging others. It is easy to ask them to come from their higher selves, easy to encourage them to make hard choices that are the best choices, easy to hear the longing to do good beyond fear and exhaustion in their stories.
My inner voices are human, though, sad and hurt, wounded and tired, needy and lonely. Long embodied experience has created my own context.
Learning to pick out the lessons to myself that are in the messages I give to others is the hardest part of integrating that shaman knowledge into my own choices. I only have so much, even if I know that being crushed might be the easy way, but it wouldn’t be the shaman way, to paraphrase Riders In The Sky.
We all have both the shame voice and the shaman voice, the voice of our inner demons and the voice of our inner angels. We know that following that demon voice is distracting, indulgent and comfortable, but following that angel voice is transcendent, rewarding and challenging. The ego calls us to our lower, base nature, but the holy spirit calls us to our higher, better nature.
I thank those who reflect and affirm my shaman voice and the choices I make from that space. I need those “yes” to have the power to act on my own better nature beyond the limits of human frailty.
I just hope that I have been able to affirm your shaman voice over you shame voice, too.