All to often a trip down Memory Lane can take a left turn into shame, especially for those who are on a spiritual path. Spirituality tends to endorse higher expectations for behavior and can backfire into creating a hidden environment of shame. This unrealistic goal of perfection causes spiritual people to be haunted by their human past. Being human means being a part of an evolution of consciousness and being spiritual means being consciously dedicated to one's own human evolution. One gets wiser and able to understand consequences much more clearly as he or she evolves.
Decisions, choices and actions are always made based on the level of consciousness the person has at that specific time in his or her life. Because human consciousness evolves, the person is naturally going to make better choices in the future than in the past. Judging a past decision, choice or action through that higher level of awareness, which now is wiser, stronger and knows better, will always throw past actions into a poor light. It is easy to see how shame arises when one does not acknowledge that his or her consciousness has grown, shifted and changed as it continues to evolve.
Part of evolution is learning from mistakes. Instead of going into shame about a past experience, take the time to look at the lesson attached to the experience. Every use of poor judgment or unfortunate experience has a lesson somewhere. Find the lesson and then trace how you have used that lesson, or if it is a recent issue, how you can use that lesson in the future. Sometimes when a person's consciousness has not developed to be able to clearly see the lesson, the ability to see the action needed for future situations has also not developed. This is when poor responses arise. For example, if someone was taken advantage of in a relationship early in life, he or she may have decided not to trust anyone, rather than to simply be more aware of how his or her need for affection tended to make the person ignore intuitive red flags. So, from your current higher level of consciousness, take the time to go over the lessons you've learned. Look at what choices and decisions you made at the time and make sure your conclusions still make sense.
It can be helpful to imagine yourself making different choices given similar circumstances. In a safe place where you wont be disturbed, take a few deep breaths. Imagine a similar, if not the same, situation happening. See yourself making the choice that you wish you had. What action do you take now that creates a feeling of pride in your choice and leaves you feeling self-empowered? This is the choice you would have made if you had the level of consciousness and spiritual evolution that you have now. Take some time with this one and don't be afraid to imagine you are even braver or wiser than you feel.
When you can see yourself as human with a growing and evolving consciousness, you will understand that you made the best choices based on the level of conscious awareness you had at that time. Then you will be able to love your past self with all its mistakes and poor choices. The next time you take a left turn on Memory Lane, instead of going into shame, send loving energy to your younger self. See yourself making better choices today. Give yourself the credit for the growth you have made and allow your self the gift of evolution by learning from the past instead of judging it.
To recap, here are some key ways to release shame.
- Recognize that you have grown and so has your ability to make wiser choices.
- See how much you have evolved and how you now make better decisions.
- Find the lesson in the experience and see how you have put that lesson into action.
- Re-evaluate past decisions you made that were based on the experience.
- Visualize the situation you were in and see yourself take the action that you would now.
- Send loving and understanding energy to your earlier self.
Most of all, remember you are a human being. You made mistakes; you will make mistakes again. That is good, mistakes are one way we learn and evolve. Looking back at your past with non-judgment is another way. When you go into self-judgment, don't judge the judgment. This too is human, learn from it and move on. Life is a series of actions and reactions. It is how we handle the reactions that determine our conscious evolution. You have the power to grow, so let the shame go.
Cindy Griffith-Bennett is author of Soul Soothers: Mini Meditations for Busy Lives and co-author of Voyage of Purpose: Spiritual Wisdom from Near Death back to Life. Cindy teaches meditation and other metaphysical workshops across the country. A frequent guest on television and radio, she recently finished her Masters thesis, examining a non religious-specific journey for spiritual maturity according to mystics from multiple traditions and is about to publish Grow your Spiritual Business with co-author, Lisa K. Find more about Cindy at SpiritualSimplicityBooks.com.