“There are no mistakes. The events we bring upon ourselves, no matter how unpleasant, are necessary in order to learn what we need to learn; whatever steps we take, they’re necessary to reach the places we’ve chosen to go.”
– Richard Bach
I made a mistake. It’s hard to begin to write about it feels like this: “If I do something wrong (i.e. bad), I am bad.” It’s the difference between shame and guilt, which is best understood as the difference between “I am bad” (shame) and “I did something bad” (guilt).
It came to a head during a multi-day stint of challenges which tested my equanimity – everything from an intensification of my girl’s whining and tantrums to a mistaken reading of the weather for the outdoor yoga class I was supposed to teach (instead of blissfully leading the outdoor practice, I was in the parking lot of the Indian restaurant with my 3-year old who couldn’t handle herself inside). Then my mistake was brought to light – in a compassionate way, but wow, for someone on a path of honesty and living a clear and compassionate life, it was really hard to know I did something wrong.
So how did I deal with it? The first step is just about one of the most important things I can share with you:
1. Feel your feelings
Rather than hiding from your feelings, numbing out, or arguing with them, get quiet and feel your feelings. Instead of avoiding, go through the pain and know that it will fade on the other side. As I drove away, I cried – just feeling and releasing the painful emotions. Iinstead of distracting myself with music or a podcast on that drive, I paid attention to the emotions and thoughts that arose. Each time an old script of shame came to mind, I would recognize it, and consciously label it as a “negative thought,” or “judging.” I started to release the feelings.
2. Share with someone who deserves to hear your story. Another crucial step was sharing my feelings of shame. For me, that person who I can be vulnerable with is my husband, and that helped. I great teacher on this is Brene Brown, talks about who should listen to your shame story in this interview with Oprah.
3. Drink water, breathe, and exercise. Taking care of your body with loving-kindness allows us to heal from painful mistakes. Get yourself to your yoga practice, eat your greens, and get cleaner with water.
Did I handle my mistake and bad feelings perfectly? No. As I was dealing with my own storm, my 3-year old had a little hurricane, which I was not in the optimal state to deal with.That night I had lost my energy for mindfulness and fell back to older, destructive habits. Which brings me to..
4. If you have to wallow, wallow well. As I can attest from my stomach-ache the next day, numbing through wine, chocolate, and popcorn were not that helpful, but that previous evening I was too burned out and I gave up a little bit. I gave up through old numbing habits of wine and chocolate. I allowed myself that, but I didn’t let it get out of control. If you are not an addictive personality, and you think you just need to wallow, allow yourself – with some quality, moderation and awareness.
Know that all of your “mistakes” are lessons on your path, allowing you to be who you are meant to be. Love yourself through the process of feeling those thorny feelings and know that you will come out stronger on the other side.
Thanks for reading. I hope these tips help. As always, the discussion can begin below or at the facebook page!
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