Illusion: Shame and Mirrors

shame and mirrors

jewish yogaBy Aviv Ariel on Feb 21, 2014 [Jewish Yoga Network]

Rated PG

Shame versus sacred? When have you been made to feel ashamed for a sacred belief you hold?

This week’s Torah portion of Vayakhel provides the instructions for the building of the mishkan and descriptions of the actual building, including the building of the copper water basin made from the copper mirrors of the women. At first Moshe was concerned and ashamed to use these mirrors, mirrors he felt represented vanity and lust. Actually, the mirrors were sacred.

Pharaoh had placed a ban on the Jewish slaves to not procreate (male children were to be killed, thus prompting couples to stop all childbearing and sexual acts*). The Jewish female slaves knew this would lead to an end of their people, new births were needed to sustain the population and sex bounded couples together in joy. They needed to take matters into their own hands, with copper mirrors. After toiling all day the women would ‘pretty’ themselves with these copper shards. Seeing their image reawakened in them their humanity, confidence and identity. This was beautiful. From this place of ’pretty’ and beauty the women then anointed themselves with oils, applied black kohl to their eyes and red paint to their lips and cheeks. The women then went to meet their husbands in the fields, where they had been toiling all day, in order to awaken in them their passions, confidence and masculinity. They went into the fields to seduce them. The women knew that even with this decree and their current harsh existence that sexuality, sensuality, relationships, family life, procreation and all-around normalcy needed to continue in the face of slavery. The copper mirrors were the sacred vehicle for this wisdom and intuition. Now they would be a sacred vessel, a wash basin.

The third chakra or solar plexus region represents our right to act or action. The shadow energy of this chakra is shame. When we believe, feel, or experience that our actions are wrong and should be suppressed we experience shame. Shame can come from society, our communities, our parents and even from within us, our superegos. Shame creates indecision, cognitive dissonance** and potentially a disconnect from one’s sacred path. We may try to live out other’s sacred paths and not our own.

When we live out other’s sacred path’s and not our own, or get caught in a ‘story’ of how we should act in a particular chapter of our life, we fall prey to harboring resentment and passing judgements on others who live out the life we in fact want or desire but do not have. We are angry. We changed, we gave-up and others should too. This trap is the illusion. Like smoke and mirrors, we have shame and mirrors. We have been shamed into changing, we then shame others to change and act differently. We take away their right to action.

Question: How do I handle shame? What outlets do I have to process shame imposed on me by others? Do I believe and accept this shame or let it go?

Yoga Asana: Focusing on the third chakra, practice the pose of the camel. Kneel on the floor, knees will be hip distance apart, thighs slightly rotated inwards. Drop your pelvis and tailbone. Bring your palms to your back, placed over your kidney points on the outer edges of your third chakra. Elbows moving toward one another behind your back. Pull up through your torso, lifting your upper chest and then release your head and neck, if comfortable. Palms can either stay on your kidney points, or move towards your ankles. Protect your neck and lower back in this process. Be sacred and gentle with your body.

Mantra: I call back my power from wherever and whoever I have intentionally or unintentionally given it to. Like a camel I hold onto the wellsprings of water. In sacred copper vessels I wash my hands and feet. In my empowerment I am free.

Homework 1: Take a 8 by 11 paper. Turn it horizontally (landscape). Fold it in half. Then fold each half in half. You will have four columns. Label the columns from left to right: 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b. In column 1a list five ways people shame you or where you feel shame in your life imposed on you by others. In 1b based on the list in 1a, list five outlets to let go of this shame. Ways in which you can release this shame or move through it. In 2a list five ways you shame others, or how you judge others. How do you impose your beliefs on them? In 2b list five ways you can stop this, or provide others an opportunity to follow their own sacred paths without needing to judge or control them. When we provide space and expansion for others, we automatically provide these gifts to ourselves and the universe rewards us. We elevate our vibration and expand.

Homework 2: Take a mirror in your hand, bring it close to your eye, nose, mouth and then ears. How do you look close up? Study your pores? Then move the mirror away from you. What do you see? Do you like what you see? How does your image awaken your humanity? Or do you get caught in your ‘mind’ and your perceived imperfections? Mentally note them without further judgement. Remember we are b’ tzelem elohim or create(d) in G-d’s image. When we act in mindfulness and loving kindness to others, ourselves and nature/environment, we create godliness.

* The drive and will for sexuality was crushed, as their basic rights of humanity were denied from them as slaves, including procreation. They were dehumanized.

**Cognitive dissonance is the excessive mental stress and discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time. This stress and discomfort may also arise within an individual who holds a belief and performs a contradictory action or reaction.

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