This morning in my group Zoom meditation I made an enormous faux pas. In the middle of the 45-minute session, I loud-whispered to my partner Nancy in the kitchen that our dog Freckles had already eaten. My friend Jessica, also on the Zoom meditation texted me that I wasn’t muted. I quickly put myself on mute and then entered into a shame spiral.
My whole body got hot. I became unable to concentrate and though I stayed on the video call, I could not resume my personal meditation. My head was spinning and, with every rotation, spitting out a new criticism. “You’re so stupid.” Swoosh. “You’re a moron.” Swoosh. “You don’t belong here.” Swoosh. “You’re an embarrassment.”
As these disparagements flooded my psyche, I willed myself to do what I often do to get myself out of the negative thinking pattern. “What is the opposite of shame?” I asked myself. “Love, acceptance, belonging.”
When I have been on the other side, witnessing someone who did something embarrassing or humiliating, I have felt compassion for them. In a way, their blooper is a gift, a reminder that we are all human. And mine this morning was too. I gave the gift of making a mistake, something probably every person on that call has worried about doing at some point.
I thought about all of these people who’ve I’ve meditated online with for the last fifty days. Every morning, meeting each other before the sunrise at 6 am to sit together and, in our own ways, pray for healing for ourselves and the world.
When I interrupted the flow of our practice it was a blip in time. For them, a minor distraction. I know that they didn’t feel what I felt. They didn’t think I was a loser, that I didn’t belong. They probably didn’t give it a second thought after it happened.
In my shame mind, these people would be spending the day gossiping about the nitwit who wasn’t on mute during meditation. But as I contemplated this intrusive shame-thought I realized how utterly narcissist and self-important it is. And unrealistic. That two-second interruption was just that, a two-second interruption.
At the end of the daily meditation, we all unmute for a moment to say goodbye. I thought about saying something like, “I’m so sorry you guys….. blah blah blah” but I decided not to. I thought about my mistake like the gift that it was — an invitation to being human. If I self-flagellated, worried, and asked for forgiveness from the group, I would be telling my friends that, if they’d made that same mistake, I wouldn’t be forgiving of them. I would be saying it’s not okay to be human.
So, like every morning I just smiled and waved. I had found my way to the opposite of shame. Like I do every morning, I felt the love and acceptance from the group. Shame was nowhere to be found.