No Escape: Healing Shame with Equanimity

No Escape: Healing Shame with Equanimity by Beth Hemmila

Easy is a blindfold.
- Beth Hemmila

You can't escape from suffering. Rinse and repeat.

I know this concept very well, but unfortunately my mind is convinced there will be a glorious end to the pain, hassles, challenges, and discomforts of my life. In fact, secretly I believe I am an escape artist with the power to exit stage left wherever pain exists. What's waiting for me off stage that's so exciting? The belief that things will be easy.

But what I keep hearing life say back to me is that there is no escape. If you run from suffering it follows you. It knocks on your door and says, "Hey, What's up? I've been looking for you all over the place."

One of the deepest forms of suffering we all share is shame. Something that I think most of us would like to avoid. Many times we see ourselves trying escape difficult situations, relationships, jobs, and circumstances -- things we can name and point to with a childlike certainty. However, what's more illusive is when we are running away from our own shame. It's hard to see and touch. Shame is difficult to explain to another person because it's all wrapped up in our mysterious thoughts and feelings.

Shame is like a scruffy, mangy, flea-ridden dog from the streets who tags along behind you looking for a handout. Maybe at first you don't see him, but then he patiently waits outside your door all skinny and beat up, making noise, disrupting your day, asking you to pay attention. You don't want to give him the time of day because he might cause you discomfort.

This is what shame feels like to me. You can't shake him. He sticks to you like glue asking for your time and a morsel of your love.

The other day while I was having yet another big lesson in no escape from shame, I felt my mind scurry around looking for solutions, band aids, and a way out. Then I realized that without a doubt there was no where to run. So I sat and laughed until I cried because I finally understood what it was like to have equanimity for myself.

In Buddhism, equanimity means to "stand in the middle of all this," and I have written about it before in regards to dealing with other people and circumstances outside yourself, but I have never explored how you can apply it to your own self. How do you stand in the middle of all you have created, including the shame that follows you like a shadow wherever you go, and just be with it?

What I discovered is that perhaps you have to be like a kindly grandmother with your shame. Sit there. See it. Maybe even hold it's hand. You're not there to fix or change your shame but to just be with it. To practice a sort of soft patience as you and your shame breathe in time together. To rest in the middle of all of it and recognize everything will be okay just as it is.


  1. Are u speaking of 'shame' meaning a wrong that someone knows they are doing to another? if so, there is only one time where I acted out and for me it was justified for the way I was treated endless times... Granted, I did feel bad at first, but as I said, it was justified... nothing horrific, more of a prank...When it comes to shame, when it comes to being the butt end of my mother's jokes, THAT evidently made me think twice of her.. I kept those happenings in my brain and swore I would never do that to my kids or to anyone else.. That behavior is something that one would see in a cheap Lifetime movie.. I shy away from that as well as people who want control of others... Those two characteristics are what I hate most of what humans do and what they are capable of... Sad, isn't it?

    1. I don't know what kind of shame I'm talking about. Sometimes it's like you said you acted out or maybe sometimes it's just like a built in shame because of some thoughts you have about your looks or abilities. Shame seems like a pretty confusing sensation to me. Being on the receiving end of jokes that weren't welcomed, sounds pretty painful. What an incredible way you turned that around to be a different kind of person with your kids and others. It is kind of sad having to create distance.

    2. Yes, it can be thought of as sad (distance), but it makes sense to me... Why be around someone who isn't giving off positive vibes? all it did to me was stress me out... there were times where I did nothing but took what was dished out and felt sick about it. I finally decided to take control of myself since no one else could/would.

    3. I'm with you on that way of thinking. Better to do the things that keep you happy and healthy then be influenced by the negative vibrations of others :)


I'd love for you to share your ideas and stories on my blog! Please know that I may not always be able to e-mail you a direct response, so be sure to check back to my blog and continue the dialogue. Many blessings for connecting with me through word and image :)