March 22, 2018

My Shame Chronicle

I promised to write more about my journey into shame at Burning Man. Now, after several weeks of marinating and integrating, I’m ready to share more about it. I ask only that you open your heart as you read this, as it’s still tender and raw for me…

Shame has been one of the major themes of my life, beginning before I can even remember. I’ve worked with it many times and every time, I think it’s the last time because I’ve cleaned out all the little bits of dust and demons. So it came as a surprise when it showed its painful head again.

Every year at Burning Man, a temple is built. People are invited to get closure for any grief and loss, or use the sacred offering in any way that they wish. Many people bring offerings. This year the temple was created to honor Juno, a Roman goddess who was a fertility deity and protectress of women. The temple was beautiful this year. It would be burned on the final night of the festival.

This leg of my journey started with a workshop on forgiveness that was held at the Sacred Spaces Temple. We were guided to look into 4 areas for things to forgive and what lit up like a lime green neon sign for me was emotions and the dominant emotion was shame. Took me totally by surprise. As I felt into it, my throat and belly tightened and I shed a few tears. I rode my bike around the area to look at some of the art installations and move my body, hoping to move it through and out.

The next day at a camp meeting, someone shared about a friend who was born into a family that didn’t value women. It felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach as I realized that my family neither saw nor valued women. I had always felt like I didn’t belong in my family, but had chalked that up to teenage angst and many moves during school years. Now I began to connect the dots and some things that I had simply sensed before came into clear focus. After the meeting I thanked the person who shared and he offered me a hug. As he wrapped his arms around me I burst into tears.

Several times it moved through me in the form of dance as I participated in Rhythm Wave, which offers 5 Rhythms movement meditations. It felt like my body was ridding itself of a possession.

One evening my sweetheart and I had dinner with a new friend, and I sensed some strong erotic energy between them. As I watched, I could literally see the sparks flying and I was fascinated. I also felt a deep grief that it wasn’t coming my way. And then it did come my way. The three of us laid on our bed and cuddled and talked, and there was the shame in the background for me ~ shame that I wasn’t enough for my man, shame that my libido needs a lot of attention to be stimulated, shame of being an “older” woman in the middle of a crowd of young and beautiful women. Later that night, my sweetheart and I had an exquisite lovemaking experience.

The next morning I woke up before the sun was up, overflowing with the urge to write my offering for the Temple of Juno. I had brought a piece of wood back from the temple, and completely covered the entire piece of wood with words. What flowed out of me was an offering of my shame to the Temple ~ my shame about being a woman in this body changed by cancer and many decades of life; shame about being born into a family that neither saw nor valued me; shame about all the ways I have been abusive to myself during my life; shame about loving my sexuality and being sexually abused as a child; deep shame about simply being. The offering became a prayer asking to know my own beauty and wisdom, to recognize and honor the sensual and beautiful goddess within me, to love my body as it is, to heal my shame and have it inform me as I go forward in life. This all poured out of me like a waterfall. When I finished writing, I put the offering away and didn’t think much about it for a few days.

Then 11 of us from our camp made a journey to the Temple to offer a mandala made by a camp member who wasn’t with us this year. I brought my offering. After we placed the mandala and honored our friend, I suddenly felt moved to make my offering and to be witnessed by my camp members. I asked any who were interested to stay. They all stayed. We were 9 men and 2 women. We stood in a circle and I read the words from my offering. As I read I was trembling and crying and it felt like my heart and soul were cracking open. When the words ended, the other woman morphed into the amazing priestess and invited me to stand in the center of the circle so that they could witness and honor the goddess in me, the wisdom in me, and see me. I turned to each one to look into their eyes and receive their love. Each made a gesture to honor me. I have no idea how much time passed because it was one of those timeless experiences that profoundly moved me. At the end, I placed my offering in the Temple, and it burned a few nights later.

Since then I have continued to shed layers of shame and grief. Some of it is mine and some of it feels like it is for so many women who experience shame about being a woman in any way. I felt that I was creating a sacred ritual for every woman with breast cancer, and many more. It has been simultaneously powerful and humbling.

I sensed when I began this Sexy After Cancer work that it would be big and profound and touch many lives. I didn’t realize that it would continue to evolve me so profoundly. I’m reminded of the adage that we teach what we most need to learn. I know that my life has been dedicated to love and helping to heal the craziness about sex in our culture. Now I know that it is also about forgiveness and shame.

Somehow it seems perfect that I write this on November 1, just after Samhain. In some traditions this is the time when the veils between the worlds are thinnest and we can commune with souls that are no longer in bodies. It’s also the beginning of the New Year in those traditions. May this offering provide you with an opening of some sort and may it help heal any shame that you carry.




  1. beautiful. thank you for sharing the story and some of the ongoing healing energy…..

    btw… did you see my 5 foot vulva painting? in a show for “devotional realms” at nearby college…. pics are on FB….

    blessings dear.

    ani rose

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