All emotions create sensations within the physical body. Often these sensations are quite apparent and distinct. For example, when afraid, one can feel rapid heart rate, taught muscles, “butterflies” in the stomach, sweaty palms and so on. Shame, being a more stealthy emotion, is far less distinct in its manifestation and so will require some practice to discern its presence.
The more we can develop the skill of applying our attention into the experience of shame, the more effectively we can break the cycle of emotional reactivity provoked by shame.
A useful mechanism to practice this ability is to purposefully provoke the shame experience and pay deep attention to the resulting bodily shame sensations. This can be achieved by recalling a situation wherein deep shame was evoked by something someone said or did. Once you have anchored your attention in such a memory, observe where in the body sensations seem to emanate from. It may feel like a weight, burning, emptiness, sinking or whatever else somewhere in your body. There is no right way that shame should be experienced. Just pay attention and let it unfold. The experience may shift in quality and location as you continue this process.
I often ask people to pay attention to any other perceptual experience that arise during these exercises, Pay attention to any color, texture or other physical properties that the shame experience produces. Imagine shame is a substance. How might it appear?? For most, it appears dark, and viscous, like a black slime or ooze. But once again, there is no correct answer. The only point in all this is to help foster the ability to utilize these sensations as a guide or beacon, in order to help mindfully focus attention into the experience…and by opening to the experience, eventually become less caught in the web of reaction and habit that it imposes. It can come and go, while you maintain equanimity and presence. And remember, it is never about mastery or control
Over time, and with considerable practice, by becoming more able to track shame through the behaviors, thoughts, and sensations, you will become more capable of recognizing shame. Paradoxically, by doing so, you can come to realize that you are not shame, but that it is just an experience that occurs. Thus shame will no longer be an identity, but just another cloud that passes, only temporarily obscuring your true nature which is always shining.