We enter Paradise in our underwear. I feel much more comfortable standing here than I thought I would. I chose my underwear carefully – solid black, stretch fabric one piece bra that ‘custom conforms to any size’ (the black is new for me, usually it’s flesh coloured or white) and gelato pink cotton undies to the waist. I convince myself it’s just beach wear. However, I never go to the beach without a surf shirt and board shorts over my one-piece costume. My Celtic ancestry and various medications mean I sunburn after 20 minutes under the Aussie sky. My profession as a science teacher (retired) meant that covering up was a really good idea for safety and child protection reasons. Add to this I’m shy by nature and have been in only one relationship for over 40 years. What am I doing here? Because I believe to the core of my being that our human body, in all its various guises, is the most beautiful thing we possess. The Eve story casts a shadow of cultural shame over me, and I want to become free.
Standing in a circle, we re-introduced Paradise from beneath the ground. We took turns to call the parts of paradise back. Magically, bird’s called and lizards drank, centipedes scurried and breeze wafted. One of the teachers suggested that wearing underwear is sometimes more uncomfortable than not. Be in the discomfort.
After reading from the Bible, a teacher led us into thinking and deeply feeling our shame stories both personal and cultural: “I did something wrong so I must deserve this.” Standing in a circle, one person stepped in at a time. The others then asked gently in unison: “What is your shame?” After naming our shame, each person stayed in the centre while others responded positively about what they saw in that person. Open eye contact during this time was encouraged, as it was throughout the entire advanced path. (Open eyes are encouraged during all pagan rituals and paths).
I have journeyed on an Inner Path now four times. Each experience has held surprises for me. I found myself saying: “My shame is my obesity. After a life-threatening illness, I lost 30 kg. I then allowed others to exclude me when my significant relationship disclosed his disorder to our wider social network. I put the weight back on again.”
Taking the supportive words we could remember from the activity, we started a tribal dance to the rhythm of drums. We were encouraged to vent our anger at a ‘jealous God’. “How dare you leave us to clean up your mess?” “How dare you punish us for a free choice?” Our chant developed and included words like: courage, honesty, truth, power and passion.
After this cathartic experience, I participated in a ceremony to remove the Angel energy from the Sword. Myself and another member later placed the Sword on the hearth in the ritual room.
We were left to ponder the question: “How can I bring myself to confront God? Overcome cultural shame? Overcome my own shame?”