What Led Me to Offer Shame into Joy:
First, a little about my background. I was one of the daughters of the rabbi of Las Vegas, and from the time we were little, and all wearing the same dresses (of course as the third I was wearing that beige, puffed sleaved dress, for six years), we were supposed to smile for the congregation, closing the book on real feelings. Yet I found my kinesthetic path….at home I was heard in a unique way: I was a body rocker and head banger from the time I was a baby up through my young adult years. “Stop banging your head,” I heard on a daily basis, as I rocked back and forth on the living room couch where no one could see me, or in my dad’s study.
After I was hugely vocal and fired, along with some others, from a company, and after attending an exciting business seminar with over 100 women about women weaving together their gifts, a year ago in May, I had a huge, “You are not cool, cute, young, or by comparison, good enough as the other women” shame attack in my bedroom, which led me to walking to my full length closet mirror and awkwardly, at first, saying nice things to myself, and, noticing the responses on my face, listening, and giving myself compassion. This opened up Pandora’s box, a “Shame and Joy” intensive where I laughed and cried and made up poems, permissions, affirmations and healing songs I sang day and night, for two weeks.
During that Wild journey, I also wrote and wrote and wrote and drew in bright colors about my relief in learning I was not weird and not shameful, but resourceful for getting my needs for soothing and kinesthetic touch met through head banging and body rocking. If you imagine that there were various Beasts I hadn’t wanted to let out of my shame closet for years, as in Beauty and the Beast, I invited some of the dreaded Beasts, gradually loving them up more and more so that they danced with me and turned into princes.
Within months I set up my Peanuts style “Shame and Joy” stand. This is my Cheerios back of the box description of my mission: In a light, oft humorous way, I help women and men through fears and impacts of childhood and cultural shame, and be courageous, and honoring of themselves in embodying the service or business they yearn to do, adding to the balance of strength, wisdom, and comraderie on our planet. (And…I am in the process of working on this, too, or else I wouldn’t be teaching it). A little more about my Shame into Joy Journey can be found at Bio (My “Shame Story” published in “The Daily Breeze”).
A bit about my background: I, like many of you, am an imperfection specialist. Like you, I have hopes for connection and success, fears, chuckles, and wants to be seen and appreciated. I am not a very boxy person – and have experienced many circles – circles where I taught yoga – including once at an Arizona Mental Institution, a group I co-led with women former heroine users, a circle of redwood trees containing a tree-house I lived in in Ben Lomond, California, groups I co-led and led of people seeking transplants – heart, lung, and liver, circles of dancers in Five Rhythms classes, circle of clients in a teleseminar about Lightening Up Shame, a circle of women in a novel I’m writing, and a circle of early risers in a Native Yoga class I created in Santa Cruz (an experience I am deeply, wildly passionate about).
(That photo is of me after a Five Rhythms dance class). I haven’t followed one straight path, rather winding back and looping forward. For example, I loved writing a humor column in junior high, and working as an editor and editorialist for my high school newspaper, and have wound back opening my humor door a crack to peek into my work about shame and joy. I also immerse in vulnerable writing about the “rooms of a thousand demons” I’ve walked through, like my husband’s cancer and death, that I hope, hope, hope may help someone else, am working on fictional and non-fictional writing projects, and had two pieces recently published in “Cultural Weekly”. I gratefully received the Gwen Wakeling Endowment for the Arts towards writing the novel (I’m avoiding working on) about women and sexual assault.
I am a mother of an artist – a strong, discerning, assertive young woman, am an expressive arts professor and coach, and facilitator for Virtues Project International. I just finished offering a five week program called “Lighten Up Shame Luau” about Five Shame Messages, and host a teleseminar series for women called Living BIG. Two of my current passions are the relief, joy and release of gifts possible through facing shame, and bringing it out of hiding, and bringing gender based violence in, and after, armed conflict, out of hiding. You can see several recent blogs I’ve slaved over, I mean written with passion, on my blog here.
There are many ways to beckon things out of hiding. For example, when you lose something, you can hunt for it and get increasingly frustrated, pray to St. Anthony or your favorite Helper, or trust that as you do other things around the house you will happen on the lost item. One of my favorite ways of bringing truths out of hiding is to use expressive arts: dance, writing, drawing, songwriting, and combinations thereof.
Living creatively is also form of “art” per the ancient Egyptians. I was fortunate to study at USC with Leo Buscaglia, who lived with love and tremendous enthusiasm about the uniqueness of people, and the wonders of life. He hugged trees and brought Autumn leaves to line the floors of his home – and I, following his example, did too and would forever think out of the box. I was fortunate to participate in his “Love” class, where he taught on one of the most important subjects for humankind. As we take the hands of our shame, we get more and more courage to live our creative ideas. Why not?
After earning Masters degrees in Social Work and Public Health at Columbia University I squshed my roundness, my creative and imaginative, kinesthetic soul into square holes for 20 years as a clinical social worker in medical centers. When I ventured into studying expressive arts therapy with Daria Halpern’s Tamalpa Institute, I LOVED it. I went on to take a workshop with Natalie Rogers, pioneer of Expressive Arts Therapy, Gabrielle Roth, founder of Five Rhythms as well as with the local Five Rhythms teachers, Vinn Marti of Soul Motion, Jack Grapes’ Method Writing, took Authentic Movement and Hypnotherapy workshops, and writing classes at USC, UCLA and with the Women’s Writing Guild. I have participated in several circles for women with Jungian perspectives, including with Kathleen Prophet (an expert at one of the most valuable arts – that of witnessing another). I finally started doing work more alligned with me, where I could play and be creative more, teaching in universities.
I have snuck my creativity into teaching 30 college classes, and into working at medical centers’ it was sometimes a challenge. I learned, as many of you have, that learning comes from our day to day life experience perhaps more than from professional training. It was really not until my late husband got cancer, and perhaps even when he departed, that I became a good social worker, in my eyes, because I had more empathy for what clients go through. I have worked in many, many areas of medical centers including
- At Long Beach Memorial with children and families with HIV and infants who were in the neonatal ICU and their parents.
- At UCLA Ronald Regan with people in the process of seeking and/or getting heart, lung and liver transplants, and those in support groups there.
- At Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles where I worked with children with brain tumors and their families
I’ve led many groups – one of the most profound being with women ex-heroine addicts at the Beth Israel Methodone Maintenance Center in Brooklyn. I have led classes for health professionals, managers, and the community (many through a company I founded called Foundations for Excellence), and have taught 30 university courses in Human Services, Sociology and Religion (and even Critical Thinking!) . Some of the favorite classes I taught were Working with Groups, Lifelong Learning and Personal Development and Religion.
I live in San Pedro with five four-legged beings, and you can find me with a tiny Chihuahua-Papillon mix on my lap, sitting on my shiatsu massaging backed office chair, writing to you now. I hope you get lots and lots, or at least one, great tip or inspiration, while visiting here. Thanks much for coming with your open heart.
What others are saying:
I’m not exactly sure what has changed in the relationship with my mom since our work together but I do believe the exercises we engaged in side by side did indeed inspire and initiate a healing energy on a level that I am not in control of – call it Divine
You bring crisp morning light to the venue which enables a tweak in my consciousness and awakens me to a new perspective-like the song of a bird I’ve not heard before but catches my attention in all of its beauty and splendor. The rippling of this awakening is subtle, ethereal and I’m changed, more peaceful and I dare to dance with a little more confidence and joy. Thank your for your honesty and courage in speaking truth. – Wendy Mather
– Linda Kavelin-Popov, Co-Founder, The Virtues Project, Author of Graceful Endings, The Family Virtues Guide, Sacred Moments, and A Pace of Grace
“I do have to say our session we had several months ago was critical to the success of my journey , I had felt very confident in myself but still had a few things holding me back and we focused on one thing in our session but it actually carried over into so much more where I think so differently. Was critical to my weight loss journey and to move forward in my business adventures . I wanted you to know the profound effect it had on my life and I am most grateful.” -Maria Ann Martin, MariaAnnMartin.com, The VIP Journey
“I“I was very moved by the discussion of “shame” and reflected in my own life… Your journey led you to being able to “name” and put words to feelings that others struggle with; instead of continuing to retreat inward with the heaviness that shame brings to your heart and mind, you opened up and embraced those feelings, learned from them, and are now teaching others. I admire the courage that it takes to do that, and believe it is the greatest service we have to offer the world… our whole selves, vulnerable, open, willing to share. Bravo, Claudia!” – Martine Hubbard, Artist, Helping People with Health and Wealth
“So wonderfull to see you out here! with your wisdom… truly a scintillating rainbow of shimmering colors and movement! ..Sheer creative joy is emerging from you, Claudia! Continue to express your exquisite authentic art… in service to the sacred heart.”
– Kathleen Prophet, Unleash Your Sacred Wild Creative Genius