“Learning Shame” and how to move through it



Learning should be fun – or so they say! A lot of times it really is. Unfortunately, I’ve been working as an embodiment educator for over 30 years and I can tell you, for a lot of people, fully embodied learning brings up shame. Unconscious ideas about how learning should happen that don’t match up with our actual experience often make what could be a total joy of discovery into something that’s painful.

I myself experience shame around learning – but I’ll write about that next week. This week I want to give names to some of the learning shames my students have shared with me:


  • Time Shame: It’s bad that it’s taking me this long to learn this new thing.


  • Bias Shame: I’m a bad person because I had this blind spot I just became aware of – I should have known about it but I didn’t.


  • Body Shame: It’s bad that my body is not like your body, doesn’t look like your body or move like your body. There is a body norm and I am not it.


Movement itself is a fantastic helper if you struggle with learning shame. One of the best things about movement is that you find out by doing it. You can move not to get something right, but to discover something! You can move through things, around them, get inside them, step outside them and wonder at it all. Movement or mobility of mind, heart, and attention is at the heart of how to get free of shame.

Just this past week I was working with a student who has scoliosis and we were exploring the complex spiraling arrangement of how the muscles wrap around our bones. This student has been told by doctors that there are certain ways they shouldn’t move their spine in order to counter the effect of its natural, asymmetrical shape.

Yet, this student can trace most of their pain back to the moment when they started to work on keeping their spine straight as a part of treatment for scoliosis. It’s taken us about 8 lessons to come to an understanding of this together, and we did it through experimenting with a lot of movements, exploring different ways that the spine can twist and move. The result of that is that we discovered the source of their problem was not moving the spine wrongly, but actually trying to prevent their spine from moving at all!

Shame arose around the time it took to make this discovery. That’s embodied learning, too. It’s not all pretty – but the truth was that I too was learning so much as we worked our way through it all, and actually enjoying the slowing down, the inquiry, myself. It was a joy, as well as a shame. Having access to both is what embodied learning is all about. Embodied Learning means that we take the time to feel all the feelings – shame, confusion, and joy. All of it. We don’t have to fake learn any more.

I’m considering a new name for my work, my business: Embodied Learning Systems.

What do you think? Does it resonate? Please write to me with any feedback, it would be so helpful. I’m so excited to do some deep thinking in the next few months about the magical space in which joyful learning occurs, and how we can create more of that space in our lives and in our culture.

That’s why I have to take a break from teaching the morning Mobilignment™ movement classes. I have some major writing and organizational work to do. That means that this coming week is the last week of Mobilignment™ Morning Movement classes until May. I adore these classes and will miss you all very much – and yet I’m very curious to see how my practice will reshape itself as the business grows.

2 thoughts on ““Learning Shame” and how to move through it”

  1. Great article. I can identify with shame as an impediment to pleasure and to learning. It’s a cycle for me: shame, then shutting down which leads to more difficulty being present and discovering, which makes it very difficut to learn – and then back to shame. With students and myself, I’ve found that curiosity, humor, breathing and grounding are my best tools to counter shame. You’ve certainly brought those qualities to my lessons with you.

    • Hi George! I have so many wonderful memories of learning together! Just being able to bring our true feelings about our bodies into the learning environment is so important, even if it’s just to have the space and curiosity to feel and move through all the emotions that arise. Let’s keep breaking that habitual cycling back into shame ;-(.


Leave a Comment