Updated: Nov 6, 2022
by Paul Fetler
There are periods that I have felt I am wearing layers of unresolved shame. During these moments, cloudy moods enter and move through me like weather patterns. When a shame cloud hangs on, I have thought of the boy Pig-Pen, from Charles Schultz's cartoon, Peanuts. Pig-Pen, as you may recall, carried a perpetual dirt cloud around him. Watching the Peanuts television specials as a child, I marveled how countless dirty particles danced with his every gesture. Whether moving on the gymnasium floor, sidewalk, or snow, his signature dirt always followed him.
Cloaked in Dust
The official Peanuts website mentions, “Pig-Pen considers it a point of pride that he is ‘cloaked in the dust of countless ages.’”
These words bring a smile to my face. I certainly have been defensive, even boastful at times, to overcompensate for feelings of insecurity. However, I don’t want to be attached to any karmic dust of past self-identifications I have accumulated - shame-based, or otherwise!
For a long time, I covered up feelings of inadequacy by being an overachiever. I equated value with what I did, rather than embracing that I was already a spiritual being. I am still susceptible at times to being a “human doing” under stress. I have also, in the past, utilized yogic techniques in attempts to bypass feeling deeper emotional pain.
We know that shame magnifies and distorts the lens of our perceptions. It fosters a subliminal soundtrack of unkind voices inside. As if skipping on a broken record, the voices reinforce stories about how we are uniquely broken, and no one, of course, understands.
I am now increasingly willing, in meditation, with the help of my guru, to be more present, and not afraid, with whatever springs up from the dusty basement of my subconscious. Although the emotions and thought forms do not have the same density, intensity, or frequency as before, heavy clouds do roll in.
While I relate the outer image of Pig-Pen’s portable dirt to when my own magnetic field gets mucky, what has always resonated deeper is his unapologetic attitude about it, and willingness to play with other kids.
Referring again to the Peanuts website: “He may travel in his own personal dust cloud, but Pig-Pen’s mind and conscience are clear. He is confident in who he is and carries himself with dignity and respect. He treats others well and hopes they will do the same for him.”
A therapist might say Pig-Pen has healthy self-acceptance, even if his physical hygiene is not stellar! Pig-Pen plays with other kids, although only Charlie Brown unconditionally accepts him. The boy with a traveling dirt cloud even aspires to be class president one day. Like Pig-Pen, we don’t need to judge ourselves or the frailties of others.
I recall years ago reading how my guru Paramhansa Yogananda stated that when a glass of muddy water – likening it to our consciousness – is shaken, we cannot see through the liquid clearly. However, if the glass is held still, the mud will settle down to the bottom. Then, we can see, with clarity, both the mud below and the clear water above.
In the stillness of deeper meditation and attunement to my guru, I have perceived both muddy shame spirals, and the sunlight of divine love shining at the same time. The yoga masters have given us tools for inner purification; to experience ourselves beyond the twists and murkiness of our surface emotions and thoughts.
As yogis and yoginis, we know – yet may need to be reminded often – that Spirit’s love for each of us is unlimited. Divine love is also within the core of our being and transcends the agitation of surface worries and self-seeking agendas, which keep us small. With this awareness, we can, like Pig-Pen, lighten up and participate cheerfully in life. Regardless of how much we may still feel encased in dust, in essence we are each one of God’s kids.