A Medical Doctor’s Insight into Shyness – the Bampa Notes

The following quotes are from notes left by Clark W. Heath, MD. (known as Bampa) and were shared by the community member Andrew S. Heath. The reason these notes are shared is because they come from a credible source who personally dealt with shyness.

Bampa was a medical doctor who was shy himself and according to his grandson Andrew S. Heath was “interested in people all his life – interested in their thoughts, their feelings, their career choices, their growth and development, their interaction with other people, their total life adjustment. He had great personal interest in shyness because he himself was shy and had vivid memories of his own shy agonies as a young person. His notes on shyness, therefore, include an autobiographical account of his own struggles with being shy, an account which reveals much about himself as a sensitive and insightful person as well as about his own family heritage.”

Bampa writes “Having had to struggle painfully with shyness myself, I have felt a sympathy with others who are shy, I am a physician, and I have observed in others, and I have wondered if perhaps I could help people to conquer their shyness or at least to live with it. Since I am over 50 years of age, my shyness is no longer the crucial thing it was, albeit still bothersome. I have learned that what was true in my case is repeated over and over in youngsters today.  Perhaps my experience will help shy people to realize they are not unique.”

The Bampa Notes contain valuable insight into shyness because they come from a physician who was shy, someone who studied others who were shy, and someone who created a happy and fulfilling life. I believe shyness is a complex subject and that the human mind, spirit and personality are understood by science and psychology in only a very limited way.

Someone who is shy themselves can have the deep level of understanding, insight, intuition, compassion, and credibility required to really understand the truth behind shyness.  Bampa’s writing reminds me of the writing of Elaine Aron PH.D., a shy/sensitive psychotherapist who wrote The Highly Sensitive Person in 1996 which is causing the psychology community to admit decades of misunderstanding shyness.

Summary Quotes

“Shyness… is present in every “normal” person…”

“… is shy because he really is a social person …”

“Quietness and shyness were somewhat virtues and not necessarily something to counteract or battle against.”

“As I search for crucial errors my parents may have made, there is only one possible thing that stands out; that they allowed me to use bashfulness as a tool to get my way.”


Bampa writes “Shyness can be an extreme handicap, just as much so in rare instances as the affliction of deafness, blindness, or severe lameness.  Shyness, however, is present in every “normal” person, in some degree and in certain circumstances. If one lived alone on a desert island, with no dangers or threats, he could not be shy, for there would be nothing to be shy about. But no one lives in this way (if he did he would be extremely unhappy). We live socially, with family, friends and acquaintances and in communities of groups of people.  In the main, I believe one is shy because he is self-conscious of the people about him; he is afraid of something – usually of something he is unfamiliar with.  He wants affection, friends and recognition, and he fears the opposite; rejection, enemies and ridicule – threats to his happiness. Having been rejected or ridiculed at times (who hasn’t been?), he behaves in a shy way.”

“But being shy is more complicated than this.  What I would like to emphasize is that the shy person is shy because he really is a social person; he likes people and is sensitive to them.  He is lonely without a social life, and yet the threats of social life interfere with his obtaining the very happiness that he seeks.”

“As I search for crucial errors my parents may have made, there is only one possible thing that stands out; that they allowed me to use bashfulness as a tool to get my way. Quietness and shyness were somewhat virtues and not necessarily something to counteract or battle against.”

Notes on Gandhi’s Autobiography

Bampa’s notes on Gandhi’s Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth by M. K. Gandhi, Trans. by M. Desai Public Affairs Press, Washington DC, 1948. Page 81, Chapter XVIII “Shyness My Shield: All his life Gandhi was shy of speaking in public.  Had things to say in committee meetings but could not bring himself to speak.  Preferred to write out thoughts in advance. (Cites Addison’s first speech in Parliament “I conceive” three times; failure of Gandhi to make a humorous speech.) Could not entertain guests by keeping idle conversation going.” Page 84.

“I must say that, beyond Occasionally exposing me to laughter, my constitutional shyness has been no disadvantage whatever. — Its greater benefit has been that it has taught me the economy of words. — A thoughtless word hardly ever escapes my tongue or pen. — Proneness to exaggerate, to suppress or modify the truth, wittingly or unwittingly, is a natural weakness of man, and silence is necessary in order to surmount it. — My shyness has been in reality my shield and buckler.  It has allowed me to grow.  It has helped me in my discernment of truth.”


The notes cited here are courtesy of Andrew S. Heath and were quoted in August of 1998.

Life After Shyness

Many people who were once ruled by their shyness, learn how to ask for what they want, handle social situations, handle rejection, and accept themselves — then wonder “What´s next?” and question  “I am no longer controlled by my shyness, why am I not now completely happy?” Learning to understand and deal with shyness is one step along a path leading to fulfillment.

It has been my experience that people who are working on their shyness are also deep seekers of the meaning of life and want to know how life works.  “Why I am here?” “Why am I shy?” “Why do I not seem to attract what I want?” “How do I get what I want and need?”  “Is there more to life than appears on the surface?”   they wonder.

If you are at a point where shyness does not rule your life (it is fine to still be shy/sensitive as long as you are also in touch with other parts of yourself), you are ready for the next step. If you have not yet reached this point, it is fine to explore the following if you are so drawn but keep in mind that your first priority must be in learning to “put your self out there” by taking some risks as this will give you the foundation for trusting that you can understand how the subtle aspects of life really work to assist you in fulfilling your life purpose. You absolutely need the ability to take action in life in order to create fulfillment and happiness so follow the self-help ideas on the Shy and Free site and seek help in the form of therapy and coaching when you get stuck.

Life After Shyness is similar to the Zen koan:

Before enlightenment, Chop wood, carry water
After enlightenment, Chop wood, carry water

meaning that your inner experience will be completely different following enlightenment as you go about your normal activities, feelings, and experiences. Externally, things appear the same but internally your experience is very different, which will in turn result in different external experiences.  Life After Shyness for many people will not mean a life without shyness, it will mean a new appreciation and sense of awe at all of life. “Ahh, this is me being shy” and “Ohhh, so this is me putting myself out there” and “Ahhh, so this is rejection” and “Ahaaaha, this is being confident.”

Perhaps you now see that focusing on getting rid of shyness is similar to focusing on enlightenment which as all the spiritual teachers tell us, is a sure way not to achieve it. Instead, focus on the moment and be Shy and Free™ which will lead to incredible moments of transcendence.

Many people make it very far along their journey, but give up because shyness returns. It is not the shyness which matters, but how you perceive, judge, and accept the shyness that determines how it will affect your life.

The Slide

In my usual state of anxiety, I scan the newspaper . . . Damn!  Why am I in this situation again?

Sausalito, rustic house, panoramic views,$1200, comes with 3 cats. 381-8563.

The house is two stories below the level of the street so that all I initially see is the tired crooked roof line.  Wooden stairs descend in a maze, first down, then twisting and turning. Midway down, an old tree outreaches its huge arms as if to block the path.  There is no way off the stairs once the journey has begun . . . either descend forward toward the house past the tree who knows “she died suddenly” or backwards, up the wooden maze to the street.

I’m not sure I am ready to take this journey so I continue to just observe.

To the right of the stairs and past the mailbox post showing the number 103 is a wooden “slide”.  Curiously handcrafted, it descends ninety degrees straight down the two-story drop.  A rope follows it down through the “garden” (which appears to be simply overgrown weeds) and holds a wooden bucket near the ground. I’m drawn by the slide’s steepness which promises speed . . . no time to think . . . and unlike the stairs, offers no possibility of turning back.

My eyes follow the slide from top to bottom, my mind follows my eyes, and my body follows my mind.

I should be scared but it is too late. I should be in pain but I am overwhelmed.  I can’t feel my crumpled body as I gently open my eyes.  Blades of grass are waving in the wind, beautiful arcs of green flowing in the warm light of day. A bumblebee, perfectly yellow and fuzzy causes my anxiety to return for a moment. The bee buzzes close and rests at my feet. It dies . . . no movement . . . no sound . . . only the fresh breeze gently rolling over its folded wings.

What is the message? Death is natural, beautiful? I don’t understand until the bee comes to life and flies away free . . . and I understand that I, like the bee, have simply been sleeping . . . gathering just enough energy and understanding to permit my own freedom.

A sense of calm overtakes and caresses me until I feel intense compassion for myself and others. I have a sense of knowing that there are no mistakes and that every moment is a chance to demonstrate the truth that I have found in my heart. I now know that beauty, peace, understanding, compassion, power, and knowledge have always been there calling to be discovered. For the first time I truly “feel” and it is the feeling that contains the power which can never be understood with the mind.

I laugh as tears stream down my face because it is all so simple, so basic, that the only way not to see the truth is to block it.

I blocked the truth all these years but it knowingly spoke to me through my insecurity . . . which I had recognized as being truly “me” . . . but this was not me at all, simply messages sent from myself to keep me searching, longing . . . to hold my attention until I was ready to uncover the truth. I can not believe this feeling!  Power, love, understanding, knowledge are just words . . . this is so much more . . .

I am sorry that your daughter suddenly died . . . I am sure she is in a wonderful place . . . I am sorry that her cats need care . . . I know they will be watched over with the peace, love, and understanding that is in all of our hearts.

Thank you for placing the beautiful newspaper advertisement.

Copyright May 23, 1993 by Kevin Rhea

All rights reserved.