You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf. Jon Kabat-Zinn
Friday’s Meriel and I walk down our beautiful bucolic beach here on the Sunshine Coast to take a sauna and swim in the ocean with our neighbours. Last week I moved our new car and put the electronic key in my swim suit pocket, reminding myself that I needed to take it out before going into the water. Well, after a lovely hot sauna I ran down the beach and dove into the chilly coastal waters, guess what? No key! That’s when the assault began… I just couldn’t let it go! “How could you be so stupid; you even reminded yourself; that’s going to cost $2-300; You’re such an idiot…” The attacks were relentless. I kept trying to stop my mind, but it wouldn’t let it go and every time I would think it was gone, it would start berating me again. I sat down to meditate, trying to stop the voices in my head, but they continued to hammer away. Why are we so hard on ourselves? If we said the things we say to ourselves, to someone on the street, we could be arrested! How can we learn to live with and go beyond the harsh judges that live in our mind?
When we direct a lot of hostile energy toward the inner critic, we enter into a losing battle. Sharon Salzberg
Our inner critics can keep us stuck in an endless battle - the more we try to quelch or suppress these inner voices - the stronger they seem to get. Why do we have this cacophony of demanding and demeaning voices in our head that seem to want to criticize and condemn us? They keep us in a virtual prison of shame, unworthiness and self doubt. What is the purpose of the critic and where does it come from?
It is likely that the critic’s roots come from ancestral patterns handed down through generations and reinforced by our parents and caretakers. What happens to the innocence, wonder and curiosity of the newborn and the playful and eager imagination and enthusiasm of the young child? Perhaps the original intent of the inner critic was to protect us from harm, and the painful incidents and hurtful attitudes we experienced growing up. However, they grow into monstrous and belittling beliefs, attitudes and stories that end up devouring our very life force and keeping us from experiencing our true destiny, purpose and intention for being here in this life.
As we develop, we unconsciously adopt and integrate these belief patterns of doubt and destructive thoughts toward ourselves into our sense of self, who we think we are. We then have a tendency to project them on to others. When we fail to identify and separate ourselves from these inner voices, we allow them to impact our behaviour and shape the way we see the world and the very direction of our lives. What can we do to escape the onslaught of condemnation and persecution of this inner critic? The more we resist the voices in our head the stronger they seem to get.
Opening yourself to vulnerability is the first step To harnessing the power of love. Mark Colemen
We can learn to love them, to honour them as messengers, and to develop self compassion through our willingness to be open and vulnerable. They are only thoughts after all. If we believe everything we think we will never grow. When I lost my car key, I tried to get rid of and suppress the thoughts of self condemnation, but they kept getting louder and stronger; “who do you think you are being a teacher; You’re a fraud; You can’t even remember to take your keys out of your pocket; what a jerk!”As soon as I said, “it’s ok Mickey (my childhood name) you just made a mistake, nobody got hurt, I love you, see you and appreciate you…” they evaporated into thin air.I took a deep conscious breath, brought myself into the present moment and the voices in my head just dissolved. Sometimes we have to bring ourselves into to this focused state of presence over and over again. But don’t we really want to be more present in our lives anyway?
We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses. Carl Jung
I have found that this principle of radical acceptance works not only for silencing the inner critic, but for dealing with any unwanted pain, emotion, situation or limiting belief. Acceptance gives us the freedom to be with what is and transcend the beliefs that keep us stuck in the remembered past or imagined future. It seems paradoxical, but accepting what is, allows us to be more effective in bringing about real and lasting change in our lives and the world. We can only change what is, by allowing it to be, which creates the space of nothingness, in which we can create something new and more empowering.
Trying to hold on to what is, also creates pain and suffering. We can’t really hold onto anything, a beautiful sunset, a birth, a death, the sweetness of a beautiful moment with a lover, a home, a job, even our own thoughts of imperfection. It happened in the moment, but it is not happening now. Everything’s alway changing, that is perfection, because that is the way things are. It’s not personal and it’s not about you. You are simply the space in which things arise and disappear. True power comes from the ability to accept the moment as it is, and as it is not...
Allow whatever this moment contains. No matter what event or happening or situation, say 'yes' to it. Allow it to be. Eckhart Tolle
I invite you to take some time this month to inquire into the things in your own life that you have been unwilling to accept and embrace. Explore what pain, fear, emotion or protection might lie beneath the surface of these issues, situations, betrayals and unwanted experiences. See if you can discover whose voices from your past are reflected in your critic. Can you just say yes to them? Embrace them! This doesn’t mean you condone them or are saying they are right or wrong. It only means that you acknowledge the “isness” of the things that happened or the beliefs, fears and pain that you are experiencing right now.
It is when we accept what is, that real healing begins. Can you just say to yourself “Sweetheart, I accept you as you are, I care about you and your suffering. I am here to embrace you, I love you!”So much of our suffering, self criticism, shame and doubt came from not getting the love and attention we needed when we were young. It’s time to give ourselves the love we never got from the external world. Then we can learn to surf whatever waves engulf us and reclaim our power from the inner critic and the external world.
May we surf the waves of doubt, fear and unworthiness and have fun doing it! Can you love that?
With love and blessings michael & meriel
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final. Rainer Maria Rilke