Monday, April 5, 2010

The Chronic Meditator vs The Voices II

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about seeing many of the negative, critical, voices that I have in my head, but not knowing how to deal with them.

In that post, it was me and my bear against a truck-load of  internal negativity.  Now a bear is a mighty fine thing to have on hand when a tonne of negativity is hurtling towards you, but my bear is pretty small, and that truck was pretty big, so I went in search of something (anything!) else that might help.

I've been reading a lot of Cheri Huber's books lately, and got to a section in her book The Fear Book where she writes about becoming a mentor to ourselves:
If we can become for ourselves the mentor we always wished we had, then everything in life becomes an exciting adventure. We can do all those things we've always wanted to do but convinced ourselves we couldn't do.  We can live our lives in the company of someone who really loves us and cares about us and supports us in our natural eagerness to grow and in our intelligence about how to do that.  

If we look at life as an opportunity to end our suffering, as an opportunity to embrace and heal all that has happened to us, out attention moves AWAY from trying to fix ourselves, and TOWARDS being with ourselves as we live our daily lives.
I wasn't too sure my life could ever become an 'exciting adventure,' but the word 'mentor' struck a chord.  I could see it offered a different way of relating to myself.

I had my first chance to try a bit of mentoring last weekend, when I packed up and moved out of a share-house I was living in.  (I wrote about my difficulties with my house-mate, Alison, a few posts ago).   

My lovely dad came to help me pack up and move out of the house and as I put my last bag into his ute I pumped my fists in the air and sang a few bars of Born Free...'free as the wind to not have someone worrying I would burn down their house or poison their dog...' My dad and I had a good laugh. 'Whatever you do, don't run down her bloody dog so close to your escape!' he told me, as I backed out of her drive-way. 

On the way back to my parent's farm I had to stop off in a chemist and get a prescription filled.  As I sat waiting I suddenly realised how angry and frustrated I was at Alison. My exhilaration at being freed abated as I thought about beleaguered and harangued I'd felt around her. 

While I waited in the chemist chair I rehearsed in my mind the things I wanted to tell her. I imagined myself trying to talk to her over the phone, or writing her a letter explaining how it was her behaviour that had led to me leaving the house. I imagined myself yelling at her, swearing at her, telling her she was a crazy, neurotic, prissy cow. 

Finally I stopped myself. 'What do you want?' I asked. 'I really want her to understand how much she's hurt me,' was the answer. 

The truth in that moment was that I felt hurt, and I felt that Alison was a prissy cow and had hurt me. I could think that I 'shouldn't' feel that way, but I still felt it.

So, again, I asked myself, 'what do you want?' and again I answered, 'I want her to understand how I'm feeling.'  I realised that whilst she could probably never understand how I was feeling - I could. I could listen to how I was feeling and try to be with my own feelings.  I could try to mentor myself. 

As I sat waiting for my script I tried this out.  As soon as a voice came up in my head saying, 'I'm so annoyed with her...why couldn't she just be more rational?' I'd respond by saying something like, 'wow...yes, it sounds like a really tough situation.  That's hard to feel like you've got no choice but to move out of a house. Hmmm....really hard.'

For the next ten minutes I sat there just giving supportive, mentoring feedback to any thought or feeling I had.

'Hmmm...anger, lots of anger in my stomach. That's not such a nice feeling - I'm really sorry that I'm feeling that way.' If I had a thought that I'd done something wrong in handling the situation with Alison I'd respond by saying, 'I can't think of anything more I could have done.  I've lived in share-houses for twenty years and I've never had a problem like this, so, I don't think it's anything I have to worry about.'

Of course, a voice in my head interrupted constantly to explain how completely childish, self-absorbed, non-spiritual and just plain WRONG all this mentoring was...and how plain WRONG I was to have been unable to handle the situation with Alison, but I kept going.  I  just allowed myself to be with whatever feeling I was having.

I left the chemist feeling a lot calmer, and a lot more listened to. I realised I absolutely did not need Alison to listen to me - what I needed to do was to listen to, and mentor,  myself. 

In the middle of writing this post I took a break to sit down at the piano and play one of my favorite songs, In My Mind I'm Going to Carolina. It struck me how appropriate some of the lyrics were to what I was writing about, so I'll finish up with these words from James Taylor: 
There ain't no doubt in no ones mind
That love's the finest thing around
Whisper something soft and kind...


  1. Wonderful post EM!
    I am proud of you for moving and for confronting the source of your feelings and seeing what 'you' really needed was to-be-heard.

    I had a similar situation with my sister. When I told her I'd like her to visit our home now that the remodeling was complete, she said...Her husband couldn't drive his car on our dirt road and come to think of it she couldn't drive hers on it either. Then she said...that sounds awful, doesn't it? I was silent but thinking..yes awful and shallow. After much self-talk I saw how hurt I was, how judged I felt and that she would never-hear-me. She would say I was over sensitive just like in the past when I tried to talk to her.

    Truly I understand all that you shared in this post and I thank you. For it helped me see that unawake, thoughtless people are everywhere and even in our families..

    So we move one, right?
    Buddha said Ignorance is surely must be. :o)

    By the your new look around here.

    Bows to you

  2. Thanks so much Ama, what a great story you told about your sister. I can relate to that, becuase I live on a dirt road! ha ha.

    I think those kind of exchanges happen so often in our lives and it's great to have a tool like awareness, or Buddhist teachings, to allow us to really investigate these interactions.

    I can see, since I wrote this post, what a big shift it has been for me to actually start listening to myself - a really massive shift that feels a little bit like a slow earthquake moving the ground beneath me. Very interesting!

    take care Ama :)


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