For a few weeks now I’ve been writing about using Zen teacher Cheri Huber’s techniques of discovering an inner mentor. (Here’s Pt 1 and here’s Pt 2).
My task for the past week was to make a recording of myself talking about something in my life I was struggling with and then recording what the ‘mentor’ would say in response.
When I started to do the recording I didn’t have a plan of what I would talk about. I just turned on the video recorder on my laptop and found myself describing how I was feeling physically; just listing my physical symptoms.
‘I feel exhausted…my head hurts and the muscles behind my eyes feel tight…’
Then, I found myself describing how I felt about all these physical sensations.
‘I feel so left out, and so envious of other people who can get out of bed and do things…I feel like this is my fault and I should be able to change it…’
Then, I used the second half of the recording to say mentoring, compassionate phrases to myself. I found it quite difficult to come up with these phrases, they certainly didn’t flow naturally!
I found myself saying things like,
‘I’m not here to criticize – I just want to listen, and to try to understand what this is like…I’m here to help in any way I can…I’ll support you through this.’
Saying all these things was incredibly moving, and listening back to the tape everyday has been so comforting but also very, very sad.
I’ve been sick for 15 years and this past week is the first time I’ve been able to cut through the numbness that surrounds this illness and just feel my physical sensations and the feelings I have about them. I'm starting to realise how trapped I've been in the beliefs that I ‘shouldn’t’ be sick, that being sick is my fault, and that acknowledging my physical symptoms is a sign of weakness.
I am starting to have some awareness of the cycle of blame. Something bad happened (I got sick) and my instinct was to judge and blame. The judging and blaming led to more difficulties (I was numb, I couldn’t feel much at all) and I felt that the way out of this problem was to judge myself a little more (I’m such a cold person, I’m so judgmental, I’m not kind…blah blah blah).
As the saying goes: ‘It’s heaven all the way to heaven and hell all the way to hell.’ I thought that by piling on the criticism and judgment I would ‘improve’ myself and get better; I thought it was ‘hell all the way to heaven.’ But, really it was just hell all the way down.
Starting to feel again is painful. Sometimes it feels as though there is an intense, white, anguish that rises up through my bones as I allow a feeling like sadness or grief move like a wave through my body. But it also feels right, and real. I feel I’m learning to counter the instinct to judge with the mentoring voice and I can see small, but important changes.
I woke up yesterday morning feeling exhausted. As I lay in bed I cried, because I was so tired and it was the beginning of another long day with this illness. After about 10 minutes I stopped weeping and realized that was the first time in 15 years I had just spontaneously cried because I was sick – and not pushed my feelings down by saying something like, ‘well…it could be worse, there are people who are much worse off than you’ or ‘well, you don’t deserve to feel sad, it’s really all your fault.’ I had just allowed myself to cry for 10 whole minutes. Quite an achievement.
On a completely different note - I posted before Christmas about doing a house portrait for my dad. I just got it mounted onto a wooden block and had some photos taken and here's what it looks like. I think it's quite cute!