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How to effectively tame your inner critic: shadow wrangling.

How to effectively tame your inner critic: shadow wrangling.

Do you ever have the feeling that, if everything isn’t going well, you aren’t worthy enough to share your voice or wisdom?

Have you encountered that internal voice proclaiming that your struggle is a weakness that must be hidden at all cost?

Have you sat with the shame of feeling like there must be something wrong with you because you don’t have everything figured out?

If this sounds familiar, you aren’t alone!

It’s as if there’s an invisible decree silently declaring that, if you haven’t cracked the success, health, love, and happiness code and know exactly what you are doing in every moment, your wisdom and presence isn’t worthy of expression.

I find it interesting that we tend to curate our Facebook and Social Media profiles to denote the highest level of success, love, and happiness. It’s as if we are afraid that our reputations will somehow be soiled if we show a millimeter of weakness or (gasp) authenticity.

What if someone posted a picture of you in your sweatpants and old, favorite, ratty t-shirt, a far cry from the professionalism you typically exemplify? What if you were secretly filmed having a tantrum and it was posted all over the internet? What would your initial, gut reaction be?

Did you know that, although we idolize perfection, the majority of us have a negativity bias? What this means is that even if 90% of our day flows in complete harmony, just one negative encounter negatively skews our perception of our entire day.

Negativity bias

Why is the concept of the negativity bias so important?  It elucidates how we often interrelate and perceive ourselves in the larger, global context. If you often feel like you are never doing enough or that your standards fail to meet your expectations, your negativity bias is likely sabotaging your life.

It’s common knowledge that the harshest, most punishing critics in our lives always emerge from within. We are each additionally burdened by our very own unique, disparaging ‘Inner Critic.’ Our Inner Critic is the harsh inner voice that tells us that we will never measure up or get it right.

When we feel ashamed and worthless with nothing of value to offer, our Inner Critic is hard at work.  It works overtime to make sure we stay trapped in our shame and pain cycle, preventing us from reaching out for the help and love we need.

When our Inner Critic and negativity bias are in overdrive, they create the perfect storm. Feelings of being stuck, depressed, anxious or even worthless may arise.

It’s no wonder that when the inevitable “sh– hits the fan” in our struggles with our relationships, health, work and core identities, our first inclination is to hide it. They don’t call our darker, more hidden nature the ‘Shadow’ for nothing! 

To make matters worse, we usually feel alone in our distress, and reluctant or ashamed to ask for help.  The pain combined with the shame of succumbing to our struggles springs a perfectly complex trap. We are naturally inclined and encouraged to continue to minimize or even discount our suffering.

The Good Soldier Syndrome

I aptly refer to this condition as “The Good Soldier Syndrome.” We have been taught to revere the people that soldier on, powering through tremendous duress and challenge with no complaint.

So, how do you begin to work with this convoluted and painful dynamic and keep your Inner Critic in check?

Just having an awareness of your Inner Critic and negativity bias can help you shift into greater consciousness, leading to more profound self-compassion, acceptance and love.

When you notice your Critic being particularly loud and convincing, just talk back! It might sound crazy, but it undoubtedly works!  If you can create a dialogue with the part of yourself that feels critical, you’ll probably find that your Critic is just trying to protect you from something it perceives as threatening.

An interesting practice that I have found to be extremely helpful is to stop, take a moment to breathe, be present with yourself and ask your Inner Critic why it’s treating you so unkindly. Allow yourself to remain open and curious about what it expresses. This may be communicated through words, emotions, and even visuals. Acknowledging and embracing your fear and pain can often promote self-compassion and understanding.

Becoming aware of your Inner Critic

Your negativity bias and Inner Critic are bound to become inflamed when you are beginning to embark on a growth path. When you find yourself in a feedback loop of negative self-talk that’s getting in the way of your progress, I recommend that you turn towards the part that’s afraid and acknowledge its fear. Set a boundary with it as you would with a person who wasn’t treating you respectfully.

You might say something like, “I appreciate that you are trying to protect me, but you are holding me back.” Envision yourself creating more space between you and this aspect of yourself. Honor its fear and, if possible, send it love and kindness.

Let it know it’s okay to be afraid and that you’ve got this covered. Becoming aware of your Inner Critic disempowers it so that it no longer influences your choices or drives your consciousness.

You become free to choose how to more healthfully relate to your ‘self’ and others. With time and practice, you might even find that it becomes possible to make friends with your Inner Critic.

Just as you, I am human and vulnerable to pain, suffering, and struggle. Before a big professional launch, television shoot, live talk, or workshop, I always encounter the familiar grip of fear and the voice that asks if what I have to offer is truly valuable. I still have moments of doubt and times when I’d rather give up.

The truth is, our definition of weakness and vulnerability has been wrong all along. When we dare to be vulnerable in acknowledgment of all that we are and still persevere, that is the definition of true strength. 

The next time you find yourself ensnared in a negative spiral, remember, you are not alone. We all experience deep pain and many of us have experienced unimaginable suffering and tragedy.  It’s okay to show weakness, make mistakes and ask for help. We all need help, love and support along the way.

You are a vital and integral part of this world with tremendous value and wisdom to share. You are deeply needed and we need each other to continue to safely steer the chaos of this world towards more peaceful waters.

We exist in a world of increasing alienation, polarity and division. Healing the divide begins with our willingness to listen, be open and curious, and be there for our ‘selves’ and each other.

The post How to effectively tame your inner critic: shadow wrangling. appeared first on About Meditation.

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I Almost Died. Meditation Was (and IS) My Anchor.

Love Time Death Meditation Journaling

This is my fifth year of keeping a formal journal. Along with meditation and marathon running, daily journaling is one of my core spiritual practices.

My day-to-day experience can often feel like a roller coaster of soaring heights and crashing lows.

But after recently reading through four years of entries, it looked more like a steady barge voyaging in the night.

Why is that?

One entry in particular brought me back to a near death experience I had that shed light on that question. It highlighted the essential—and anchoring—role that meditation has played in my life.

Daily Journaling

So while our memories tend to be punctuated by moments of peaks and valleys, our real story is an unbroken cosmic continuum.

I want to share a glimpse I had into this mystery through journaling, meditation, and a near death experience.

I began journaling as a practice a couple of months after my wife survived the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing (she was a few feet from the first explosion) and my life had generally fallen apart.

It helped me, and continues to, galvanize my deeper inner resources and articulate the thoughts I am afraid to admit to myself.

And as I referred to earlier, I also skirted death a year later at the 2014 Boston Marathon. My wife had been given an invitational bib as a token of respect and remembrance by the marathon organizers.

She passed it on to me so I could officially run in this prestigious race, even though I had not achieved the requisite qualifying time the majority of runners needed to participate.

Symbolic Breakthrough

I wanted to make my running performance at this marathon a personally symbolic breakthrough. So much in my life was teetering on a precarious balance.

While I was finally finding some traction in my role as a salesman for the consulting firm I started working at, my wife just had a miscarriage – a tragic and painful ordeal not spoken enough about in our culture.

A coworker at my firm,  someone I was quite fond of, overdosed and died. I spoke to her honor at her wake at her beloved alma mater, MIT.

This Boston Marathon was also the first one since the terrorist attack and the spirit of this globally renowned race and the city itself was at stake.

Perfect Weather—for Spectators

The weather on race day was perfect for spectators but not for runners: warm and sunny. I was determined to run my fastest marathon ever.

I took off at a high clip and kept throttling for miles. I thought if I could maintain the pace I was at, I would surely clock in at a pretty amazing personal best.

But of course, fatigue started to settle in after the tenth mile or so. I skipped water stops to make up for the lost time.

The sun and heat began to bear down on me at mile 16 as I entered the 4-mile onslaught of the monstrous Newton hills. My pace was hemorrhaging to a shadow of what I had started with.

I stayed grinding, half-blind with exhaustion, praying for a miracle to carry me through the last six miles.

Suddenly, in a total break of consciousness like changing the TV channel, I heard the chipper of two-way radios. I saw flashes of white sunlight and the green of trees breaking through windy canvas flaps, and burly bodies in uniforms around me.

Here’s what I remember?

Where am I?

You have a temperature of 107. We need to bring it down to at least 102.

They lower me into a metal tub of some sort, my arms dangle over its sides. Bury me in ice cubes. Water pours and crackles over them jolting my body from its coldness.

I’m afraid that your marathon is over.

How long do I have to be here?

I don’t know.

The icy water is getting chillier and my teeth are starting to chatter. The neon blue synthetic fabric of my sleeveless running shirt refracts through the crystalline surface.

At some point, after being frozen alive, they lift me out of the ice tub and lay me on a stretcher in the medical tent. My muscles begin to spasm and then lock up like an electrified tension wire.

Wordless pain squeezes through my entire being from whatever I did to my chemistry by running until I roasted to 107 degrees.

Panic and Fear

Fear abounds in me through images of being brain damaged, unable to function as before.

And then the dangling possibility that this could be that unprepared-for moment when the adventure of my life comes to a close.

I am clear that I can either freak out from panic, or not. It doesn’t feel like an easy choice, but I opt to find a way to be still. Like a ghost in a movie, I watch myself meditate in the weeks leading up the race, and then witness years and years of diligent practice passing into action.

I need all of it now…

…All of the intention and effort I had put into every time I sat on the cushion was not wasted. It never went anywhere and was alive as I lay there letting go.

I whispered support to myself like an angel on my own shoulder as I meditated at various stages of my life, tied together by this moment.

I rediscovered this journal entry I wrote a few days before the marathon:

I had a sudden shadowy thought that I was foreshadowing my own demise. But if so, if that was, or is to be the case, I would want to write now as if it was so.

If I could have some unequivocal premonition that I were to die in a few days, what would I do differently?

Love Fuses One Moment to the Next

I have no scientific evidence or philosophical rigor whatsoever to back up what I’m about to write. I believe it is love that extends our selves through time and fuses one moment to the next.

How love dissolves and transcends our experience of past, present, and future is an existential mystery I am constantly working on.

Meditation opens my mind and heart to this inquiry and journaling is my personal laboratory to gather data. I’m four plus years into intensive research and look forward to sharing more findings to come.

The post I Almost Died. Meditation Was (and IS) My Anchor. appeared first on About Meditation.

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