I have just taken up Pickleball with fun and frustration. I hit the ball into the net. This just isn’t about a shot that was intended to go over the net but didn’t. It means a whole lot more than just that. There is this belief that not only is the shot bad but “I” am bad. I have a childhood belief that I need to be perfect in order to feel safe and loved. The imperfect shot triggers this historic memory and the immediate associated self-criticism and judgment! Everything that we encounter is referenced against our personal unique belief system that represents who we believe we are. What core belief do you have about yourself that is the basis for judging your present moment to moment action?
If we bring awareness to this process we have the potential to move beyond being trapped by our conditionality. I would like to suggest a 4 step process to help lessen our self-criticism.
1) SENSATION: When your mind starts to judge and criticize you immediately look just for the initial stimulus. For me it is: “The ball was hit into the net.” That’s all that happened to start. Everything else is an add on.
2) SELF-REFERENTIAL JUDGMENT: Next look for the judgment of self that arises. In my example it is: “This is terrible. I am terrible. How could I have missed that shot. I should have done better.” Identify the criticism of self that has arisen from the initial sensation. Isn’t it amazing what we create from hitting a ball into the net. A self comes into existence and then we judge it. If we are aware of our personal story and our unmet need we can even look for what is calling to be heard in the moment. My need to be perfect to feel loved.
3) NON-SELF-REFERENTIAL DISCERNMENT: Now we inquire what would the response be if the present moment experience was not referenced against our sense of self. The observation would be: “The ball was hit into the net. The aim of the game is for the ball to go over the net and ideally score a point.” Nothing about me! No judgment or criticism. Only information about the action and what it informs me about how to improve. Everything is meant to be the way it is driven by either uncontrollable external circumstances or by our subconscious automatic internal conditioned actions.
4) SKILLFUL ACTION: “What needs to be done if it wasn’t about me?” At this point you bring your attention back to the original sensation and enquire what needs to be done about what has happened, without a sense of self being present. In many situations nothing needs to be done. What we normally believe we are dealing with is: “What if, not what is.”
Next time your mind starts to yell at you, Pause and then try this 4 step inquiry. It is amazing to witness how our minds create such illusions based on what actually happens.
Ram Dass, Mirabai Bush– inWalking Each Other Home This person has a body and a mind, just like me. This person has feelings, emotions, and thoughts, just like me. This person has experienced physical and emotional pain and suffering, just like me. This person has at some time been sad, disappointed, angry, or hurt, just like me. This person has felt unworthy or inadequate, just like me. This person worries and is frightened sometimes, just like me. This person will die, just like me. This person has longed for friendship, just like me. This person is learning about life, just like me. This person wants to be caring and kind to others, just like me. This person wants to be content with what life has given them, just like me. This person wishes to be free from pain and suffering, just like me. This person wishes to be safe and healthy, just like me. This person wishes to be happy, just like me. This person wishes to be loved, just like me. Now, allow wishes for well-being to arise: I wish this person to have the strength, resources, and social support they need to navigate the difficulties in life with ease. I wish this person to be free from pain and suffering. I wish this person to be peaceful and happy. I wish this person to be loved . . . because this person is a fellow human being, just like me.
What a beautiful poem that demonstrates how we are all interconnected and similar through our common needs, fears and desires. When one is tempted to criticize and judge other, bring to mind what connects us and allow that be what guides your behaviour.
Acceptance is not what you might think. A lot has been said about mindfulness being nonjudgmental. This does not mean we don’t have feelings about things that might be unpleasant. It just means that we should spend a moment accepting what is right in front of us or within us before we rush to making a hasty decision based on strong emotions.
Acceptance does not mean:
You deny your feelings
You have to like it.
You have to “suck it up”
You are neutral or indifferent to an injustice.
You have to make something positive out of it
You have to agree with what is present
In the coolest form of acceptance is non-resistance. This enables us to meet whatever is showing up and getting to know each intimately before we investigate it and ask ourselves, “What is called for now?”
Am I a Buddhist? Or is Buddhism just one belief system that influences my world view? At one point I would have called myself a Buddhist. But I began to appreciate that my perspective on life has been impacted by many systems. Somatic therapy by Peter Levine, Carl Jung and his dream work, Internal Family Systems therapy by Richard Schwartz etc.
Life is not about sitting down every day to the same set dinner but opening to the possibility of sampling multiple different tastes from a buffet. There is no need to maintain absolute fidelity to the original teachings of any belief system. The truth is not an expression of a single voice. There is no one truth except what you stitch together to make your truth. All that matters is what works for you. I call myself a “Pluralist.”
Happy and not yet happy Sad and not yet sad Sick and not yet sick Dead and not yet dead
Do you know what is going to happen in the next moment? If you do, let us buy a lottery ticket together!
We live our life hoping and expecting that only good things will happen. Death. Who needs to look at that? It is something that is going to happen in the far distant future so why think about it. Suffering. Another one of those things that are unpleasant so I don’t want to reflect on that either. If only we could live our life sheltered from these traumas. That can happen, but one needs to be dead or in a coma. And when something unpleasant happens we react with surprise and disbelief. It is as if it is an affront to you. Why would this happen to me? How dare this happen to me!
The reality is that there is the capacity for good and bad things to happen and for the most part we have no control over these events in life. Health and illness, birth and death, safety and trauma, beginning and ending of relationships. We need to contemplate on the fact that there is the potential for both happiness and suffering to occur in any moment.