As much as I despise journalling some days, it is often on those days when I am challenged most by what surfaces in my writing. A question I posed to myself one afternoon recently was “What would happen if I let these rules go, the rules I have set for myself for one reason or another? What if I just released my grip on them, letting them blow away in the wind like the seeds of a dandelion?”
My question reveals to me how often I cave to the inner critic – the one telling me how I am falling short, inadequate, not enough. This inner critic measures my actions against specific standards and rules that have somehow evolved in my head- “you should exercise every day for at least 30 minutes”, “you should not eat carbs”, “you should not watch TV before bed”, “you should get up earlier”, “you should not eat junk food”, “you should meditate every day”.
My inner critic is very quick to point out all the ways I am not living up to these ideals. This exchange is not obvious – I don’t sit down at my dinner table arguing out loud to myself about what I should or should not eat – but the dialogue is consistent. Consciously or not, it is ongoing. I know this because it shows up in my journalling and I am shocked at how much joy is sucked out of my days because I am choosing to judge myself over loving myself.
And so I say “What if”. What if there was a better way to live. One with more peace. More joy. More gratefulness and contentment. My journalling points me to kindness.
I first learned about “Loving Kindness Meditation” in the incredible book called Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I return to the end of Part Two in his book and am reminded of why this style of meditation practice tugs at me:
“But you might try, just as an experiment, to hold yourself in awareness and acceptance for a time in your practice, as a mother would hold a hurt or frightened child, with a completely available and unconditional love…Let yourself bask in this energy of loving kindness, breathing it in and breathing it out, as if it were a lifeline, long in disrepair but finally passing along nourishment you were starving for…Love and kindness are here all the time, somewhere, in fact, everywhere. Usually our ability to touch them and be touched by them lies buried below our own fears and hurts, below our greed and our hatreds, below our desperate clinging to the illusion that we are truly separate and alone. By invoking such feelings in our practice, we are stretching against the edges of our own ignorance…And in the stretching, painful as it sometimes is, we expand, we grow, we change ourselves, we change the world.”
Oh, how I need to practice kindness.