We all have very persistent minds that are not anywhere near as capable of change as we are. When we change underneath the mind, the destructive habits of the mind simply cannot take over us with the same magnitude. But they certainly can creep in…
Some minds are discouraging and others are straight up abusive. Mine happens to be my “bully”, my “worst enemy”, my harshest critic, etc. The irony in that is that we cannot fight our minds – we only strengthen what we resist and fight. The only way I have found to go about having some compassion with my mind’s abuse, is by recognizing it is only trying to help and protect me. It may be smart, sneaky, and even have good intentions, but it is not wise. The only true wisdom lies within us – the light, the being behind the mind.
When our minds beat us up, it is not just for the sake of beating ourselves up. It may run on a cycle – “You’re not good enough. See, you can’t do anything right. You’re never going to succeed. What the hell do you have to say for yourself? You don’t deserve a break. Keep going. Get up. You should be better than this…” Blah-de-blahh-de-bleckkk! All of us have this voice in our heads to some extent. This happens because somewhere along the way we were taught this harshness. We were taught that “tough love” and putting someone down is a way to push them to stand back up. Beneath that, we are taught fear and fear resides in our human nature. So, we can notice how our minds get excessively busy with “fixing” things when we are afraid or uncomfortable. It’s all a giant protective mechanism.
We may also notice a more subtle undercurrent in all of our actions – maybe that we are extremely motivated to succeed – as if our life happiness depends on our success at this or that. We may be extremely competitive – needing to be better at something than someone else. Or, maybe we have an insatiable desire to help others because we value ourselves based on that capacity. The interesting part about this one is that it means we depend others being worse off than us in order for us to have value. Notice that even when we feel an intense desire to help others, it can be egoic and driven by a desire for self reward. I certainly had a hard time swallowing that realization.
All of this is driven by fear, and that fear arises in the mind as a protective mechanism against any form of “danger”. So maybe we beat ourselves up. Or maybe we puff ourselves up – super jumbo confidence mode! – and try to make our image perfect in order to appear and feel perfect. And so, either way, we are determined to fix and perfect once again.
We all have a “perfectionistic” (AKA “protective”) streak every now and then. I had a huge one for the first 19 years of my life. I had to get straight A’s because I was taught at a young age that I am only as much as I accomplish. I had to have the perfectly healthy and fit body or else I would look as though I lacked dedication, embodied laziness, and was hence undesirable. I wouldn’t make a peep when I needed help most because I felt if I showed vulnerability to even my closest friends, I could no longer help them. “Why would they come to me for advice if I’m not put together myself? You better damn well look perfect. You have to be able to help everyone anytime.” And so, I suffered. I neglected my true self by covering it up with layers that looked perfect. Sadly, we live in a culture that actually praises and admires the dedication wound in this lifestyle. We constantly have to work-work-work and everything is a fight to survive, but this isn’t how we are meant to live.
Often times now when I find I go a few days in “busy-mode” and lose myself in the “doing”, I feel a tension arise within my body. The big red flag that I need to slow down is when I feel complete and utter dissatisfaction when I look in the mirror after I take a shower. It doesn’t matter how “good” my body may look – my mind says “it must be more perfect”. It does not matter how many compliments I get because the truth is, if we are not in balance within, we cannot see our own beauty or potential in this world.
The pictures below are real, raw moments. I stood in front of the mirror feeling grossed out by my mind’s analytical chatter.
So I decided to yell a little. And breathe a lot more…
And after quite a bit of meditation and silence, I am back. My mind still wanders, but I am here again. Feeling my own presence again. The only way out of all of these cycles is presence in the here and now. Presence is acceptance. That does not mean we cannot have goals and ambitions – it means we are not identified with the outcome. Right now is not abused as a means-to-an-end. It is cherished and lived. We all have this ability, but the first and most incredible step is recognition of the patterns our minds act out. Just sit, breathe, and watch without judgment (to the best of your ability!). Peace is now. Love is now. You are now.
Namaste, Laura Marie XO