Silencing Mind Chatter Lies
A couple of weeks ago, I was awakened in the middle of the night by a pain along the front of my right shin. Not quite a charley horse, not a shin splint either. Still semi-conscious, my first thought was that if I exercised more it would not have happened. That somehow it was my fault. From there followed a stream of thoughts that were so mean-spirited that they jolted me fully awake. I watched those thoughts as if in slow motion as they mounted their attack on me. After a few moments the last thought curled back around itself, as if to say, there, we’re done, now you can go back to sleep.
But I didn’t. The pain in my leg had passed, but my attention was on the thoughts instead. Initially horrified, I became filled with gratitude. After years of stealthily tracking my attacks on myself I had finally been shown them in their full, boldfaced absurdity.
Normally these kinds of thoughts are much sneakier. Often they hide in one of my long running patterns, or they masquerade as logic and truth. They like to lurk in dark corners and pop out when I’m overwhelmed and not in a position to fully notice or protest.
Silencing Monkey Mind
American-born spiritual teacher Adyashanti has said that our inner dialogue is often shockingly hateful and condemning. We say things to ourselves we would never dream of saying to anyone else. To counter that, we talk a lot about self-esteem, as if that is the remedy, and then look for ways to bolster our images of ourselves.
The idea that we can be unworthy comes directly from our ego, which is the least qualified part of ourselves to make that evaluation. The ego will tell us that to be worthy we have to do something, or change, or improve ourselves in some way. What it doesn’t tell us is that self-esteem and self-hatred can be two sides of the same coin. As soon as think we’ve landed heads up, we immediately start worrying about how we can stay there, and at some point we are propelled back to tails. Life becomes something we have to win at, or we will lose, and losing at life means we have no value.
A Course in Miracles says our value is determined by our right mind, which is perfect and knows who we really are. Nothing we think or say or do or even believe is connected in any way with our worth. We simply are. And simply being us is perfect and changeless. While we rarely connect with the full grace of what that feels like, just knowing it is true can help immensely when we fall prey to thoughts of unworthiness.
Life can seem to be all about setting goals and achieving them, of growing, and of trying to improve ourselves. And, through those efforts we get to know ourselves better and settle into ourselves, and over the decades maybe even achieve a measure of self-acceptance. When the penny turns, as it always will, we don’t need a better image of ourselves, but a different relationship with our own humanity. At that level, we are imperfect. Rather than hating ourselves for that, or expecting that to be different, we can be kind to ourselves when our shortcomings cause us pain, and remind ourselves that we are much more than what the ego would have us think we are. Then, as happened to me that night, when the next attack arrives, we can see it clearly with the light of understanding and watch it dissolve back into the unreality it came from.