The flashing of my light alarm awakes me. I close my eyes, Ashok gets up and stares at me while I roll into a fetal position on my side and hit the snooze. “Go back to bed, Ashok,” I say. I feel her breathing behind my ear as the tension grips my gut. “I love you,” I say to myself and hug myself into a ball.
A puzzle from work flashes in my mind, and I rifle through solutions. I let it go and find my breath. The light flashes again, and I’m up. I feed the dogs and cats, fix my breakfast, wash my face, make some tea and sit down. It is too much too fast. I am craving stillness. My head is spinning with thoughts and worries of the day, self-criticisms and emotional pain. On a scale of 1-10, I’m at a 6 today, but I’d love to be at a 2.
I find a meditation in my 10% Happier app on allowing the stress to settle. I grab my cozy socks, arrange my blankets and cushion, light a candle and incense and ‘tap to begin’. The teacher encourages me to sense the anxiety and tension. My legs and buttocks are gripping in unidentifiable fear. I breathe in to release. As soon as I release, they tense again, so I repeat. This time, my body puddles. I still feel the tension swirling in my abdominal area, and my mind is racing, but my body, at last, is not reacting.
I follow his direction to wrap a warm blanket of kindness and compassion around the area where my tension grips. It snakes around my abdomen, and I mentally hug it close. Warm and soft, it soothes me. I send myself love and compassion and focus on my breath. It is uncomfortable bathing in my anxiety. Self-critical thoughts flash, tempting me to hate myself. I concentrate on the simple act of breathing. “God loves me,” I say to myself, and the blanket cinches.
Finally, my energy settles. I know I could start it up again with a single critical thought, but instead I focus on how peaceful my body feels. I am in the arms and presence of God. The world is out there, but I only hear my breathing. In a minute, I will open my eyes, and the world will bat me around. But for this moment I am still.
I have been reminded several times this week how important it is to love myself. We have a culture that believes we must flagellate and criticize our self and others in order to perform. We learn it as children from critical parents, and the pattern continues with teachers and bosses who are reacting from their own pain from self-criticism. By the time we are adults, our minds are filled with the words that browbeat us into submission or enrage our anger. Like a programmed computer, our brains regurgitate what it has been fed.
You have been a loser all your life. Every time you think you screw up. Fatso. Fatass. Your hair looks like a brillo pad. You will never amount to anything. I don’t want to hear a word out of you. You are way too sensitive. Buck up. Do something with that frizzy hair. Who do you think you are? Shut up your crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about. You better learn how to be friendly. What is wrong with you? What will other people think of you? Shut up …. Shut up … SHUT UP.……..
I can choose to close my eyes when I feel the churn, wrap the blanket of compassion around where it hurts and settle into love. That hateful voice does not belong to me or God. I know how to silence it. Self-love is power.
How do you love yourself? Do you love your self? What are the key messages of your critical voice, and who do they belong to? Can you let them go?