Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Meditation and Guilt

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Found this on Quoting Buddha this morning and it seemed a good reminder for all of us:
Even after many years, many of us continue to practice harshly. We practice with guilt, as if we're going to be excommunicated if we don't do it right. We practice so we won't be ashamed of ourselves and with fear that someone will discover what a "bad" meditator we really are. The old joke is that a Buddhist is someone who is either meditating or feeling guilty about not meditating. There's not much joy in that.
~ Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart

I used to often feel guilty that I was not sitting enough, reading enough, compassionate enough, detached enough, and a whole lot of other things enough. But that has softened a lot in the last few months.

I think I know why. This may seem strange at first, but if you think about it a little, it will begin to make more sense: The less we have access to the vulnerable child within us, the harder we are on ourselves. It's easy to be self-critical when we see ourselves ONLY as functional adults with adult feelings and adult thoughts.

BUT, we have a soft, tender core within us that can't always think like an adult and feel like an adult. It's our inner child, and s/he never goes away. If we befriend that part of ourselves, it becomes much harder to be overly critical on those days when we don't measure up to whatever ideals we have set for ourselves.

Recognizing this doesn't give us the right to just goof off all the time and ignore our practice. But it does give us the right to be gentle with ourselves when our inner child has needs that run counter to our adult needs. Sometimes, if we can, we just need to let the child have our attention for a little bit. Maybe we need to take a sick day and go to the zoo, or watch cartoons instead of sitting, or play pinball instead of posting a blog entry.

If we give some attention to our children, they won't act up as much. This is the lesson I am learning after years and years of pretending I was born fully formed in some Olympian act of divine intervention. I tried to kill off my child, but he survived. Now that I am regaining some relationship with him, I am benefiting from his wisdom.

And I am learning to be less critical of those times when I don't measure up to my adult ideals. Pema Chodron reminds us endlessly to be more compassionate with ourselves. I don't know if she would see it the same way that I do, but this is how I am following her injunction.

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