instead of judgment…

By April 18, 2013 14 Comments

You’ve been “working on yourself,” paying more attention to living an intentional, healthy, happy life.

Do you ever feel like now there’s a whole new set of things to judge yourself about?

I’m supposed to be all about soul, so now I feel like I’ve failed whenever I get lost in ego.

I’m working on being calmer, but I keep failing and getting caught up in stress.

If I were more spiritual, I’d feel more daily joy and gratitude. When I have those somber couch potato days, I feel like I’m falling short.

Sound familiar?

On the journey to greater wellbeing, we learn a lot of distinctions – like these:

Soul vs. ego

Ease vs. striving

Vulnerability vs. defensiveness

Love vs. fear

After all, we are learning about new territories within ourselves, and it’s helpful to have language for them. But – and here’s the problem – it’s easy for our ego-minds to take those distinctions and twist them into a mental reality that sounds like this:

“Being in soul, ease, vulnerability, love is ‘good.’ Being in ego, striving, defendedness, and fear is ‘bad.’ When I’m in the space of the good things, I’m doing good. I’m getting it right. I’m measuring up. When I’m in the space of the bad things, I’m bad. I’m falling short. I’m failing.”

Have you been there? Are you there now?

Earlier this week, I wrote a post about the benefits of identifying with soul and the challenges that come with identifying with ego. I believe in what I wrote there 100%. But this post is a necessary follow up- because I don’t want those ideas to become fodder for you to feel bad, or like a failure, when you are identified with ego.

That kind of thinking is just a new version of the ego’s endless asking/judging of “do I measure up?” But now the ego gets gnash you to pieces with this question in the sneakiest way: by smearing it all across your diligent, intimate work on yourself.

So the question is: how do we hold on to helpful distinctions like “ego” and “soul” without their becoming structures for self-criticism to hang itself on?

Here’s what I think: When we find ourselves acting out of the not-so-helpful modes (like striving, like defensiveness, like fear), we can respond not with judgment but with compassionate inquiry.

That sounds/feels like putting your hand to your heart or giving your shoulder a squeeze and saying, in a loving voice – aloud or silently: “Okay honey, what’s going on?” You become super curious, truly curious, about what little fears or wounds sent you into fear and ego-reactivity.  And when you find them, you respond to them with compassion, love and reassurance.

Any time you are operating out of ego-reactivity, fear, striving, defensiveness, that’s not a call to self-judgment.

It’s a call for compassionate inquiry. It’s a sacred opportunity to learn what fears are lodged in you, and  heal what needs healing in you.

In doing that, you grow, heal, and change yourself. But in a mysterious way that is hard to articulate, I also believe you raise our collective consciousness. Because one of the things humanity most needs to learn at this time is that fear is what causes us to do harm. When you come to know that by looking deeply into your own experience, you do your part in moving the collective into an understanding of the truth.

What’s one spiritual or emotional ideal you’ve been beating yourself up for not achieving? What will be different if you bring a, “Oh honey, what’s going on?” when it comes up – instead of a story about your own failure?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.



Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • Deirdre says:

    Thanks – hit exactly the right spot. I would like to be a bit kinder to myself when i get discouraged!

  • Liz O says:

    Thank you so much for putting into words what so often seems to be current for me. I find that right now my fear around money, has sent me into a defense/ego mode, my ongoing fears around intimacy keep me locked into defense as well. Self compassion is part of the prayer I shared with my ‘power friends’ this week, so i think your post just made a connection for me, as I head to the end of the week. Thanks again.

  • Amber says:

    This is exactly what I needed today. Thank you.

  • Cheryl says:

    Your post so resonated for me… in compassionate inquiry I was able to move past a ‘failing’ in how I was ‘being selfish and not coming from soul’ in a recent meeting. From there, I could let go and move past the fear that had been blocking me from following up on the meeting. In fact, moving out of judgement allowed me to go forward in a way that was even bigger than I had been thinking.
    With gratitude.

  • Gina Lee says:

    Oh Tara. I am one of the strongest people I know and yet, I needed this. Thank you. You are SUCH a Blessing to me!

  • Colleen Nolan Armstrong says:

    Thank you, Tara. Like others have shared, this was exactly what I needed to read/hear today. I held my hand over my heart, and asked myself that question . . . the soft loving way of calling yourself “honey” calmed me, made me feel loved again. Thank you . . . it has been such a disorienting week for so many . . . your words were inspired and powerful.

  • Anna Sontag says:

    I especially love this comment: “When you come to know that by looking deeply into your own experience, you do your part in moving the collective into an understanding of the truth.”

    Just like we are learning to use compassionate inquiry to accept and honor the thoughts that interrupt our breathing and meditation — as potentially being messages from our soul (not always, granted!) — we can use our movements into craziness, fear, or getting stuck in false beliefs as opportunities for staying with the “places that scare (us),” [Pema] and doing the work that can indeed contribute to humanity’s evolution.

    Yay, Tara! I am so grateful to be engaging with you again. Be blessed ~

  • Helen Gagliano says:

    Very pertinent for me today! Compassion to one’s self is that missing link for many women. They normally give so much of it to others (kids, partners, family members), they forget to be kind to themselves. I like that self talk idea to address with curiosity those nagging little fears. Thank you!

  • Tara, I loved reading your post. The more I have evolved consciously, the more painful it feels to be in my ego. When I speak to my teachers about this, they say that nothing is separate, even this ego state and yet where I am right now in my journey, it certainly feels like a separate state and one I do not prefer, but that again is ego, isn’t it? Their advice feels hard to access – to simply ‘be’ with it all. Compassion and love has felt like a much more effective method – to infuse my heart with self-love and really breath it into every cell. To fully receive my own love is an ongoing journey. Blessings to you and your incredible gifts of insight.

  • Colleen Haggerty says:

    This was a perfect post for me to read this morning after a night of tossing and turning with a head full of defensiveness and striving. Thank you for putting into words what I needed to take in today. Beautifully said.

  • Like yesterday, for instance, I was cursing the sky because of the false directions I got to the library. I swore my foot was sprained, I had walking blisters, and I was running late to where I needed to go. Eventually I did get there (and I got there on time) but not without perhaps offending some bystanders at least a little bit…then when I got home (by God’s grace, I’m sure) I had to think: ‘For people who miss a plane or a bus–anything like that–do you think they’re the happiest campers in the world?’ I think that inner note to self made me act in deeper kindness towards myself instead of getting mad for the fact that I just got plain mad.

  • Jen says:

    Beautiful, kind and touching. Your words are a blessing to me today. Thank you.

  • Jayne says:

    Thank you so much for this post, it is a great reminder to stay with the process and not fixate on where I am going wrong. Can you speak a bit about “striving” and how you see this as a limiting mindset? I have a tendency to think of this as good honest hard work even though it is what causes me to never feel good enough. Any thoughts would be most helpful. Thank you.

  • Christina Violin says:

    Tara, I loved your post! Just what I needed
    to hear today. I need to remember to be more
    gentle and accepting of myself. Thank you,
    your words reminded me to love myself, as
    well as those around me 🙂

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