Dropping Judgment, Embracing Compassion
If every time I guzzle a bar of chocolate I think, ‘You weak, pathetic, greedy pig,’ my judgment and criticism cuts me off from understanding myself.
If instead, I look at my behaviour and I think, ‘that’s curious – why do I do this? what is motivating this behaviour?’ I invite a real conversation with the part of myself that is hungry – for something other than chocolate.
The minute we start moralizing, we stop investigating. Writing towards our voice is about honouring ourselves as the source of our own stories and wisdom. It’s about relaxing into who we are. Who we really are.
Which begs the question: who are you, really?
Who are you when you stop trying? When you stop performing? When you stop pretending to be ‘be someone.’ What would happen if you just showed up as you are? Uncensored?
Writing is about coming as you are.
When we write towards our voice, we have to exercise self-compassion. Pema Chodron says we must have ‘loyalty to our experience,’ to be present with ourselves. We learn to stay with who we are. We avoid being obedient, polite, neat. We duck the cliche.
How to do this?
- Write as if no-one is looking
- Go into your shadow energy – invite its wisdom onto the page (what do you dare to admit?)
- Go for the paradox – where are you ambivalent? Avoid your certainties. They are not nearly as interesting as your doubts, your mistakes.
- Humour – find yourself funny. Where are you able to laugh at yourself?
- Squirm – if something makes you squirm or uncomfortable, it’s calling you to look at it. Can you stay with it?
Writing towards our voice is a form of training. Pema Chodron talks about the difference between training a dog by beating it instead of through gentleness. If we beat a dog, we will surely train it to sit, come, go outside at our command. But you will have a terrified, neurotic and confused dog (we once got a dog from the RSPCA who fell to the floor and urinated every time we called her – she’d clearly been traumatized by a previous owner). But if we train a dog by kindness, gently rewarding it when it gets it right, we get a dog who is confident and flexible and happy.
Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?
When we write, we want to expose our defence mechanisms, our negative self-beliefs, our fantasies, desires, expectations, courage, wisdom, neuroses and playfulness.
To access this, we need to write bare, unpracticed, to be lead whoknowswhere. We have to reclaim a sort of innocence, the beginner’s mind. We must come to our writing as if it is a door we want to open, not knowing what we’ll find. And then to allow ourselves to gasp, fall to our knees laughing or in agony. At times we will be stunned into silence. If we are repeating what we’ve heard, or other peoples’ opinions (of ourselves or of anything at all), we are walking the same path twice, a tour guide in our own life: look at that achievement… notice that failure. It’s like we are ready to press ‘play’ on something that’s been prerecorded and retell old fables that are threadbare of emotion. Do you notice how sometimes we appear to be mimicking ourselves instead of being authentic to the moment? How we are ‘expected’ to experience a surprise birthday party in a particular way? Or a tragedy with a particular set of emotions, and if we don’t, there’s something wrong with us? Perhaps we might feel sadness in a moment when we’re expected to be happy? Or an emotion we can’t quite put words to. Or we might feel relief in a moment of grief.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes’s book Women Who Run with the Wolves invites us to reclaim a certain ‘wildness.’ This is not a recklessness. I’m not suggesting we all streak down the main road and smash car windows with a baseball bat. That’s kinda insane. But we can gently question why we do what we do out of habit. Ask: is this me? Is this what I truly want? Is this who I truly am? Is there any business man out there who truly honestly feels like a tie is ‘who he is’? We all live in society and are expected to follow certain conventions to live socially with others but sometimes we may want to shriek, bare our breasts, fall hard or curl up in a ball. Life is not a rehearsal, but we often behave as if it is instead of doing more improv. Doing without our lists or agendas. Something real and true emerges when we allow ourselves to be raw on the page.
There is always that edge of doubt.
Trust it, that’s where the new things come from.
If you can’t live with it, get out,
Because when it’s gone, you’re on Automatic,
Repeating something you’ve learned.
Let your prayer be:
Save me from that tempting certainty that
Leads me back from the Edge,
That dark edge where the first light breaks.
– Alfred Huffstickler, The Edge of Doubt
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