The Voice of the Judge

There is no more powerful limiting mechanism in our lives than the voice of the judge.  I don’t mean that other person – parent, spouse, child, teacher, boss, friend, co-worker,random stranger on the street or in the shopping mall.  It’s the internal voice of judgment or internal critic that often runs rampant inside of us that we barely notice, if at all, because it is so clever and really good at disguising itself – for self preservation really.

I first became intimately acquainted with my inner judge in 2008-09 during coaching work with Sarita Chawla.  She recommended I read Soul Without Shame by Byron Brown in addition to the work we were doing together. I will forever recognize this as a pivotal point in the shifting shape of my journey.  I wrote about the voice of the judge back then in an article.  I am reviving that article here now in an updated version because it is the season of amplification.  My inner critic is activated – obvious to me because of how I feel – and I am reminding myself of strategies I already know that help to deactivate it and release its grip on me.

When I first became aware of the force of the internal judge, I had been working with the concepts of self-leadership and hosting oneself for almost as long as I could remember – still do, of course.  I worked with coaches, read books, did courses, took part in and led deep group work.  I am generally a positive, optimistic person holding deep appreciation and gratitude for much of what transpires in my life and who shows up.  I have transformed negative self talk into more appreciative forms of self talk and into periods of quiet in my mind.  I meditate and practice other forms of reflection and mindfulness.

So, imagine my surprise when I discovered a voice of self judgment and self criticism that was booming loud and clear in my unconsciousness, stronger than any external voice of judgment or criticism could possibly be.  This voice constantly set the bar for my performance at the best that I had ever achieved.  The bar moved if I did better.  When I didn’t match my most excellent performance, even when I did extremely good work, this voice told me that I had failed, that I did not measure up and that I never would on a consistent basis.  Strong performance was interpreted as mediocre.  Criticisms from others, whether justified or not, was reinforced by this inner critic.

When I felt most down on myself or just down in general, this voice played a significant role – and still can in moments I feel most overwhelmed or vulnerable – until I expose it.  I didn’t actually hear it as a voice until I began to listen for it but I felt it strongly in many forms: sadness, unhappiness, melancholy, anger, listlessness, lack of motivation and many other emotional manifestations.

While I had been aware of this voice (or at least the emotions it manifested in) to some extent, I also prided myself on my journey of self-transformation and change.  Been there, got that medal, surely I must be done now, can I just get on with my life and success?  I realize now it was the voice of self judgment that said, “You’ve been doing this long enough, how come you’re not done?”

Part of the reason I had been pretty oblivious to this voice was because, in my quest to be calm and serene and professional, I skirted over my own emotional reactions.  I barely recognized I had them except in the odd instances where they overtook me.  Oh, was that an emotion that wasn’t calm and serene?  Oops.  Nope. Couldn’t have been.  It must have been something else.

Then, a friend told me I deal with my emotions intellectually.  So, I thought about that.  And I thought my friend just might be right.  Emotions don’t reside in our intellect.  They reside in our bodies.  We feel them and sense them.  We use metaphors to describe them.  We say things like, “That packed a punch!”  If we stop to notice, we will notice where it feels like we got punched.  And if we stay with that, we will begin to notice the impact.  And if we stay with it longer, we will notice the uncomfortableness and want to move onto something else.  This is where I am learning to stop.  I have learned to stay with it longer, until I can begin to discern the wisdom that is held there and that can only emerge when we give it an escape hatch to surface to the light.

It is in these moments that my voice of self judgment has come booming out at me in all of its voraciousness.  With all good intentions, all it wants to do is protect me – from failure, from being unlovable.  But its methods only serve to reinforce for me my failures, even to the extent of turning successes into failures, thus creating in my mind my own unlovability and unwantability.  I have also become aware through the Law of Attraction and the teachings of Abraham that this voice of the judge interferes with flow, abundance and allowing the full vibrancy of life.

I learned to journal in this voice.  I am astounded by the punch it does pack.  Periodically I sit and check inside of me to sense into what I’m experiencing and feeling and what the impact is.  I journal what I am sensing until I feel done.  Then I check in again to see what I am experiencing, sensing and feeling, and then journal again. And then again, if that seems required.  I am committed to going the next layer deep and the next until I feel the light flood back into my soul and I feel a lightness of spirit and of body. This is what I want to amplify in my life now.

Exposing my voice of self-judgment transmutes it into a gift of understanding and insight after which joy can once again arise and take more of the space that is its, and my own, rightful due.  Now, instead of seeing my journey as one that should be concluded and being hard on myself because it is not, I see my journey and myself with a gentleness I could not access before as it was hidden underneath the protective layer of the voice of judgment.  I have always known, intellectually, that learning and growth is a life long journey.  Now I know it and accept it with a graciousness that only comes from the light.  It is a good reminder in this season of amplification.

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Play is an Attitude

I am becoming more and more serious about play – as an attitude as much or more than as an activity.   These days I’m reflecting a lot on the Law of Attraction, abundance, energy, flow and what blocks flow.  I have been soaking up Abraham-Hicks and their teachings on the Law of Attraction.

Things like worry, stress, fear, negativity, seriousness of character all get in the way of attracting what you want in your life – anything that constricts the essence of who you are slows down the manifestation of what you want.   Anything that gives relief – laughter, joy, love, delight, hope, fun, playfulness – all fuel a vibration that attracts to you what you want to manifest, contributing to expansiveness.

There was a time, a long time ago, that I used to have fun and be fun to be around.  Wherever I was, there inevitably was laughter.  And somehow, when I was distracted by the seriousness of life, running a business, being in relationship, raising children, my natural joie d’vivre slipped away until all that was left was this grave seriousness, worry, fear and strain.  My world and my energy became more and more constricted and flow was blocked off.

One day, I noticed.  I looked up and looked around and I noticed I was all seriousness, intensity and negativity and lacked any sense of joyfulness or play in my life.  Couldn’t even really remember the last time I had laughed out loud or had any sense of fun. How had that happened?  Little bit by little bit the shape of my life had unintentionally and, in some ways, unwillingly, shifted. I was deep in my own shadow.

That day, that observance, marked the beginning of a long road back to joy.  I was blown away by habitual patterns, belief systems that locked me into seriousness and the impact of the voice of my inner judge.  I learned about the voracity of my inner judge by working through the book Soul Without Shame, learning how to identify and disempower it.  While it still shows up, it has less impact for much less time.  I have learned about understanding my emotions as a guide to my experience and as an inner guidance system.

Over the last few years I have been picking away at of the things that have constricted my energy and constricted flow in my life.  I have been opening up to a greater sense of expansiveness and to taking risks and this has been accelerating.

And, I have been learning about play and playfulness.  When I’m leading workshops, playfulness hasn’t been my strong suit.  I rely on other team members to bring that element.  I bring depth and intensity of connection to group process and I do it well.  What is being reawakened in  me is the idea that play doesn’t have to be an action, it is an attitude that opens up or shifts energy in individuals and in groups and particularly in me.  I have been observing how it galvanizes attention and curiosity in the best possible ways even in a room full of strangers.

I have witnessed the impact of play as an attitude in social settings, at home and in the work I do. It is infusing the relationships I have, and even chance encounters.  Play as an attitude brings with it a greater capacity to risk putting myself out there more, risk being wrong, risk trying things that might not work, risk showcasing the imperfection of being human.  It means the willingness to try without needing specific results to show up as proof of success.  Everything then becomes a learning situation which, oddly enough, then contributes to breeding success – and in beautifully fun ways rather than with a seriousness that brings everything down.

Play as an attitude encompasses joy, delight and expansiveness.  It opens up channels for Law of Attraction to work in  favourable ways, bringing wanted things into being.

Now, I smile more even when I’m alone.  I’m enjoying the expansiveness in my own vibrational frequency.  I am more energetic, eager and focused.  All because I am understanding play as an attitude.  I can still be really serious about my work, the integrity of all my relationships and the responsibilities I hold.  But when I infuse them with an attitude of play I bring alive two of my favourite rules – Rule 6a and 6b:

6a: Don’t take yourself so f—–g seriously!

6b: Don’t take other people so f—–g seriously!

These are two rules I have had to be reminded of often for a long time and now they are becoming integrated into my being along with the delightful attitude of play.  What things can you bring an attitude of play to that would enable you to shift the shape of your experience?

Contemplating Joy

Byron Brown, in Soul Without Shame: A Guide to Liberating Yourself from the Judge Within, asserts that compassion, strength, love and joy are essential soul qualities.  He says that ego – or our internal judge or critic – would have us believe this is not true, that we are in constant search of these qualities and that usually they are unattainable, maybe because we believe we are not worthy.

A constant search for these qualities would always have them in the future and, while we may have fleeting glimpses of them, they are elusive.  We are thus, by default, relegated to a life of strife and striving, doomed to be ruled by the internal judge or critic who, when we are not doing well admonishes us that we can do better and when we do well, first congratulates us and then says, “How long do you think you can keep that up?”.  Stepping out of this habitual, ingrained pattern in our thoughts and in our life takes conscious, intentional effort but when it happens we experience moments of freedom – even joyful freedom.

Of the essential soul qualities, it is joy I am contemplating most frequently at the moment.  Joy because, as the shape of my world has shifted, I feel joyful – often.  I wake up in the morning feeling joyful, go to bed at night feeling joyful.  I don’t necessarily feel joyful every moment of every day but at least I’ve become aware of my emotional journey and am living into it – rather than walking through it as if it was happening to someone else – or, maybe, happening to just a shadow of myself rather than the multi-coloured range which has become more available to me over the last couple of years.

Joy feels freeing and expansive.  It is fed by gratitude and appreciation. It is fed by noting it and sinking deeper into it – surrendering to it, letting it seep into all my pores, breathing it in with every breath and back out into the world so other people can also feel the expression of joy – even if they do not know what it is they are experiencing.

And as I notice joy and joyfulness in my life, in any given moment, every now and then I also notice the little voice that says — yeah, sure it’s summer now, but what about the fall?  How do you know you are actually going to keep your business busy enough to sustain yourself in the fall?  You should be worried about that now!

Hmmm, you should be worried about that now.  Sounds like the voice of my internal judge wanting to be heard – in fairness to it, it does want to keep me safe and financially sustainable, but it has a limited range of options with which to do that and they all include struggle, worry and fear – emotions I am very familiar with – as I am also familiar with how constricting and how limiting they can be, shutting down the capacity of the soul to be in full expression – which includes full manifestation that comes from a place of trust.

Most of us have learned that life is full of struggle and if you want to get ahead you have to work hard, really hard – and even then there are no guarantees.  We have learned that life is not handed to us on a silver platter, we have to work in order to live and adversity makes us stronger – you know that phrase – that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

Okay, so there may be some truth in that but I declared awhile ago (a bit more than a year ago in fact) that I was welcoming ease into my life.  I’ve had varying degrees of success with that over the last year and a bit – it takes intentionality and really paying attention  in any given moment, and, for now, it seems to be more and more a characteristic of how I am living my life and what is showing up in it.  It doesn’t mean there aren’t difficult things or moments that show up. My father’s diagnosis of prostate cancer is a good example, the uncertainty of this story as it unfolds over the next 6 months to a year and the impact on me as his main source of support in his health care.  Or my mother’s journey with dementia in a long term care ward.  Or entering yet another new phase of my life as both of my older children prepare to depart to different provinces in the fall for University.  But it does mean I entertain these stories, events in my life, with a different kind of graciousness which invites ease into how to hold them them.  And it doesn’t mean I can’t feel joy or be in a state of joyfulness as I experience the ebb and flow of my life and the ebb and flow of the lives of people I care about.

I am welcoming ease, welcoming joy and welcoming the full array of what all needs to show up in my life, saying no to worry and to fear, yes to presence and to calm.  I am aware that fear, worry, frustration are waiting in the wings some days, some moments, but I am no longer expecting them and no longer inviting them – consciously or unconsciously.  Every moment will take care of itself.  And, if I believe that, it is a far more playful and fun way to show up in the world, a world of joy and joyfulness.

If it is true that the other shoe will drop, why can’t it look and feel like the first one rather than the one we allude to: the heavy handed, heavy-hearted counterpart to joy, love, compassion and strength?

Resentment, Anger and Grudges as Soul Journey Teachers

“If I destroy you, I destroy myself. If I honour you, I honour myself.” Nunbatz Men MAYAN

This is a daily meditation offering from White Bison.  The message: if I secretly hold a grudge or resentment against someone, I will be a slave to that person until I let them go so let me remember to look at my brothers and sisters in a sacred way.

This is a hard lesson to really accept and learn when we so want it to be about the other person! Yet when we hold that grudge, the person we hold it against actually has power over us.  To be even more direct, we have given our power away to them.  Nothing can be resolved unless they do something, healing cannot take place unless they do something.

What a sad and wretched way to live if this is what we choose – completely at the mercy of another’s journey.  What if they never change?  What if they never offer us what it is we think we need of them?  Or, even worse, what if they do and then we discover that that isn’t really the magic cure we’ve been waiting for? It’s not nearly as satisfying as we were sure it would be?

Healing of the soul is not an outer journey dependent on someone else.  It is an inner journey that only we can navigate.  Fortunately, there are many helpers, guides and teachers who show up along the way – but only when we are ready and can either perceive others as teachers or invite them as such.  It is easier to understand coaches and mentors as teachers, less easy to understand those we hold a grudge (or worse) against as a teacher although they often catapult our learning once we open to it.

When we feel wronged, and particularly when we feel deeply wronged, it is hard to step into the path of inquiry that asks: why have I invited this into my life?  This is not to make us wrong, make us a victim or cause us to take responsibility for another person’s actions.  This is solely to help us understand our own soul’s journey and the lessons we need to learn.

When I have felt marginalized in my life, I learned to ask the question: Why am I inviting marginalization (or marginalizing myself)?  How does that serve me in the place that I am in now? In a place of marginalization, I hide from stepping into my own power and purpose in life and, for some strange reason, this feels “safer”.

When I have felt voiceless in relation to other people I wondered what was my journey to reclaiming my voice?  I recognized my own feelings of judgment arising – about others and about myself – and learned to step into it, initially with great trepidation I might add, inquire into it, ease up on it.  Voicing my fears, issues and concerns in the light of showing up in ways I do not aspire to (as judgmental) began to bring me back to reclaiming my voice – a step toward also reclaiming my power – as a being of compassion, strength and love with important work to do in the world.

Jerry Granelli in my ALIA module  Leader as Shambhala Warrior said: if you resent one moment of your life, that is aggression.  Wow.  Just one moment of resentment is aggression.  Powerful.  It resonated strongly with my journey and learning to find the gifts in life decisions I’d made that I’d come to regret.  In truly finding the gift, the regret left, creating space for more compassion, strength, love and great joy – qualities that Byron Brown describes as inherent soul qualities in his book: Soul Without Shame: A Guide to Liberating Yourself from the Judge Within – a book that literally changed my life.

Letting go of regret and resentment can be a daily exercise, a daily reminder that this is a journey and, when we do step into it, it is a shape shifting journey.  We get to make a choice about it every day.  We only come to understand it as a choice as we journey, as we learn, as we sink into the soul’s journey by inquiring – with curiosity – into resentment, anger and grudges as they show up in our life.

Life has an interesting way of bringing to us that which we most need to learn from at any given time. My experience is that by learning to embrace it, it is usually a gentler journey – and I’ve learned that the hard way – from all the choices I made that brought me into deeply intense learning experiences that I wouldn’t necessarily have “chosen” for myself but which I now see that my “soul’s journey” chose for me to create the conditions necessary for me to step more fully into the gifts, power and talents that serve me and serve my work in the world.

These soul journey teachers do not appear to be friends when they show up.  If we make them enemies as much as the others they show up about, we wither and die – literally and figuratively, spiritually and physically.  This is motivation enough to take the difficult first steps of seeing them for their enormous potential as teachers.  The more intense the experience, the greater the return in the soul’s journey.

Because at some point I embraced this journey – which was better than the alternative internal toxicity I found myself living in a few years ago, every day and most minutes in a day, I now find myself in a place of deep appreciation, gratitude and joy for my journey and the ALL the people in it who have contributed in some way.  Waking up feeling joyful does not get old!