Making Friends With Myself

NOTE:  This post was also published in Some Talk of You and Me http://sometalkofyouandme.com/2015/04/24/making-friends-with-myself-shari-sachs/

I know you all have them – the Voices inside your head.

A cacophony of Voices, that tell you, you can’t, you’re no good, who would want you anyway, you’re too fat/thin/ugly/stupid. Etc., etc., etc.

 Voices that beat you up for something you ostensibly did bad, wrong or so they say. Voices that tell you to worry, to be wary, be afraid. BE CAREFUL.

Then there is the Voice named GUILT, the one named SHAME, the one named SELF-LOATHING.

Need I go on?

Sometimes, however, there is one Voice that stands out amongst the rest refusing to relent, holding you hostage to it’s incessant chant, drowning out the others.

I have been wrestling with this Voice of mine for a very long time now, but especially so in the last years. I’m pretty sure that voice is echoing my ego, that part of me that might die if it didn’t have physical form and the limitations that come with it to attach to.

Egos, you see, are not the bedfellows of Spirit. They do not naturally “peacefully co-exist.”   Egos battle Spirit in a frenzied, “by any means necessary” way to stay alive. Even if it means killing you.

The battle between my ego and spirit culminated a few years back when life as I knew it began to systematically dismantle before my very eyes forcing me to “dis-identify” with more and more of the roles, expectations and material things that had defined me for the better part of a fifty something plus lifetime.

As I encountered this erosion of my ego the Voice simultaneously got louder and louder – and louder.

It no longer stopped after slinging just one or two negative digs my way; instead it assembled an ensemble of searing insults, put downs and self loathing commentary as an assault against my higher self that was desperately trying to edge it out.

Sometimes it got so loud that I couldn’t hear anything else. Sometimes it drowned everything else out to the point where I actually believed what it is saying. That was the point when I either would make stupid decisions, sabotage myself or keep myself small and from my own power.

Which of course, is just what “the Voice” wanted. And I really couldn’t blame it. After all, it was fighting for its survival.

But on a recent morning it was different. I think she – the Voice personified — must have been having a weak moment because she was not on her usual full frontal attack.   Instead she quietly introduced herself to me like someone who really wanted to know me and wasn’t sure I felt the same.

To my surprise, she was not practicing the usual guerrilla warfare I had come to expect. In fact, she was actually quite endearing.

“I’m Esmeralda” she whispered in my ear, gently announcing herself.

That’s right. Esmeralda.

After some minutes of chatting, I realized all she really wanted was love and a little bit of attention, maybe some validation. Yes, she acted like a brat to get it, but only because she knew no other way.

I realized that beneath the bravado and the bullying, all she really wanted was a hug.

So I hugged her. And when I did, it dawned on me that the more we try to extinguish something the harder it fights to stay alive.

I wondered, could it be that sometimes in our quest to get to know our higher selves we forget that we still need our egos? Or they still need us. Or both.

After all, the ego is the “instrument” which enables us to do the things we came to do in this Earthly world. There may come a time when we may not need them anymore but so long as we are in physical form they are with us for the ride.

They, and the bodies that go with it, are what allows us to see and hear and feel and sense beauty and grandeur and even the drama and pain that is all part of being alive in this physical world.

So why not befriend and embrace it? Just recognize it plays a supporting role instead of a leading one? Humor it when it tries to tell you what you can’t do and what you are not. Know that it’s just being silly and fighting to stay alive.

And so that’s what I did. I made her my friend. Esmerelda and I are now buds, bedfellows.  She still likes to act up from time to time and pretend she’s in control.   And sometimes I bite. But not for long. And when I come to my senses, I just stop and give her a hug, and tell her I love her. It’s as easy as that!

Noticing about Noticing

23806_319421897764_4410193_n

Today I want to write about “Noticing”.  Because I have been noticing          about noticing. That noticing what we think, do and say and how and why we think, do and say the things we do seems to be a pretty important step on the  spiritual path. Some will call this “awareness”.  But I think what happens first as you start to become conscious is that you start to “notice”.   Suddenly there is an awareness  and then a questioning of the same or similar reactions to the same or similar circumstances.  In my experience, it’s like there is one of me watching while the other of me is reacting.  The one watching is saying something like – “oh- isn’t that interesting… why would I do/say/think THAT?”.  She is noticing where she never noticed before.  And questioning.  She is watching but still not able to stop the one doing from having the reaction.

Not yet anyway.

One of the things I have been “noticing” these last few weeks is how irritated I have been getting about things that really have nothing to do with me.  Of course at the time I think it has everything to do with me.  But somewhere along the line my higher self knows better.

There are my usual sources of annoyance which some of you may also be familiar with  -traffic, long lines, waiting interminably (ten or fifteen minutes)  for food at a restaurant  or the epitome of annoyance creation for me – being forced to dial, then deal with, any kind of customer service organization, especially ones where I cannot understand the person on the other end of the phone.

But over these last weeks I’d been “noticing” myself reacting to some events that are beyond the usual triggers.

For example. – I always get to my yoga class super early.  I have a favorite spot and like to procure it and claim it as if I own it.  In the corner, where I can have MY space, my privacy.  These things are very important to me.  Especially when I have to reach my arms out wide in a sun salutation or in a “T” while doing a twist on the floor and I’d rather not collide with the outstreteched arms of the person next to me.   But in general I just like my personal space.  Its just a pet peeve of mine.  I realize I may be more sensitive than most when it comes to this need and that is precisely why I get there early so I can get this space.  MY space.

As the room starts to fill up I can feel myself slowly become more and more anxious.  Now I’m in yoga class mind you.  Part of the experience is supposed to be about finding peace and love and acceptance most of all.  To reduce not enhance anxiety.  So not only am I  feeling a growing, gnawing anxiety about the increasingly crowded room,  I’m also starting to feel a good measure of guilt about it as well as at my egoic and selfish need for my space in what’s supposed to an environment of “oneness”.

A few minutes before class starts is when my level of irritation starts to really take hold.  I can feel the unease rising in my body.  I’m quietly but fervently trying to guard the precious little space left beside me.  Trying not to make it too obvious since that would be very un-yogi like, I use every ounce of silent, energetic power I have to place dominion over my precious space.  I pray, I beg, I whine under my breath.  I direct my thoughts to the space claiming it to be mine.  Reserving it with my energy..  Hoping those coming in the room will pick up on the vibration that reads  “Reserved for Shari.”

The door closes and we are about ready to start meditation.  By this time I have already used up a considerable amount of energy and invested some time in trying to protect my space.  It’s the prescribed starting time for class and I can see outside the studio window that there are still MORE people coming in!!!  My irritation level climbs to beyond what I can humanly control,  like a fever that shoots up uncontrollably leaving you shaken and delirious.    Don’t they know class is already started?  I know all are welcome at yoga but this is the West – what about our Western culture’s sacred respect for being on time?   Or what about not distracting meditation—so if this is an Eastern spiritual practice, isnt there something in the Eastern culture’s notion about respect about that??

But it seems that neither version of respect matters right now. People are still trickling in and we’re still supposed to close our eyes and breathe and go inward while they do.  I really want to go inward.  Ive been looking forward to this all day.  But I can’t while there is still all this outward disturbance.  Another pet peeve.  Am I the only one feeling this??

This is the point where I do start to take it personally.  It goes something like this inside of me:

 I’ve succeeded!.  I’ve managed to keep a few inches of precious space clear next to me.  And class officially started! And so did meditation!   I breathe a quiet sigh of relief.  Only one tiny little space left – aha – next to me!  Phew!!!!   The begging and the whining worked.   I can relax.  I can meditate.  Aaaaah….

Or so I thought.  So when the next person walks in late – and after meditation has already started no less – and I know the only little space left is the one next to me in the far corner of the room where I have been silently praying;  while the teacher says “welcome” in that warm and inviting way that all yoga teachers say “welcome” (even to people that are late to class) I am taken over by my lowest of  lower self.  The fever is at 106.  I’m no longer in control.  I open one of my closed meditative eyes, peek through it, see that no one else seems to be disturbed,  and nevertheless, find myself giving  that person who came in late and is threatening to take my space a very self-righteous evil eye!  Yes. I admit it. I do.  I tried the quiet begging. It didn’t work.  So what choice do I have??   I’m thinking the glare of my evil eye will help them see the light.  At the same time, I’m also “noticing” how personally I’m taking this.   As if that person has been plotting all day to orchestrate their arrival in class just to annoy me.  Because, you know – they really have nothing better to do.

And anyway my evil eye isn’t that evil or effective anyway.  “Plop” goes the mat right next to me.  Five minutes late and all.  Despite my best and all out efforts.  The Universe is obviously out to get me.

Now if this ain’t “ego”, I don’t know what is.

I guess we all have one.  Even me.  They remind us they are here all the time.

It doesn’t end there however.

In my parking garage later that day there is a car parked across from my spot that is clearly marked “NO PARKING ANY TIME”.  It’s the umpteenth time they are parked there.  Their license plate says “MK HOME” – as if to rub it in.  I’m appalled at this car owner’s lack of rule following.  Such injustice!  Another example.  I would never do that.  So why should/can they?   Obviously personal.  Yet again.  It’s starting to feel like a conspiracy.

And then to top it off,  there is a daily, almost hourly, incessant stomping /running/ bowling(?)/ I’m not sure what it is noise coming from the three year old  that lives above me.  Like clockwork – 8 a.m, noon, 6 p.m..  BANG BANG BANG.   Now you may be thinking my other two illustrations are just examples of me overreacting or over –personalizing. Even I eventually question myself.   But come on– this one is definitely directed toward me.  BANG BANG right above my head.  They know I live here.  What  nerve!   That three year old was clearly , deliberately placed there just to annoy me!  What else could it be?    This is SO about me!

By now, I’m exhausted.  I got nothing left.  The conspiracy against me is winning.

Just when I think I cant take anymore I am rescued.  Thank heaven for Eckhart Tolle whose New Earth podcast I’ve been listening to – again.  And I was reminded, it’s not personal.  Not any of it. It just “is”. My ego thinks it’s personal because it likes to feel that special, because egos are well– personal.    I could make a different choice. Surrender.  Surrender is not giving in or giving up.  Its just acceptance. It actually gives me power; it doesn’t take it from it me.  And in so doing I can see that there is no conspiracy at all and that nothing or no one is actually doing anything to me.  Its all my choice in how to view it, or resist it or not.

I have a moment of consciousness.  I take a very small, incremental step toward spiritual awakening by realizing everyone else is not thinking about or out to get  me.  None of this is proof of that.  In fact, most likely, everyone else’s own egos are too worried about themselves and all the traffic and long lines etc out to get them to be that concerned about me.  All our egos bumping into each other.

Until we take a step back for one small, sweet moment and just – notice….