I don’t think we understand how our thinking and the way we talk to ourselves affects us. I was never as aware of negative self-talk until I began sitting meditation. It can be eye-opening to realize how incessant it is. But what I didn’t expect was to hear at retreat that there was so much I was thinking to myself that was really hurtful.
When I first became a practitioner and started to listen to the teachings, I thought it was odd that someone said that they were going to “invite” the bell when at the start of the meditation. Don’t we just pick up a striker and hit the bowl? Do you hear the subtle difference in that? The latter is our every day language, well, for most of us. The second appears to be more filled with compassion and openness. Even to something inanimate, we are facing it with gentleness and inviting it to sound rather than using violent language.
I know that might sound silly at first. But think about this in a larger context. . . How do you talk to yourself when you stub your toe or forget something in the house? We can be pretty harsh. Try to make a point of listening to yourself the next time it happens. Would you want someone to talk like that to your child or if you do not have a child, imagine the image of baby buddha, smiling up at you, emminating love. Could you, in your heart of hearts, be cruel, unforgiving, or demanding?
The reason I bring this up is because I have heard many people who are experiencing profound grief at the loss of someone or at the impending loss of their own life. They condemn themselves for being weak and not getting over the loss or not praying enough to cure themselves from the disease that they think will end their lives. As I said above, I think we are conditioned (and practice and get reinforced) to this harshness. I’m not even sure if someone has to have been that way to us; it seems to come with time and experience. And I am repeatedly shocked when I hear this from these individuals whose hearts are full and breaking.
It appears that at just the times that we need to be kind-hearted and loving to ourselves, we tighten up and close our hearts. When we would extend ourselves while another was in pain, we clamp down and hold on tight, not willing to surrender to gently being with our pain.
I invite you to watch this clip of the Bell of Mindfulness. Allow it to awaken in you a sense of compassion for those self-doubts and judgments. If we don’t start the practice now, while we are dealing with the everyday loss, disappointment, and hurt, how will we manage the practice when our world seems to be falling apart and we need to take extra care for ourselves.
You don’t need a mindfulness bell for this practice. Anything can do that for you. Some suggest using the ringing of the phone or the indicator that you have received an email. Others suggest setting a timer. You can use whatever works for you like a picture, a quote, etc. Give yourself the gift of starting small and practicing with the little things we say to ourselves non-stop before you try to tackle the big and powerful hurts that we inflict. Always remember that the practice is about cultivating joy, equanimity, compassion, and love. Your practice shouldn’t be another reason to be cruel to yourself but a time when you practice the idea of “right speech” to yourself. If you are going through heartache, take this time to be extra loving to yourself. I’m sure you’ll find that as you do, you are able to hold more and more acceptance for not only your pain but for the pain of others around you.