Meditation & The Critical Voice
Mingyur Rinpoche, a Buddhist Monk, taught a simple meditation training in our last post. As you might have noticed, he is not the same monk who coined the idea of the puppy mind I mentioned in our first blog post on mediation. Mingyur uses the term ‘monkey mind’ to describe the all over the place, and into everything way our mind wanders in the same way that the Vancouver monk I worked with used the idea of a puppy mind. Both monkeys and puppies have a playfulness about them. There is a lightness to them.
It can be so easy to be angry with our minds for being into everything and not being still. Just like it can be easy to be frustrated with a puppy that is into everything.
If we step back and think about puppies, it is in a puppy’s nature to be into everything. It is what they do. This is exactly what the mind does. The mind just seems to be into everything. The mind can become such a puppy that we can have this critical voice that natters away at us from the inside, saying things like: what’s wrong with you, if you could only keep your mind on this meditation, or you’re terrible at this, why are you even trying? Meditation is stupid, why did I buy into that hippy, granola, woo-woo stuff? I should be doing a million other more important things. [Insert any unsupportive comment here].
If we can begin noticing this critical voice, we can start to hear the repetition in the messages it sends. These undermining messages can leave you feeling like a failure, or feeling like meditation won’t ‘work’. Who wants to continue doing something that leaves them feeling unsatisfied, or worse yet, like an unproductive failure? Not me.
You could be so tempted to stop meditating at this point.
However much like the remedy to noticing your mind wandering, the remedy to noticing your critical voice undermining you begins with continuing to notice it, and bringing your attention back to your breath. Again, this can feel like a really difficult thing, if not an impossible thing, to do.
There can be an awkward stage where you notice just how relentless this critical voice is. Often noticing just how frequently something is happening is the most difficult stage of change. By bringing your attention back to your breath, or whatever other attentional anchor you’re using, you are back to mediating, back to paying attention to that present moment. You are back to noticing your breath and gently setting this critical voice aside.
Inviting a warm and gentle approach to my mind when it wanders, has allowed me to sink into meditation more gracefully. It has allowed me to be more willing to meditate in free moments of time. It has allowed me to enjoy meditation, even when it is difficult.