Before you can heal any challenges with low self-esteem, or exaggerated high self-esteem in your life it is necessary to first see such feelings as they arise.
Before you can heal any challenges with harsh judgment of others, it is necessary to first see and touch any feelings of harsh self-judgment you have.
One way to begin to see such feelings is to ask the question, “How do you feel about being you?”
Do you compare yourself to others and feel “less than” or “greater than” whoever you are comparing yourself to?
If you make some mistake whether it is minor or significant do you tend say things to yourself such as “How could you be so stupid?”, or “You idiot!”, or “There you go again!”
It is important to get a sense of how you relate to yourself. How do you feel about being you?
Have you made some poor choices that harmed your life and others?
Do you have some very real problems in your present daily life such as financial, legal, educational, or relationship issues that resulted from some poor or unskillful choices you made in the past? If this is the case it can be particularly difficult to forgive oneself, or to “let go” of regrets when in fact your present life continues to be harder again and again because of past choices.
What is essential is to observe mindfully any feelings of low self-esteem, exaggerated high self-esteem (i.e. conceit, arrogance etc) harsh judgment of self, or feelings of inadequacy as they arise within you.
Watch closely any such feelings or tendencies as they arise and as they pass. You can apply this meditation practice during formal times of sitting and stillness and in the active hours of your life for such feelings may arise both during meditation and in active life.
Do you accept your life as it is now?
Can you forgive yourself for any poor choices you made in the recent or distance past?
Can you openly face and name the primary challenges of your current life even if you are not sure how to meet those challenges. Can you accept the difficulties you may be having with finance or romance, health or employment? Or are you locked in denial, or escapist flight, or bitterly resenting that you have the troubles in your life especially when you think of someone who does not have your troubles?
There is a simple truth in all these things. Life is often difficult and painful. Many of us are locked in a struggle for emotional or financial or medical survival where the outcome is far from certain. Many feel that perhaps meditation and yoga and related disciplines of this kind can help them.
They are right.
Meditation can help you discipline your mind to be present to the present moment. You can learn to observe feelings and attitudes as they arise.
If you can catch these feelings when they start to surface you can then begin to engage the process of being more patient, more loving, and more accepting of your life with the all the strengths and weakness, with all the virtues and character defects, with all the joys and the troubles of your adult life.
As you heal the conflicts within, you will be far more able to heal the conflicts you have with others. As you heal the conflicts with others, you will be well on our way to the wisdom, love, and liberation that is the goal of the simple practice of sitting in stillness and silence and observing our life as you find it now. But acceptance of your life as it is now does not mean you are not going to try to change what you are able to change. It is just that the process of change begins when we face and accept the reality of our life as we find it now.
This is a paradox, but then many of the most importance lessons of the spiritual life come clothed in a paradox.
More next week
Will Raymond Author of The Simple Path of Holiness and host of MeditationPractice.com