Yesterday, Martha Beck and I co-taught the first of eight classes in our Coming Home to Your Spirit class. We were very excited about teaching something that would give us a venue to discuss publicly the kinds of spiritual concepts we’ve been discussing privately for three years, not because we think we’ve got it all figured out yet, and not because we consider ourselves experts in spirituality, but because as wildly curious spiritual seekers attuned to the vibration of other spiritual seekers, we yearned to create a way to share, learn from each other, facilitate dialogue, do some spot coaching, lean into the edges of our own growth, push the growth edges of those who participate, and call upon the Divine to awaken us all, if such an outcome is aligned with the highest good.
Of course, because we dared to publicly tell the world that we were ready to take on such a momentous task, we wound up finishing our first class and judging ourselves for all the ways in which we failed to be perfect on the call.
We had just finished talking about the “8 Phases of Awakening” and how to start shifting out of egoic consciousness and into other “higher” states of awareness. Yet, the minute I hung up that phone, my Small Self (aka. the ego) had a field day. My Small Self’s rant went something like this:
My Small Self’s Story
What the hell did you think you were doing, trying to teach a program about spirituality? You’re a doctor—an OB/GYN, at that—not a priest or a spiritual teacher or even a psychologist. Just because you’re on your own spiritual journey, learning as you go, you think this gives you the authority to teach a class about this stuff? You think you’re Eckhart Tolle all the sudden?
You did a bad job. You ran out of time before you finished getting through the 8 phases. You started talking about the signs and symptoms of spiritual awakening, but then you got sidetracked. You disappointed Martha. Of course you disappointed Martha! Who did you think you were trying to teach a program about spirituality with someone as brilliant as Martha? Martha would have been better off teaching that program without the likes of you.
You should just stick to what you’re good at. Listen to your advisors who tell you to keep on your white coat and stay where you belong, in the genre of health, far from all things spiritual. You’ll be lucky if Martha ever wants to do a program with you again. I told you you weren’t qualified to do this. Don’t you know I’m only trying to protect you from making a fool out of yourself? That should teach you not to listen to my advice in the future. Who do you think has your back? You keep ignoring me in favor of this damn Inner Pilot Light, but look where that got you. Stay safe. Stick to your comfort zone. Trust me. I’ve got your back.
The Attack of the Inner Critics
My friend SARK once gave a public lecture, and in the parking lot after her lecture, her Small Self started to rant as cruelly as mine did. She handled it brilliantly. She marched right up to a cop, who was sitting in his squad car in the middle of the parking lot. She said, “Officer, can you help me?” He asked what she needed. SARK said, “I just got attacked by a gang of my Inner Critics. Would you please arrest them?”
He looked at her, assessing her to try to figure out whether he needed to call the men in white coats or arrest her instead. I’m sure SARK looked as pitiful as I felt the minute I hung up that phone after trying to lead 650 people in a spiritual experience. With tenderness, the officer said, “You know, my Inner Critics were just beating me up too!”
He then stepped out of the squad car, opened the back seat of his car, pretended to shove SARK’s violent Inner Critics into the squad car, turned on his flashers, and went blazing away.
SARK felt much calmer, and the part of her she calls her Inner Wise Self was able to come in and comfort her.
How to Comfort the Small Self
I didn’t have a cop around when I hung up that phone. I was all by my lonesome in an empty house in my small Northern California town with a few coyotes howling in the distance. But I was able to recognize what was happening. As my Small Self ranted, I popped into Phase 4 of the 8 Phases of Awakening I had taught in the class. I was able to be the witness, watching my Small Self beat itself up with its impossible standards of perfection. My Small Self was ignoring the glowing comments on social media from those who loved the class. Instead, the witness part of me was able to see the Small Self comparing me to Martha and Eckhart Tolle, falling short and judging me harshly. This Small Self part of me has been a perfectionist for a long time. It HATES doing anything imperfectly, especially in public. It wants everyone to think Lissa is always successful and things always go brilliantly. It hates to fail. It judges itself cruelly. When it starts ranting and thinks it hasn’t done its best, no amount of evidence can prove it wrong.
At first, I tried calling a friend. But my friend was trying to help me celebrate my success. But my Small Self couldn’t hear that yet. The hurt, disappointed, small part was too busy having its pity party at the hands of my Inner Critics (which, of course, are also my Small Self.) So my friend couldn’t comfort me, even though he tried.
Fortunately, there’s another part of me—the part I call my Inner Pilot Light—that always knows just what to do in these situations. So I slogged myself across my bedroom to my meditation pillow, where I lit a candle and forced myself to get quiet.
In the silence, I was able to find the voice that treats this hurt, scared, judging part of me the way I would treat my eight year old daughter if she came home crying after judging herself for not being good enough. If she ever got off stage after performing her dance routine and started crying because she didn’t perform perfectly, I would not tell her it’s time to go eat ice cream and ignore the emotion. I would not instruct her on how to do the steps perfectly. I would certainly never criticize her. I would simply acknowledge her emotion, let her cry, validate her feelings, wait until she calmed down, point out what she had done right, then take her out for ice cream. Maybe later, when she was less emotional, she might have been able to receive feedback without feeling too tender.
So this is what I did for myself. On my meditation pillow, my Inner Pilot Light mothered my Small Self just like that. My heart opened to a place of compassion for that little hurt, scared, self-critical part of me, and after twenty minutes, she felt soothed, accepted, and calm.
Can You Soothe Your Small Self?
When your Small Self feels hurt, disappointed, inadequate, insecure, judgmental, angry, jealous, frustrated or . . . whatever . . . can you comfort this part of yourself without letting it act out? Can you pop yourself out of identification with your Small Self into that witness position of the loving, tender Inner Pilot Light? I’d love to hear your stories about what works for you when you get attacked by your Inner Critics.
Enjoy this post? Subscribe here so you don’t miss the next one.
Feel free to share the love if you liked this post
PS. If you’d like to hear the first class in Coming Home to Your Spirit so you can judge for yourself who was right—the glowing feedback from those who listened live or the ranting criticism of my Small Self, it’s not too late to sign up. You can listen to the recording of the first class and still make it live for the rest of the seven modules. If you agree with my Small Self and want your money back, we have a full 100% money back guarantee! But hopefully, you’ll glean wisdom from what Martha and I shared. If you feel inspired, sign up here and see for yourself!