Practice and the Inner Critical Voice
3:34PM Mar 22, 2022
Today is Sunday, March 20 2022. And today I'd like to talk about something that's kind of dear to my heart, which is practice and the inner critical voice. Especially when, yeah, especially when I was freaking out last night at 11:45pm. And thinking, I, I've got nothing. I've got nothing for this talk, you know. I did plenty of research. And I was reading this great interview that I liked a lot. And I'm going to be reading a little bit from it. But I, I was started looking like this absent minded professor -- had highlight marks everyone's crossing, everything out -- and then I was just kind of like, "What the hell am I going to talk about tomorrow?" But luckily, I came up with an outline at two o'clock in the morning, and woke up and woke up early and filled out the outline. And just one last thing
So yeah, there was anxiety and nervousness. And then just before going to bed, you know, and I was talking to my partner, Cecily, about this at home at 11:46pm at night, and last thing she said was, strive for mediocrity. And it, it did help because for so many of us, we have this inner critical voice, this perfectionist kind of, we might not even be aware of it, when we start with practice, but it's there. And so, yeah, that's, that's what we'll be talking about.
But before we get to our interviews, I just want to just, there's this analogy of a river. Let's use this. And we're in the river. And of course, with Zen practice, you know, we have so much going on in the mind when we start to notice, and these rapids can be really strong. A lot of us and a lot of us, I think what we do is we're trying to stop the rapids, you know, trying to stop those thoughts, or, as opposed to just experiencing our, let's put emotional obstructions or just that the thinking mind or the thought in mind, more like the thought the mind trying to stop those rapids. And of course, we can't know, we're just in the river. And as we start to deepen our practice, and we start to notice more, then that those rapids they start to kind of not have so much force. And as time goes on, they, they start, you know, at a certain point, then we start experiencing more like a creek, not so much force. And then with awakening, there is no rapids, there's just, there's just still water, there's no thought there's nothing. But after awakening, they're still the rapids, they're still that creek. They're still not forced, but our relationship to that river, the river of thoughts, and feelings and, and obstructions. Our, our relationship to it has changed. Changed before we mean, as well, but after awakening, it's more of a fundamental shift. I always felt kind of inspiring, and I was really struck by what Roshi said long ago, my earliest practices when when you it's not like after awakening, you change the changes there. But what happens with awakening is you see the emptiness of everything. And so then the possibility of change is more likely to occur because you've seen into the emptiness of everything. So I'm going to be reading from two articles. They were both actually podcasts interviews in two different podcasts. And but they both the interview he is is Kristin Neff. She's an associate professor at University of Texas. She got her PhD at the University of California in Berkeley. She's a scientist and oh, by the way, had her PhD when she was studying moral development. And she teaches mindfulness you can find her on the Scott quite a bit of stuff on the on the web on the internet. And our so her thing is mindfulness practice in this practice of self compassion. So these two, I'll just mention the interviews from the very getgo. The first one that I'll be reading from is from this 10% happier podcast. It was in December 16 2020. And it's an interview and the interviewer is His name is Dan Harris. And the title of this particular podcast was kryptonite for the inner critic, and by Christine Neff, Kristen Neff excusing. And then the second one is from a different podcast. This is the first time I actually heard her. And it's from the hidden brain podcast. And it's the title of that pot. That particular interview is being kind to yourself. And this podcast was on October 11 2021. Alright, so I mentioned Dan Harris. So Dan Harris, I just want to give in a way what I'll be reading about him. He's the first guy who's interviewing Kristin Neff. On his 10% happier podcast, he wrote a book. I can't remember the date. I don't have it here right now, but I just like to read his preface about it. Again, this is Dan Harrison. He actually still works at ABC. He was a news anchor at ABC. I think he's been there for at least for 20 years. And I'll just go right into his preface. I initially wanted to call this book, The voice in my head is an asshole. Man, I'm glad the kids are not here. However, that title was deemed inappropriate for a man whose day job requires him to abide by FCC decency standards. It's true, though. voice in my head can be a total pill,
I'd venture to guess yours can too. Most of us are so entranced by the nonstop conversation we're having with ourselves that we aren't even aware we have a voice in our head. I certainly wasn't, at least not before I am birth embarked on the weird little Odyssey described in this book. To be clear, I'm not talking about quote, hearing voices. I'm talking about the internal Narrator Narrator The most intimate part of our lives. The voice comes brain in as soon as we open our eyes in the morning, and then heckles us all day long with an air haul long with an air horn. It's a fever swamp of urges, desires and judgments. It's fixated on the past and the future, to the detriment of the here and now. It's what has us reaching into the fridge when we're not hungry, losing our temper when we know it's not really in our best interest, and pruning our inboxes when we're ostensibly engaged in conversation with other human beings. Our inner chatter isn't all bad. Of course, sometimes it's creative, generous or funny. But if you don't pay close attention, which very few of us are taught how to do, it can be a malevolent puppet here. If you told me when I first arrived in New York City to start working in network news, that'd be using medication to define the voice in my head, or died I'd ever write a whole book about it, I would have laughed at you. Until recently, I thought of meditation as the exclusive province of bearded swamis, unwashed hippies, and fans of John Tesh music. John Pashto, that was back in the 70s and 80s. I think he was a some kind of celebrity entertainment guy, and I think he came out with a couple of piano albums. We'll just leave it at that. Moreover, since I have the attention span of a six month old yellow lab, I figured it was something I would never do anyways. Anyway. I assume given the constant looping, buzzing and fizzing of my thoughts that quote, clear in my mind wasn't an option.
Alright, so he's talking about meditation, I think we can all relate to, I don't want to spend too much time with him. It just occurred to me so I'm going to skip over a little more. Because I really want to get to how, how it happened that he started meditating. I think he's been practicing mindfulness meditation for at least 10 years now.
I think we'll pick it up here. One of the questions I hear most often from skeptics is if i Quiet the voice in my head while I lose my edge, some think they need to they need depression to be creative or compulsive, worried to be sex successful. For the past four years I've been road tested many adaptation in the crucible one of the most competitive environments imaginable. Television News, I'm here to tell you it's totally doable. More than that, it can give you a real advantage, not for nothing. It might even make your you nicer in the process. Yes, as you will see, I did stumble into a few embarrassing pitfalls along the way. However, with the benefit of my experience, you should be able to avoid them. Stocks about wanting to demystify meditation. Okay, the story begins during a period of time when I let the voice in my head run amok. It was during the early part of my career, I was an eager, curious and ambitious cub reporter who got swept up and swept away and it all culminated in the single most humiliating moment of my life. All right, and we're going to talk we're gonna read about this. Here is, according to the Nielsen ratings data, five point 19,000 No, 5.0 and one 9 million people saw me lose my mind. It happened on January 7 2004. On the set of Good Morning America, I was wearing my favorite new tie and a thick coating of makeup. My hair was overly cost and puffy. The bosses had asked me to fill in for my colleague Robin Roberts as a newsreader. The job basically entailed coming on and anchoring brief news updates at the top of each hour. I was sitting in robbing spot at a small satellite anchor desk inside the second story of ABC glass in case studio in New York's Times Square. On the other side of the room was the main anchor desk home to the show's co hosts, the avuncular Charles Gibson and the elegant Diane Sawyer. Charlie toss it over to me, so we're live here. We're going to go now to Dan Harris, who's at the news desk. Dan. At this point, I was supposed to read a series of six quote voiceovers short news items, about 20 seconds a piece over which the control room would roll video clips. I started out fine. Good morning, Charlie. And Diane. Thank you. I said in my best morning anchor voice chipper yet authoritative. But then right in the middle of the second voiceover, it hit. Out of nowhere. I felt like I was being stabbed in the brain with raw animal fear. A paralytic wave of panic rolled up through my shoulders over the top of my head that melted down the front of my face. The universe was collapsing in on me. My heart started to gallop, my mouth dried up my palms boost sweat. I knew I had four more stories to read in eternity with no break and no place to hide. No sound bites or pre tape stories or feel correspondents to toss to, which would have allowed me to regroup and catch my breath. As I began the third story about about cholesterol drugs, I was starting to lose my ability to speak gasping as I waged an internal battle against a wave of howling terror, all the compounded by the knowledge that the whole debacle was being beamed out live. And here's this inner critical voice that's going on in his head here. He's got it in italics. You're on national television. This is happening now. Right now. Everyone has seen this dude. Do something. Do something. I tried to fight through it with mixed results. The official transcript of the broadcast reflects my descent into incoherence. Researchers okay, this is a speaking here probably this four story researchers report people who take cholesterol lowering drugs called statins for at least five years may also lower the risk for cancer. But it's too early to.dot.to Describe that and slowly for cancer production. It was at this point shortly after my reference to cancer production with my face drained of blood and caught it and contorted with takes that I knew I had to come up with something drastic to get myself out of this situation. All right, well, apparently you can see this full clip on YouTube. And needless to say, I did not watch it before giving this Dharma talk. But I remember sensei talking about this when he read from Dan Harris's book called 10% happier. And really, I have a lot even though I haven't read the book, I've read enough about him that I just have a lot of admiration for him because he's really trying to
he's he's basing his own experience on on his on what happened and and now he's just kind of really totally drunk drunk the Kool Aid for how great meditation is and he's really trying to have it more accessible for all For people
sorry, Keith, can you give me the clock I just want to keep track of time a bit. Thank you
Alright, so now we'll be reading from 10. This this first interview, titled kryptonite for the inner critic. And again, her name is Kristin Neff, and we'll be talking more about her a little later on to she and of sorts. In the second interview, I'll be reading from kind of gives her own coming to the path talk very openly and honestly about what happened to her as a young woman, and how she got into first Zen practice a little bit, but then more, she's also in the mindfulness tradition. Okay, so we're gonna start off with Dan Harris. And within Buddhism there are I would say, at least two big skills we're trying to teach. One is mindfulness, which is put simply the ability not to be yanked around by our emotions. Okay, so I don't know exactly what kind of mindfulness practice they're talking about. They didn't get into it on in great detail. But we can use this word mindfulness as zozen. It's, it's for this for for this particular article, it is interchangeable, which is why I want to read read more about this. Alright, so just to repeat, one is mindfulness, which is put simply the ability not to be yanked around by your emotions. The other is compassion. Okay, if you're, if you're afraid as I am of gooey words, you can just translate that into friendly LIS, like a cooler, calmer, nicer attitude towards external and internal phenomena. Alright, so here we go. So on the one hand, we have Zen, just the pure kind of just the pure attention that we're putting on to our practice. But then there's this other practice that Kristin Neff will be talking about, which is this compassion practice. So the best as I can understand it, given I've never practiced this is, okay, well, so with this inner critic, this inner critical voice that we have, is basically doing a practice, we're, we're not hard on ourselves, you know, it's, it's, in a way, it's just changing your thoughts to Alright, come on to them. It's okay. So you're human, it's, you can work with this. So in a way, you know, just like that, Harris, I do have, it does make me cringe a little bit. I mean, that's not my experience. My experience is design practice. And I kind of interpreting this self compassion practices, I just, you know, it's just changing negative thoughts to positive thoughts. And that doesn't really work. How ever Kristin Neff is a scientist and I mean, sure mentioned this, I don't know if I'll get to this part of the other interview. But there's been over 4000 studies about this whole practice of self compassion and how it can help and change people. And it can help and change your lives. So there is something to it. And the whole reason I decided to talk, give this talk a chance, because we'll be talking a lot about this mindfulness is this whole self critical narrator that I think all of us are plagued with in, in what do we do with that? And I think just by talking about it can actually help people? I don't know I think it can just help. So we're going to be really delving into this self compassion practice quite a bit that Chris Kristen will be talking about.
Right, and so the mindfulness part, this is not now Christian speaking. And so the mindfulness part is aimed at holding experience in a non judgmental manner. So there you go. Zen right there. We're focusing our attention on the breath or the con, and thoughts and emotions come up. No judgment. They just come up. Don't need to do anything with them. The law the the more we can put our attention on the practice. Though, just be flown by So the compassion part is aimed at holding the experiencer in a friendly manner. And so they have slightly different targets. And so both need to be practice, it can actually almost appear to conflict sometimes because you accept your experience as it is, including the fact that it's painful at the same time that you're wishing yourself well, and you want to help. And so it almost forms a bit of a paradox. Actually, one of the things we like to say is we give ourselves compassion not to feel better, but because we feel bad. So you have to allow the experience to be quote, as it is, yes, absolutely. At the same time, as towards the experience, because you're friendly, because you care, you do what you can to help. Dan Harris, we're not trying to control anything, we're just trying to see things as they are, to see clearly. You know, we're seeing whatever is happening to that, so that it doesn't own us repeat that, you know, we're seeing whatever is happening, so that it doesn't own us. So much of our practice is about just noticing, and dropping. It's in the noticing, where things change, it's in the noticing and not do anything about it. We don't have to do anything about it. I know we've all heard this before. But it's always I've heard this 1000 times from Roshi, and maybe 500 times from Sensei, but it's worth hearing over and over again, to just not worry about how we're doing but that just get our attention back.
You aren't Chris Kristen, you aren't trying to mentally Nimit manipulate your experience. Because if you use compassion to try to make the pain go away, it's actually just another form of resistance. So you have to fully accept the fact that this is painful. This hurts, you know, and that's the mindfulness validating, accepting the fact that this is really painful right now. And at the same time, we give ourselves warmth and kindness.
The reason we practice is because we want to alleviate suffering, right. And so ironically, when we practice, we have to accept what's happening. Because if we don't, it's going to make things worse. But at the same time, it's really helpful. So for instance, there's some research and here we go, she is always quoting research. There's some research that shows if you teach people some self compassion, before they learn mindfulness meditation, they're more likely to stick with it. Because what happens is, you know, the mind sorts start start saying, Oh, I can't do this, I'm so bad at this, and it starts judging, you know, we start judging ourselves. And although it is, it is, we want to accept that and just see them as thought really makes a difference if you give yourself some kindness quote, oh, and that's, that's kind of hard. I mean, it's okay. You know, the friendliness, the warmth, the human connection. Over and over again, whenever we have someone we'll talk about this in the workshop, when people are meditating is to not judge to not judge your practice. Just return your practice to one and counting the breath. And I know people get confused because it's self compassion. But compassion is inherently connected. The word compassion in the in Latin means to suffer with. And so when you give yourself compassion, it's not really aimed at yourself, it's just opening up. You're actually becoming less self ish, or you focus less on the self. And just remembering that all people are imperfect, all people suffer. It's not just me. And that's what comes off. That's what some of the feelings of connectedness comes from.
Just a little more about this, you know, it's kind of a very defeatist voice and this inner critical voice, the fetus voice, and strong self criticism. People think it makes them stronger, you know? Exactly. In other words, this inner critical voice, you know, this kind of cattle prod, if you will, or just as a brain ourselves. People think it makes them stronger. It actually doesn't, you're actually pulling out the rug from underneath yourself. Now, again, that doesn't mean it's like Stuart Smiley. This is this SNL character actually looked this on YouTube to figure out what this was it was Al Franken when he was on Saturday Night Live the the Former Senator there in I think Minnesota was a comedian and writer. And he had this character which was, you know, very dweeb, ish looking guy with this like pastel colored sweater. And every time he introduced his talk show, he'd be looking in the mirror and he'd say, I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And dog doggone it, people like me. So she going back to this now again, that doesn't mean it's like Stuart smiley, I'm great. I'm wonderful. Yeah. No, what you're saying is I acknowledged I'm a flawed human being. Everyone is a flawed human being. I'm going to try to be as friendly and supportive as I can. I'm going to try to learn from my mistakes as opposed to taking my mistakes personally. This actually, what came up to me when I was reading this is the repentance skata I don't think I have it with me. I may have not here it is. But yeah, just the support of what's so empowering about repentance, God, if we can get over the idea, that is some kind of confessional. I grew up a little bit in the Roman Catholic tradition. And the whole confession in a box thing just drove me nuts. As a kid. I'm still kind of bitter about that, as like an eight year old kid in confession, you know, down the church from my school, and trying to come up with something I did wrong to the the priests in that box. It's absurd. But so if we can get past this idea that when we're repenting, as some kind of confession, and doing so, in public with others in the Zendo, it's actually quite empowering to hear what other people have to say, because after a while, we realize we're all struggling with pretty much the same kind of thing. We're all struggling with this inner critic, or their habit patterns that we struggle with. And it just makes everything more human. More imperfect, in a way. It can be really, yeah, it can be really, like I said, heartwarming experience
Alright, so now we're gonna switch over to this other podcasts. It's called the hidden brain podcast. And this is actually when I first heard about Kristin. In this interview, so the host of this hidden brain podcast is Shankar vedantam. And the the title is being kind to yourself, it was October 11 2021.
Perhaps you're familiar. Okay. Sorry. This is Shankar speaking. Starting off. Perhaps you're familiar with an inner voice that says things like this that castigates you criticizes you belittles you a voice that tells you that you're no good that you deserve to suffer in the aftermath of a meltdown. Kristen became more and more aware of that voice insider, she would never dream of saying harsh and cruel things to other people. So why was she doing it to herself. The vast majority of people say they're significantly more compassionate and understanding in kinder to other people than they are to themselves.
He goes on these mistakes filled her with shame and judgment and self criticism. After she became a psychologist, she started to study the harsh ways people talk to themselves, Kristin. I. So now speaking to her, Kristen, I routinely, I routinely find myself saying very critical things to myself that I would never dream of saying to another human being. You studied all the ways people beat up on themselves. What you find, Kristin, in my research, in my research, actually, the vast majority of people say they're significantly more compassionate and understanding and kinder to other people than they are to themselves, especially when they make a mistake or fail some way. It's interesting. Some people manifest this with like, harsh language. And then she uses this person Colleen, you know, they'll swear at themselves, she'll be swearing at herself, or they you and they really use a harsh tone. Other people like myself, it's more just a sense of coldness or shame. Other people almost like almost like they dissociate almost like they, they're banding in themselves, just the way you might with someone you didn't like. You just stopped returning their phone calls, right? So that can manifest is just shutting down and going numb. Sometimes it's just a feeling of disappointment, like, you know, like I said, as a sigh. That that's the way it manifests. But pretty much everyone has a self critic that comes out one way or another.
You've talked Shankar, you've talked about the concept of the inner critic, I think all of us have experiences, what is the role that the inner critic is in? What is the role that the inner critic in our lives? Christian? Well, so the inner critic actually plays an important role. And I'd like to say we shouldn't beat ourselves up for beating ourselves up, because the inner critic comes from the simple desire to stay safe, right? So what we know about the inner critic is it actually is tapping into the body's flight, fight flight or freeze response. And so when we're scared of something, and gosh, when we make a mistake, or fail, it's scary, we feel frightened, we feel threatened. So either we fight with, we fight ourselves thinking we could control the situation and be safe, or we flee and shame from the perceived judgments of others, we kind of freeze and get stuck in rumination. All right there, there are those two extremes, you know, and this will come up in our practice over and over again, there's that desire to flee a situation
or there's a you know, or fighting ourselves.
Just moving along here.
Shankar, the harsh inner critic doesn't have consequences just for us. When we are harsh with ourselves, that harsh voice can also come out in our conversations with others. Part of the problem is that many of us go to pains to hide our inner critic from the outside world. Even as our inside voice gets harsher, we try to project confidence and success to the outside world. Eventually, the gap can become overwhelming. Christian, if you don't give yourself compassion and kindness and support when you're experiencing these negative emotions, and instead of the way you try to deal with them is by like shoving them down suppressing them, bottling them up, then what's going to happen is you haven't actually dealt with those negative emotions, you have a process process them, you have to process them. And what we know very clearly from the psychological research is whatever you resist actually grows stronger. It's worth repeating. And what we know, and I'm talking about these suppressing are bottling up your emotions. And what we know very clearly from the psychological research is whatever you resist actually grow stronger. So trying to avoid them creates this pressure so that eventually you're actually strength, you're actually strengthening the negative emotion so that when it comes out, it's even worse than would have been otherwise. All right, so let's just use an example. And again, this is an example near and dear to my heart, which is suppression. So we come to practice. And we think that, well, I've never really been angry that much over my life. Yeah, I've been a little irritated. But But then what happens as we start to practice, we start to get stuck and confused. And what we just there's all of this turmoil going on into the body. And the key for us as practitioners is to again, just stick with that attention and to experience whatever is going on and to not analyze it to not think about it or not figure it out, because sometimes we can just be angry in our city that will just arise. But that just hold on to that pain and to stick with it and to not try to suppress it. And obviously not clinging to it. I mean, some people do have a more just in general, some people cling to their anger. And so when they get angry, they really get angry, and they linger in it longer
Alright, so I'm going to move over to Joe Colbeck. I just read this passage last night, she's bailing me out again here, I really want to talk about just Zen practice. And she has a chapter here called the subject object problem.
By the way, this is from her book, nothing special. And Joko Beck was that Zen teacher in San Diego. Again, the books called nothing special. And the chapter is the subject object problem. Our basic problem as humans is the subject object relationship. When I first heard this data years and years ago, it seemed to abstract in a revelant, irrelevant to my life. Yet all of our disharmony and difficulty come from not knowing what to do about the subject, object relationship. in everyday terms, the world is divided into subjects and objects. I look at you, I go to work, I sit on a chair. And each of these cases, I think of myself as a subject relating to an object, you my work the chair, yet intuitively, we know that we are not separate from the world and that the subject object of vision is an illusion. To gain that intuitive knowledge is why we practice not understanding subject object dualism, we see the objects in our world as a source of problems, or with what we're talking about in this talk today, which is our inner critical voice or thoughts or negative thoughts, or you could also use negative emotions. But let's let's stick with inner critical thoughts. So that is our object. I'm here the subject and the object is our inner critical voice. Not understanding subject object subject object dualism, we see the objects in our world as a source of problems, you are my problem. My work is my problem. My chair is my problem. When I see myself as a problem, I have made myself into an object. So we run from objects we perceive as problems and seek objects we perceive as non problems. From this point of view, the world consists of me and things that please or don't please me. A cleaner practice does not try to get rid of the object, but rather to see the object for what it is. We slowly learn about being or experiencing in which here is no subject or object at all. We do not eliminate anything, but rather being, but rather bring things together. They're still me and they're still you. But when I am just my experience of you, I don't feel separate from you. I'm one with you. This kind of practice is much slower, because instead of concentrating on one object, we work with everything in our life. So again, just want to talk again, about this inner critical voice that comes up in our practice. You know, I think a lot of us when we start a practice, we don't see that. No, we're just kind of want to grab that pearl of enlightenment and run and we don't see that what the here and now and what arises here now is our practice, and to not do anything about it, to just, I cannot say one last time I promised this is just return or focus our attention on the practice. It's it's it can be it's hard. It's a struggle. And that's why I really wanted to bring up this kind of other practice and just talk about this inner critic in this practice of self compassion. Even though we don't practices I think what Kristin Neff has to say, can really be helpful. But again, going back to our own practice, it's time goes on and as we as we deepen our practice, and doing this daily, it's not that the inner critic voice inner critical voice was a way, it's just that it just doesn't have to hold that we have. And it's not like we've done anything with that the voice is still going to be there. I was still up at 1140 5:46pm last night freaking out. But it just doesn't have to hold as much anymore because of the practice it just as we deep as we go on in this path, it just doesn't become such a huge problem. It's still there. But we've created this because of Zen, we've created the space, we open up, we open up by not suppressing anything, by just
experiencing whatever we experience from moment to moment. You know, there's, there's that other great image that was very helpful for me in this particular session. And I didn't want to do I just I been here, even here for quite a while. And yet I just I just don't want this to change. So. So I went to the first monitor to talk about that. And, and, you know, all they said basically is just you know, there's just, there's a weather, there's just this weather patterns storm going on in your head right now there's this cloud, and it's gonna pass. And just saying that was helpful. Because it did pass everything passes.
This kind of practice is much slower, because instead of concentrating on one object, we work with everything in our life. Anything that annoys or upsets us, which, if we're honest, includes almost everything. So everything becomes grist for the mill of practice, working with everything leads to a practice that is alive in every second of our life. When, when anger arises, for example, much of traditional Zen practice would have us blot out the anger and concentrate on something such as the breath, or Mu say. That's can certainly seem like an interpretation of that. But that's not what we're doing. It might give us that impression, but though we've pushed the anger side it will return whenever we are criticized or threatened in some way. In contrast, our practice is to become the anger itself. In contrast, our practice is to become the anger itself, to experience it fully without separation or rejection. When we work this way, our lives settle down. Slowly, we learn to relate the troublesome objects in a different way. Our emotional reactions gradually wear themselves out. For example, objects we have feared gradually lose their power over us, and we can approach them more readily. It's fascinating to watch that change take place. I see it happening in others and in myself as well. The process is never completed, yet we are increasingly aware and free.
Shankar back to our interview. Shankar she finds this is Kristen again, she she finds that we're often harder on ourselves than we are on anyone else. We criticize ourselves for shortcomings, beat up on ourselves for trivial mistakes. And then he says Kristin, while you were in graduate school, and you went through this terrible saga, you found all kinds of ways to beat up on yourself. But you also started a journey towards self compassion can tell me what happened in your own life that led you in that direction. Alright, so this is or coming to the path talk here. I'm just going to really briefly mention you as a PhD student at University of Berkeley, and she was doing I mentioned this earlier, she was doing her PhD on moral development. young graduate student, and you know, she had some pretty crappy relationships, but she finally met someone who says, he's nice to me. And if he asked me to marry her marrying my will and so she did. So she was married and she was a PhD graduate. And then she got involved with her patient professor had an affair. He was married as well, he was 15 years older than than her and his name was Peter. So here they were having this affair. And of course, eventually it just it blew up her marriage ended. His didn't, but he did die just a little while longer. A few years later, she was in India at the time, and then she came back. And it was just it was just a mess. And she was just so hard on herself for doing this. For you know, she's, as she puts it, I don't know if I'm going to find it, but I'll just put her says, Oh, my God. Here I am doing a PhD on on, on moral development. And you know, I cheated on my husband and on someone who was married as well. So the person's name has this professor with his name was Peter. And then she did manage to see him before he died. He had brain cancer. But I won't go into the details of that. I'll just get into her response. And it was basically out of that experience and seeing how hard she was on herself. The shaming, and she ended, you know, it's Berkeley in the late 60s, I think. So they're meditation centers everywhere. And so she her she started practicing Zen on under the tick, not Han tradition. And well, she'll be talking about a little later on if I get there. All right, Kristin. Yes. So I was a basket case, like I said, but I was also nervous about getting my PhD, will I get a job. And I learned that mindfulness meditation was good for stress. I heard this and I was in Berkeley, and there was it was a meditation group just on the street from where I lived. And it was a Buddhist group. And the very first night I went, the woman leading the group talked about self compassion, you know, and I had heard of compassion. I knew that Buddhist talked about it, but it never, I had never heard of self compassion before. And it was a real lightbulb moment. For me, it was like, Wait a second, you're allowed to be kind and supportive to yourself, even if you've done something wrong. Which is, of course, so this, let me just stop mentioned, this is one of the things I've always appreciated about Jukai. And taking the precepts and our approach to the precepts, which is don't see the precepts as right or wrong. When we take the precepts, and we take the precepts, we're basically looking at our defilements, if you will, we're basically seeing it as how can we live our lives without causing the least amount of harm to ourselves and to others? So there's no judgment in that there's no right or wrong. It's just how do I live my life without causing harm to myself and to others.
So this is when I was going through everything with Peter. Man she had the affair with and all the shame and all the guilt and all the all the drama of it, when I tried to turn that lens of compassion inward. And I tried it out. So you know, Kristin? Yes, I know, you feel really horrible about leaving your husband and cheating on him and all of that, you know, but everyone makes mistakes. You did your best at the time, you wanted this new experience of love that you'd never had before. And that's so human. So I started being warmer and more supportive and more understanding towards myself. And the crazy thing is, it didn't make me say, Okay, well, that's fine. I'll just cheat on whoever it's not like, it caused me to dismiss my behavior and actually allow me to take more responsibility for it. I can turn towards it, because what was happening is I couldn't even look at it. It was still so painful. And I was feeling all the shame, but I couldn't even really hold off or process what I'd done. It makes such a difference in our lives, and we actually commit ourselves to taking responsibility, no matter how small the infraction might be, but to own it until and to be honest about it. I'm like, I screwed up here. You know, it's, it's by owning that by committing to is painful, no matter how painful the experience can be. And this is where zozen can really help with this. It's by holding on to that, that pain by not holding on holding on is the wrong word by by committing ourselves alright. You know, this is hard. I can do this. This feeling of yeah, we're just not suppressing that anymore. We're just not trying to pretend that we're perfect that that there's no problem here that everything's just fine. Taking response ability of what we've you know, of anything that we may have done to cause ourselves or others human by, or other people's pain I wish I would have had the wherewithal or the maturity to not have been in that situation. But that's where I was. And so the kinder and more supportive I could be towards myself, the more able I was to take responsibility for what I had done, but also to move on. So instead of being stuck there, I was able to learn my lessons. Okay, I'm never going to get myself in that situation, again, if I can help it, and to really commit much more firmly to honesty in trying to, you know, be a force for good in the world, not to harm others. All right, well, we're running out of time, I do want to just finish again, I feel compelled to talk a little more about Zen practice in this regards to everything I talked about. And again, I'm going back to Joko back, she's got this great section. Quite sure. But again, it's it's it's dealing with what's going on in our lives, what's going on in our heads. And this chapter, again, this is from nothing special, and the chapters called the sound of a dove in a critical voice. I got a phone call recently from someone on the East Coast, who told me in sitting this morning, it was quiet, and suddenly there was just the sound of the Dove. There wasn't any dove. There wasn't any meat. There was just this. When she waited for my comment, I replied, Oh, that's wonderful. But suppose that instead of hearing the Dove, you hear a critical voice finding fault with you? What's the difference between the sound of the dove and the sound of a critical voice? Imagine we are sitting in the stillness of early morning, and suddenly through an open window there is just chirp, chirp, chirp. Such a moment can be enchanting. But suppose your boss rushes in and screams, I should have had your report yesterday, where is it? What is the same about the two sounds? Or again, imagine this critical voice in your head?
Okay, so we have this kind of teacher student Setup dialog here and student says they're both just hearing. Yes, says show cool. They're just hearing whatever happens to us all day long is simply input from one of the senses. Just hearing, just seeing just smelling just touching, just tasting. We have we have said that is the same about the two sounds. So what is the difference? Or is there a difference? Student? We like one and we don't like the other Jokl Why is that true? After all, they're both just sounds Why don't we like the critical voice as much as we like the sound of a dove? Student. We don't just hear the voice we attach an opinion to what we hear. So again, it's so much a practices just discarding Roshe often said discard discard, discard, can also say experience and by experiencing discard not do anything about it. Right we have an opinion about that criticism, strong thoughts and reactions. In fact. In an earlier talk, I told the story of a man who jumped off a 10 storey building, and as he fell past the fifth floor, he yelled, so far, so good. He was hoping that he would stay up for forever. That's how we live our lives, hoping to avoid the critical voice, hoping to defy gravity and stay up forever. As we sit in Zen or mind is a set in incessantly fantasizing trying to, quote stay up there. We can't do it. Yet as human beings we persist in trying to do what that which cannot be done, avoiding all pain. Quote, I will plan I will find the best way I'll find out what to do so I can survive and be safe. We try to transform reality with our thinking so that it can't get nearest Not ever. She finishes as long as we think there's a difference between the sound of a dove in a critical voice. We will struggle if we don't want that critical voice in our life and if we haven't handled a reaction to it, we are going to struggle What is the shovel about? We all do it alright, I think I'm actually over time so usually after we do have an opportunity to ask questions so yeah. Anyone have anything
might just pass on something and one of the sessions at a Chapin Mill when we first started up the dub thing really brought this up. Lawson Roshi was the first monitor and when we you know, had the news, the basement exerciser, Mrs. Endo the creeks out there. And people would say, Oh, how do they love the sound of the water and everything. When they when it's a still quiet morning and the windows in the main Zendo facing Easter open. You can hear the distant sound of traffic on the thruway. And people had been complaining to him about how terribly disruptive it was, even though it was much much softer than the sound of the creek. I remember. He gave a truck sent out and said what's what's happening in our minds that we'd love this down to the creek and can't stand even quieter sound of traffic on the through.
Right, exactly. And yet at the same time, you know, it's great that we have a center here in the city where there's not so much traffic, although I did I do remember sitting at the truck Chicago Zen Center and I think they had a lot more traffic and yeah, there is no difference between its sound. Just get back to it back to your practice. Alright, I will stop now and recite the four vows