Oct 7th, 2020
In this video we discuss how to deal with criticism on the spiritual path. Critics come in two forms, those outside of us and those inside of us. Those outside of us only have as much power over us as our inner critic gives them. Outer critics only really impact us when they say something that rings true with the inner critic. So by coming into right relationship with the inner critic we are able to deal with all criticism more skillfully. We don’t want to completely silence the inner critic, because it also serves as our conscience.
We are our own worst critic. That criticism usually manifests as negative self-talk or internal arguments with imagined foes. Being in right relationship with the internal critic means being self aware and honest about our shortcomings but forgiving. It means learning from our mistakes but not wallowing in them.
View your critics both external and internal as a mirror. Are they reflecting something true or distorted in some way? One of the greatest gifts in the world is a friend or partner who is a clear and accurate mirror who reflects the truth of who we are back to us with minimal distortion. This sort of person can help us see our blind spots. They can help us be a better version of ourselves. Their honest feedback can help us see where we are out of alignment and help us move through the world more skillfully.
However, it is unlikely you will find anyone who is a perfect mirror. In order to be a perfect mirror one must be a perfect being, and those are few and far between. Instead you are likely to find imperfect mirrors but are usually right but not always. That is why it is important to be familiar with the distortions of the mirrors in your life, to have a better idea of whether they are reflecting something true or their own distortions.
That is why the best mirrors are people you have deep ongoing relationships with. Strangers are rarely good mirrors, because we usually aren’t familiar with their distortions. However, the criticism of strangers that don’t ring true at all are usually discarded without a second thought. Those that trigger us and bounce around in our head are the ones that have resonated with our inner critic.
When that happens engage in a process of self-inquiry. An effective way of dealing with the mind is negotiating with it. Is the criticism reflecting truth? Have you been unskillful in some way? Is the criticism reflecting something you are able to change? Is it reflecting something you want to change? Do you plan on behaving differently in the future? Is it reflecting a misperception on your part that needs to be corrected?
Criticism that is reflecting something true is a growth opportunity. Criticism that is reflecting a distorted perception of truth can be a hindrance. If we aren’t self-aware of our strengths and limitations we will not be able to tell the difference. Therefore, first and foremost know thyself and to thy own self be true.
In order to become self-aware you need a certain amount of distance between your witnessing awareness and the mind, which is developed through daily meditation. If you are completely identified with the mind you will only be able to see through the lens of its distortions. Developing you capacity to view your own mind through the lens of witnessing awareness is key to knowing yourself.
If we don’t know ourselves it is easy to get pulled into other people’s distorted perceptions. It is easy to get lost and become estranged from our own truth. If you don’t know yourself other people will be happy to define you. When that happens you end up living a life defined by other people’s projections.
When we are living a life defined by other people’s projections we aren’t being true to ourselves. Instead we are being true to other people’s distortions. We have been captured by the strongest opinions of those around us. Because in the absence of personal conviction and self-knowledge we give our power away to those who are loudest and seem most sure.
Sit with yourself and become familiar with your own mind and its workings. Become familiar with your desires, strengths and limitations. Find your inner compass, which is your own sense of what is true, just, and necessary. Become the captain of your life, and cease being blown about by the strongest wind. Point your vessel toward truth, and do not deviate your course.