My dearest friend and I recently had the opportunity to listen to an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, best-selling author of the spiritual travelogue Eat, Pray, Love. Her book, as well as her message of empowerment, have been an inspiration to women the world over. Interestingly, that inspiration wasn’t lost on either one of us.
Of the many things Liz touched upon, what struck me most deeply was her sentiment that whenever we hear a negative or attacking inner voice, it’s never our highest self. Rather, it’s one of the orphaned parts of us—our fear, shame, self-doubt or what have you—inspiring our negativity. She came upon this realization when, during the course of a lengthy meditation retreat, she awoke to the notion that these voices were her very own children, and just as she had birthed them, she could quiet them.
I think one of the reasons Liz’s insight resonated with me is that it echoed a sentiment the spiritual teacher Ram Dass expressed in a workshop several ago and one to which I often return in both my own work and my work with others. He said that, after more than 40 years of meditation, introspection and spiritual exploration, he was no less neurotic than he was as a young man; it’s just that now, rather than being consumed by his neuroses, he invites them over for tea.
The idea that both Liz and Ram Dass are expressing is, once we recognize we are the source of our own suffering, we can quiet the negative voices in our head and stay more consistently connected to our highest self. We can either choose to listen to those voices, or we can see them as the mischievous children that they are, hell-bent on distracting us from our path.
These errant children we call shame, guilt, disappointment and despair, among other things, are like weeds that spring up in the field of infinite possibility that is us. We can give those children all the power, letting the field become overrun, or draw them close and accept them as part of our landscape, quieting the voices that keep us from our highest self.