Letting Go of the Hot Coal

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Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.

-Buddha

Now imagine holding those hot coals and throwing them at yourself. This is what I believe most of us do on a daily, hourly and maybe even minute-by-minute basis. Maybe this is just my perception. However, with the more people that I meet and speak with, the more I find that we are our own worst critics who punish ourselves more than (almost) anyone else can.

Recently, I began to refer to my inner critic as The Punisher. She seems to be a fire-breathing mythical creature with a judgment that is swift and punishment that has a deadly force. Within seconds of any perception of thinking, doing or saying “anything wrong,” she swoops in and strikes, immediately tearing down, shredding, burning and otherwise trashing any part of my being that is available to her razor sharp talons, dragon-like fire and sharply curved beak.

When I have stood up and fought her or tried to push her away, her strength and vigor has only grown by leaps and bounds. When I try to live by her (insanely) high standards of “Good” to avoid her wrath, I have only become a neurotic, anxiety-ridden control freak. Pushing her away, fighting her or living in fear of her wrath are not balanced ways to live. Since she feeds on my fears, my anxieties, my guilt and my shame, these coping mechanisms only give her more strength.

Her strength is weakening with each day, as I have found her “Achilles heel.”  The weapons of my defense, you wonder? Self-love is her poison. The more I love myself and care for myself, the less wind that is beneath her wings. Self-acceptance dulls the sharpness and strength of her talons. Paying attention to my own heart takes my power back from her, rendering her sharply curved beak powerless. Self-compassion and forgiveness are my camouflage that also jams her radar, blinding her from being able to see me.

The Punisher thrived in the darkest parts of my soul, feeding off of the very things for which she judged and punished me. By moving into my heart and bringing light to the darkness, I have begun to see the truth: I can live in happiness instead of fear. I can choose to love myself, unconditionally. I can choose to be my own company. I can choose to turn my cheek, to see a different perspective of myself and my life. By living from my heart, I make more balanced choices.

It is my hope that we can each find the path to our own self-love, -acceptance, forgiveness and compassion. In response this is my Tonglen-like prayer:

May we all be free of our fears. May we all choose to love ourselves instead of loathe ourselves. May we each begin to see ourselves from a lens of acceptance versus judgment. May we all release into the fire the hot coals that we hold against ourselves and learn to love ourselves, instead. May we all intimately know the peace that is borne from within. May we all choose this path of inner peace and balance.

Namaste

Photo Courtesy of Michelle Meiklejohn Freedigitalphotos.net

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