The (inner) voice … poised to prey upon your insecurity and guilt…does not require answering. Naming is enough. The moment you hear this voice, you must identify precisely who it is – a voice that is dedicated to undermining your newly-achieved (and bravely fought for) commitment to write.
Gail Sher (pg 89), One Continuous Mistake
The external obstacles of practice may be numberless but the internal voices of the critic, the trickster, the false friend, the colluder, the enabler, the fearful are legion. Some derive their power from their historical presence, some from an insidious compassion, and some from a voracious feeding off our fear, desire, and confusion. We aren’t used to naming these because for the most part they are deep physiological sensations and also because the experience is a lightning flash with little time to fit words to it.
Sher uses the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood to illustrate her point of naming the disingenuous presence. The wolf would not have got too far if Red Riding Hood had named it for who it was. She doesn’t develop the metaphor much but it opened an area of inquiry for me in terms of my tendency to want things to be what I think they should be. That particular delusional tendency slices both ways: I’d prefer wolfie was granny and I fear that granny is actually wolfie. Sometimes I’m right – when my practice of discernment is strongly informed by my intuition that something is not quite right about the picture. Sometimes I’m wrong because I can only see part of the picture and I’m fixated on protecting myself.
I like this quote from Parabola (Facebook):
“There is a part of everything which is unexplored, because we are accustomed to using our eyes only in association with the memory of what people before us have thought of the thing we are looking at. Even the smallest thing has something in it which is unknown.”- Gustave Flaubert
This is a challenge – to name the poison and the panacea outside of memory. In practice, it shows up in those moments when I can speak to what is holding me back or propelling me forward. Yet in order to see the unknown in something as familiar yet ineffable as the un-named, I need a new lens. In a different context, Sher uses the mantra “without memory, without desire, without understanding.” This helps.
To approach practice without memory is to be released from the old stories of failure or success. To be without desire is to let go of the need to influence the process. Sher suggests that to go without understanding means there is the possibility of something new to arise.
For me, however, to go without understanding is to watch the arrogance and greed unable to take hold while service and gratitude arise.
Thank you for practising,