Working with our Inner Critic

This post was originally posted on my Instagram feed on World Mental Health Day. 

The demon Mara who tried to tempt the Buddha on the eve of his enlightenment

The demon Mara who tried to tempt the Buddha on the eve of his enlightenment

Mental health issues are something that most of us will struggle with to some degree in our lives and it's really positive that these issues are beginning to be spoken of more openly and honestly. 

For me a trigger can often be the mutterings of my inner critic - that voice telling me I'm not good enough, not this enough, not that enough...blah blah blah!

The above image is of the powerful demon Mara who tried to tempt and frighten the Buddha on the eve of his enlightenment in order to prevent him from attaining liberation. Mara can be considered to be a representation of this inner critic, this sense of self-doubt or lack - something that can attack at any time leaving us feeling depleted and dejected. 

Of course Mara failed - the Buddha saw Mara's efforts for what they were and made a physical gesture, touching the earth to steady himself, at which point Mara disappeared and the Buddha attained enlightenment. 

The guidance of one of my teachers, Martin Aylward, has been immensely valuable in helping me to work with these patterns of the mind. Helping me to see critical thoughts for what they are and thus loosening their power to limit or crush. And in the same way that the Buddha touched the earth, making a physical gesture when these thought patterns arise can sometimes help to stop them in their tracks. 

It's something I need to be constantly vigilant about...Mara is a sneaky ****er and occasionally it feels like he's got the upper hand. But finding respite from the power of the inner critic helps to open up a sense of ease and spaciousness with what is, a knowing that we are indeed enough just as we are. In Martin's words "When judgement ceases, there is unconditional space to be. Space for the love and ease, spaciousness and responsiveness that are the natural resting places of the liberated heart."