Friday, June 17, 2011


I have noticed that dialogues in my head are changing. For a few years now, since finding the book Born to Win and exploring Transactional Analysis on my own, I’ve become more aware and able to distinguish the people inside me who direct a lot of my decisions. For instance, though there are more than these three: there’s my father, or some reduced version of my father, who says strict things and orders me to do them. There’s an inner child of four or so who understands little but likes to play; there’s an inner child of eight who understands a LOT but is stuck on her version of the stories.

The eight-year-old is my storyteller, my spinner.

For a long time, the father voice predominated. But recently, since she and I have improved relations (more on that another time), the eight-year-old storyteller has been speaking up – more directly, more clearly and more frequently. I have come to notice what I said above – that she is stuck on her interpretation, that she is, in fact, hooked on her stories.

I’ve noticed this because the stories are inconsistent with current reality. Often.

For the last few days, struggling through my monthly PMDD, she was spinning everything. Her version sounded (often sounds) something like this:
“You work too hard. You are tired and need someone else to take care of you. Cancel your classes and come curl up in a ball with me. I am sad and you are sad and it’s too much to work for others. Come on. If you don’t stop working you are neglecting me.”
There was – and still often is – a time when those words are true and what I need to hear. But increasingly, as I integrate my needs (especially through regular yoga – thank you 30 days of Yoga! - and meditation) these stories ring – false. Or, not entirely true, at least. For instance, curling up in a ball doesn’t actually help me. At all. Giving myself space, taking time off from a hard task, going for walks – yes, these help. But her version is too simplified – for example, I now know that hiding hurts me more than it helps me. I appreciate that once, long ago, it was beneficial or all I knew how to do. I have a much larger arsenal for self-care, and she hasn’t integrated enough to trust my inventory.

As well, teaching, more often than not, HELPS me. Difference breeds destruction, connection induces compassion (as Bindu Wiles has recently so eloquently written about). In a way that my eight-year-old, and frankly, my thirty-four-year-old self still don’t quite understand, but know to be true, there is no way to help myself but to help others – because we are interdependent and co-emergent. If I am truly helping others, I can’t help but help myself, and vice-versa. What is really, actually of benefit to myself will benefit others. Especially in my Contemplative Writing classes – if I open myself to receive the power of vulnerability and honest expression (rather than seeing others’ pain as a burden) I gain so much assistance and support for myself. And teaching Miksang really opens my eyes and gives me direct perceptual access to space and the current moments of reality.

What have I been doing differently with the stories? Engage them, too, in dialogue. It is transfixing to listen to the stories, especially ones my father voice encouraged me to overlook (“Don’t listen to her, she’s overemotional” for instance). I can listen with discernment, though, which varies from judgment and difference. I can accept and reject the truthful and deceiving aspects. And it seems that the eight-year-old is starting to understand that I am accepting her while also not permitting her entire storyline to run my life. This kind of – negotiation – is new to me, a brand new kind of relationship with my inner self. And as my sankalpa, or intention word, for 2011 is “integration” this kind of work is right on time.
What does discerning the spun stories sound like?
“Come and curl up in a ball with me.”
“Because I am sad and need your attention.”
“But sweetie, we feel worse when we curl up in a ball.”
“But that’s what I want to do.”
“Can we read a dharma book instead? We don’t have to answer the phone or do any email for an hour. But then we need to get back to work.”
“Ok. I guess so.”
Because I have engaged her in a respectful way, she pays attention when my options work.

Meditation is/has been crucial to this process. Like so many other beneficial things in my life, I can point to Transactional Analysis, but I think I would be hard-pressed to actually see and be compassionate with the nuances of these dialogues without the patience of meditation.

These, too, are integrations: practice and life, knowing and experiencing.
Bridging the gap between me and others, myself and myself.


  1. dear m., terrific post! a great description of how one's view of self-care can be too simple and, ultimately, unhelpful. that same voice also calls me to curl into a ball, but someone named juliette (who is adorable and demands to be heard) reminds me this is not fruitful for anyone. i can still take time off from everything in small spaces. but they are only really restorative if i acknowledge them as real breaks, and not moments where my mind wanders (so i feel guilty for not working and shortchanged for not taking a break). love you, my dear.

  2. Thank you thank you thank you for your response. My friends who are "Buddhists" and parents often say that children are the most significant form of practice. You only reiterate that. I admire you!

  3. And I *really* appreciate this:

    i can still take time off from everything in small spaces. but they are only really restorative if i acknowledge them as real breaks, and not moments where my mind wanders (so i feel guilty for not working and shortchanged for not taking a break).