I just started a new meditation program last week. And as often is the case with meditation, I’m often surprised by what happens when I finally pay attention to what’s going on inside of me.
I don’t know about you, but I always feel as though I’m trying to catch up with life. There is so much going on and information overload is a very real danger.
I call it a danger because it has the potential to derail us, distract us, and keep us from our goals. As we hotly pursue the latest news for our industry, we suddenly realize that we’re spent.
Our energy to consume—has consumed us.
And if you’re a creative, this constant need to consume information can be deadly.
So when the opportunity came to take part of a meditation program for writers, I was all over it.
Learning how to breathe
Of course you know how to breathe.
But do you know how to breathe?
This is when you put yourself into a comfortable position, in a room where you won’t be disturbed, and breathe deeply and intentionally.
You inhale deeply … 1… 2… 3.
And then you exhale twice as deeply …1 …2 …3 …4 …5 …6.
You begin to center yourself. At times, this can make you feel like Luke Skywalker as he was being trained to become a Jedi Knight.
There was one scene in Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back that always resonated with me. It was the scene when Luke is fighting Darth Vader on Cloud City, and it is evident Luke’s training has served him well.
However, Darth Vader suddenly throws obstacles in Luke’s way. As Luke valiantly tries to bat them away with his light saber, he loses his focus. Soon, Darth Vader threw an item at Luke that ended up breaking a window and sucked Luke outside into the atmosphere.
This is how it often feels when I try to calm my mind.
There are a million thoughts and ideas suddenly pitching themselves at me as I try to bat them away. It was only through taking those deep breaths and focus on my teacher’s voice, that I was able to relax.
After a week of practice, I started to see some progress. The program helped me see that there are many “obstacles” that obstruct my progress as a writer. And I’m sure you’re familiar with these two troublemakers, yourself.
The Dastardly Duo
All creatives are familiar with the inner self-critic. This is when you create something and no matter how good it might seem at first, is instantly challenged by the inner critic.
What is that? It’s crap, that’s what it is!
Where on earth did you ever get the idea that you’re good at this?
Okay. Now you’re proving that five-year old can paint better than you.
And on, and on, and on…
The inner critic is relentless. If it’s not good enough, then it’s mediocre. No matter how hard you may try, the inner critic is never satisfied.
Last week, I got a chance to know my inner critic. And do you know what I discovered?
What motivated it was… fear.
Fear of failing. Fear of succeeding. Fear that no one would like what I wrote. Fear that no one would notice what I wrote.
Just a fantastic double-decker sandwich of fear.
So, the trick for me was to soothe that inner critic with my wiser inner core who was the adult in the room.
I had some success. However, I believe what’s important is to first recognize your foes. Name them. Understand them.
In so doing, you can then strategize a battle plan.
But wait… there’s more!
The next day we talked about procrastination.
And I started to understand how the self-critic and procrastinator play very well together.
In fact, in my world they’re besties.
Self-critic: Ugh. Are you serious? That paragraph you just wrote makes your Italian great-grandmother’s broken English sound like Hemingway. Give. It. Up.
Procrastinator: Yay! Time to quit! Why spend time with that nasty self-critic when you can spend time with MEEEEEEEE…. Wheee! Let’s play! Bouncy-bounce-bounce! Check out the review for the Godzilla film. Or the horrendous slide show of Hollywood actors and plastic surgery gone bad. It’s all good!
Just a sneak peek into my crazytown mind.
The self-critic will ride me hard if I allow it. And because after awhile I get tired, the procrastinator then rushes in and says, hey… you deserve a break.
Meanwhile, little work gets done.
I may have gotten a little carried away telling you this (so says the self-critic), but I’ll throw caution to the wind. I have a feeling I’m not alone in this battle. In fact, I know I’m not because I talk to other writers about it.
If anything, this week be aware of these deadly playmates. Be vigilant. As soon as the self-critic comes around the corner, there may be a good chance the procrastinator is right behind him.
Take a deep breath, exhale slowly, and repeat this slow, intentional breathing for one minute. Calm yourself and think positive thoughts about what you want to accomplish. Put yourself in a quiet place and internally lock the door. No self-critic or procrastinator is allowed inside to bother you.
Breathe. Relax. Focus.
You’ve got work to do.