Earlier this year, I was sitting in meditation. I’d like to say that was an unremarkable happening; there have certainly been long stretches in my life where meditation has been a daily practice, fit into the building blocks of an average day. It has been a while since that has been true. Now, I meditate sporadically. Much like hiking, I find it challenging to start, full of complex emotions and experiences during, and oh so refreshing and valuable by the end.
So, imperfection strikes yet again.
Earlier in the year, though, I sat to meditate. I even pulled out my old cushion and laid it in the thick pile of my office rug. I crossed my legs; I placed my hands on my knees in a gesture of openness and receptivity. I closed my eyes. I focused on my heartspace, breathing into that area that is a blend of anatomical and metaphorical.
Soon, I heard it.
I heard, “Hi! I’m Herbert!”
It was my heartspace. Herbert, it seems, is the name of my figurative heartspace, the center of emotion – love, pain, compassion, empathy – the whole shebang. Since it was all in my head, this is a paraphrase, best as I can recall:
Me: Well, hi, Herbert. What’s up, buddy?
Herbert: There aren’t just gremlins in here, you know.
Explanatory comma time: Gremlins are the inner voices of self-judgment and self-deprecation. Huge chunks of my personal internal work and my coaching work center around how to first recognize these parts of ourselves and then how to live with them more peaceably, in ways that diminish their ability to diminish us.
Me: Yes, okay. I get it now. Otherlings.
Herbert: We’re not “other,” Rawz.
Me: Apologies. You’re right. Innerlings.
Herbert: Now you’re scooping the ice cream.
Me: Doing the what?
Herbert: Just go with it.
Once I met Herbert, it became immediately apparent to me that my non-gremlin Innerlings and even, on occasion, those of my clients, had been waving their arms (so to speak), trying to get their fair share of the bandwidth. I’d see them, acknowledge them, invite my clients to work with them (when that was where they popped up) and then go back to focusing on the gremlins.
I mean, the gremlins are painful. They can even be debilitatingly so. And me? I’ve long been a proponent of following the pain because when we can untangle whatever’s causing it, when we can release all the energy that goes into struggling with pain, we then get to apply all that juicy energy into things like making the world a better place and having some fun along the way.
Hearing Herbert, though, was like finding inside of me a new best friend. While the gremlins are the kinds of “friends” who would tell you things like, “But you’re so pretty in the face,” as a way to suggest your body is the wrong size or, “I just don’t want you to get your hopes too high,” in response to your enthusiasm for a prospective new job or sweetheart, I’m discovering our wiser, kinder Innerlings are a different breed altogether.
They don’t tear us down, that’s for sure. They also sugar coat nothing. They give it to us straight, in the most loving way possible.
Just this morning, for example, I checked in with Herbert. For whatever reason, a news story that I only glimpsed on Friday – a story about a murdered child – got all over me for a few days. I have theories about why I was suddenly overwhelmed by disgust with the world (beyond the fact that it’s a horrible happening – sadly, there are equally horrible happenings every single day) but the relevant bit here is that I was a bit of a bear all weekend as I struggled with a brief and total loss of faith in humanity, in the amorphous, not-people-I-know conceptualization of humanity, that is. And so I checked in with Herbert when my internal pressure eased enough for me to remember that would be a good idea.
This one I actually wrote (as is my more frequent habit) so I’ll excerpt it here, picking up after a little context setting:
Me: So, what is it that you need?
Herbert: It’d be nice if you wouldn’t flail around so much, lash out at me like you do sometimes.
Me: I don’t mean to lash out at you. I feel it as directed at the world.
Herbert: As though you are other. As though I am.
Me: Fair. So now what? I did the best I could the last few days and it’s been messy – horrible but also better. I spoke more calmly to T. I let her comfort me. I asked for what I wanted.
Herbert: You did a good job, Rawz. This stuff is painful. I hate it, too, but it’s real, part of the wholeness – the world and us. So just keep up the good work. Try to do more of the proactive things – checking in with me and others, yoga, artist’s dates, meditation. These are important.
I get it. We’re trained to believe this level of internal dialogue is a sign of a bigger problem and yet we are this complex – full of conflicting perspectives and information. Getting clear on the patterns of messaging within us – identifying the gremlins and wiser Innerlings – allows us to see ourselves more clearly and, in that way, work from less reactivity and more clarity.
I find in client after client – and, on some days, within myself – an instinctive fear that if we release the demeaning voice of the gremlin, that we’ll go haywire. We’ll become lazy or arrogant or something else we deem inexcusable. Meeting Herbert showed me what I had long believed: That our best selves aren’t playhouse mirrors that show us a more appealing version of ourselves but, rather, crystal clear mirrors with honest reflections… that, sure, are surrounded by soft lighting.
No need to use a hammer for what can be addressed by a nudge.
To be among the first to hear about (and get a break on) my upcoming intensive pulled directly from these Innerling learnings, claim your spot in The Bigger Badder Crew – we’ve been holding it for you all this while! If you’re ready for a heaping dose of one-on-one coaching collaboration, I’ve got that for you, too.