Nurture your deep self.Years ago when I went through my divorce, I started a practice of visualizing myself walking through a big field to a water well that sat on a knoll in the middle of a grassy expanse. In my imagination, I would sit down next to the well and wait. A woman I recognized as the healthiest, strongest, wisest part of myself would come out of the well, sit down next to me, and we would talk. I could ask her questions about my life, and she always knew the answers.I started this practice because at that point I’d spent three decades worrying about not being good enough, smart enough, or strong enough to navigate the twists and turns of life. I’d been immersed for years in a dogma that located wisdom and truth outside of me and, as a result, I’d put a very anxious Inner Critic—one that was always trying to please other people (and God)—in charge of many of the decisions I’d made throughout the course of my life. The Sitting by the Well visualization let me get in touch with the fact that I really WAS up to the task of navigating through my own life. In Second Wind I wrote about how I learned to make friends with my deep Inner Wisdom and how to put my Inner Critic in her place.Over the years, I’ve let the Sitting by the Well visualization go by the wayside. I think the reason for this is that I got caught up in more mundane aspects of life—busyness, socializing, volunteering, promoting books. But while I was away from home in Chile, I had a lot of time to myself, so I started the practice back up. I took runs around the campus of the Universidad de Concepcion, stopping on a set of stairs that led down to a beautiful fountain.
There I often sat, closed my eyes, and did the Sitting by the Well visualization. I was surprised by how much I’d missed it—how generative it felt to really listen again to my Deep Self, to the wise part of me who knows what I need, what direction I should take in life, and what makes me feel happy and purposeful.Of course, the Inner Critic is always on hand. During those quiet moments of sitting by the fountain, my deep listening was often interrupted by thoughts of self-doubt, fear, and old childhood baggage. But the Deep Self knows how to manage all of those negative thoughts because the Deep Self has healthy boundaries and, also, compassion for the hurts that inform ugly thoughts of self-recrimination.During my years as a psychotherapist, in spite of the fact that I abandoned my own practice for months and years at a time, I often walked clients through visualizations to help them connect with their Deep Selves. And I watched my clients break free of years of being driven by negative inner voices. Now that I have renewed my own commitment to nurture my relationship with the Deep Self, I want to encourage this practice for everyone I know.Most of us don’t even realize that we carry around inside of us a set of false beliefs that runs our lives. “I’m not good enough.” “I don’t matter.” “I am invisible.” When these are the voices we hear in our heads, we won’t be SHINING. We’ll be dimming down, living less than our potential. Abraham Maslow said: “If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.”
You can spend a lot of years in therapy figuring out where the mean messages in your head come from without ever pausing to listen to the Deep Self who knows how to counteract those messages and ultimately holds the wisdom you need to thrive.
In my upcoming 7-week SHINE program, I will be introducing you to your Deep Self (if you haven’t met already), helping you develop a visualization or listening practice that fits just right for you, and teaching you how to begin to act on what you hear. I’m excited about this because I believe that we, especially as people who have our basic needs met in spades, have the right and the responsibility to live into our highest potentials! In order to do that, we have to listen.
Here are details about how to join in.
SHINE program details: When: Seven Thursdays, beginning February 25. 4:00-5:30pm PST (with an additional 30 minutes afterwards for discussion applicable especially for writers). Where: On the phone. Conference call-in numbers provided to participants. What: Lecture, opportunities to be coached, homework assignments, bonus writing assignments. Cost: $99