“[W]hen we apply the instruction to be soft and non-judgmental to whatever we see at this very moment, the embarrassing reflection in the mirror becomes our friend. We soften further and lighten up more, because we know it’s the only way we can continue to work with others and be of any benefit in the world. This is the beginning of growing up.” ~ Pema Chödrön, Comfortable with Uncertainty (pp. 123-24)

Photo by Gary Scott

Photo by Gary Scott (www.garyslens.ca)

I am convinced that one way we can begin to write more and with more joy is to begin to pay attention to the extent to which we are hard and judgmental toward ourselves, to how often we cringe from or lash out at the “embarrassing reflection in the mirror.”

I stayed in bed too long after the alarm went off. I feel like skipping my writing time today—I’m so lazy. I should have listened to my children more yesterday rather than be so wrapped up in myself. I need to relax. I’m a bad friend. I can’t believe I’ve let myself go. I’ve failed yet again. I am so stupid…

Even if we don’t consciously think the words, the cloud of judgment often follows us from morning until night.

If we try to change those ingrained, habitual thoughts through sheer will power, we probably will feel even worse and will be right back where we started: not writing. A better first step is simply to attend to—to notice—the thoughts without judging ourselves yet again or making the thoughts “sticky.”

We don’t even have to label them as negative. We can adopt an attitude of curiosity about ourselves, a non-judgmental “how interesting!” response. We can observe ourselves as a new friend we are just beginning to know, with affection and with the certainty that the friendship will endure.

Assignment for this weekend: Watch the “Handle with Care” video by the Traveling Wilburys, below. Listen to the words, and imagine that the person you are handling with care and learning to lean on is yourself. How does doing so change your relationship with your writing?