I was reminded of another bit of wise advice that I found in a guided imagery audio by psychotherapist and author, Belleruth Naparstek, in which she invites the listener to simply observe their own feelings, energy, and mood. "No praise. No blame. Just noticing," she says, "in a friendly, detached way." The first time I heard it the idea of 'no blame' made sense, but 'no praise' was unexpected. Who doesn't like a little bit of praise now and then? Still, I kept listening to the audio and practiced this whole 'no praise no blame' concept. Over time it began to make sense.
It helps if I think of myself as a camera. Have you ever looked at photos you'd taken and found one of something that would normally be frightening or anxiety provoking? Were you surprised that you stood still to take that shot? This sort of thing happens all the time. Here's an example. For my entire life I have had a heart-slamming fear of bees of all sizes, colors, and varieties. No matter how many times anyone said "they won't bother you if you don't bother them," I was deeply bothered! My skin sprouted goosebumps and my heart would pound at the sound of the faintest buzz. My arms would flail around my head just in case one of them had a mind to land there, and I'd run away, sometimes spinning, while screaming "GO AWAY BEE!" A shift occurred when I accidentally photographed a bee that had flown in and landed on a flower beside a flower I was shooting. I never even saw the bee until I uploaded the images. This discovery thrilled me and I wanted more! Before long I was actually seeking out bees in our purple Hosta bells, lying right down on the wet morning grass for a close up shot of big fat bumble bees having their morning nectar. There was no flailing of arms and running like a rubber band unwinding and snapping along the ground. The bee in my viewfinder consumed my interest and surprisingly it was me trying not to scare the bee, buzzing from one flower to the next, casting furry shadows on delicate blooms. No Praise. No blame. Just noticing. Hanging out with bees, of all things. That experience has changed my relationship with bees. Now I am only moderately afraid of them, and bumble bees don't even make me flinch (much).
No praise. No blame. I return to these words when I find myself being yanked out of presence by my demanding and critical inner shrew. I call mine Nasty Girl, introduced in a recent post, Creativity and the Evolution of a Song. Nasty girl, who takes advantage of every chance to sharpen her tongue, must reside on the left side of my brain. I house another internal influence, also on the left side, which we can call The Analyst. Her favorite thing to do is pull experiences apart, molecule by molecule, formulating theories about what made thus and such happen instead of this or that. Don't get me wrong, I really like The Analyst, but there's something to be said for having free space to just be. I need to live an unfolding life, watching the colors roll out, hearing the music pulse, feeling the energy flow, and letting my creative side play. As my husband says, an over-examined life is no better than the opposite.
While it's true that negative self-talk can derail our efforts and sabotage our goals, this doesn't mean that praise is the answer. While an atta-girl from ourselves to that face in the mirror can feel great and provide a needed boost of courage, breaking free from the right/brain left/brain conflict doesn’t require that we shower ourselves with praise. Sometimes that can backfire, creating very vivid stories of overnight success, wildly exciting fame, and riches beyond measure. I don't know about you, but this sort of putting the cart before the horse leaves the door wide open for Nasty Girl to show up and blow it all to smithereens! It's fun and important to dream. A daydream is an important message from the heart, telling us what we want and helping us visualize ourselves getting it. Still, when left to their own devices Daydream Diva and Nasty Girl can really feed each other's fury and that can be very distracting.
Praise and blame are both forms of judgement, after all. Sometimes what we really need is to create a no-judgement-zone where we can live our unfolding life from a centered place of mindful presence.
There is a lot of freedom in that.
When you take on the role of observer, like a camera lens, you make peace between the left and right sides of the brain, even if it's only temporary (and, unless you are of another world, it is always temporary), the observer can barely even hear inner insults and adulation. She notices them, but doesn't respond to them and eventually they fade into the background.
When you are in that zone creating, be it a song, a painting, a dance, a new surgical procedure, an eco-friendly disposable diaper, etc., the observer is flowing through the process in much the same was as a leaf is flowing through the river - it moves with it, hitching a ride to somewhere else. The leaf doesn't call the river Stupid for depositing it on a boulder. If a leaf could speak, it might describe its observations like this: "Now I am being carried by the water. Now I am moving up and down. Now I am on a rock. Now there is a bug tickling my edges. Now I feel the hot sun. Now I feel lighter as the water leaves my skin. Now my body is rippling and moving. Now I am being carried by the breeze. Now I am moving up and down," and on and on it goes.
If you can let yourself be a leaf, even for just a few intentional minutes every day, you are practicing mindfulness. You are unencumbered.
Unencumbered, your creative impulses have freedom to show themselves to you... just you, for starters. It's not about showing the whole world. When I let myself think too much about showing the world, Nasty Girl has an absolute field day and can usually persuade me to crawl back under a rock. When I move with the flow and notice every aspect of the process, that's when I feel the most free. Nasty Girl is shut down. Daydream Diva takes a nap.
- Lois DeWitt: Visit her website at Free Online Art Lessons (as of August 12, 2015)
- Bellaruth Naparstek: Staying Well With Guided Imagery by Belleruth Naparstak (Google books excerpt, as of August 12, 2015). Visit her website at HealthJourneys.com (as of August 12, 2015). Here is a free sample from the Stress Relief imagery. HERE (as of August 12, 2015)