When someone tells you you're a failure, how does it make you feel? What is your response?
Do you yell back at them? Tell them to stop? Drop them as a friend immediately?
Most of us have an internal dialogue that yells at us- just like a nasty person. Yet we keep letting this person into our lives- over and over again- without ever trying to change the relationship.
Do you catch yourself saying hurtful messages to yourself? The kind that directly connect to limiting beliefs and self sabotage tactics?
"What will they think of me?"
"Who am I to do that!?"
"What if they notice!"
"Why try. It won't turn out anyway."
These are the messages of your critic.
Do you know its messages? The onslaught of harsh and hurtful inner voices that are on constant repeat?
What kind of relationship do you have with your critic?!
Do you avoid it? Stuff it into a dark corner? Pretend it's not there? Maybe you turn it off with substances or screens, cheap thrills or pretending. It happens. We are all doing it.
But if we really want to change our lives- from the inside to outside- avoidance and resistance won't do the trick. Building a good relationship with your critic is crucial.
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The critic will stop you in your tracks. It will keep you from any iota of creative activation. It will contract you, keep you playing small and feeling insignificant. The critic is the biggest hindrance to our creativity, our life force energy, and it will keep us from living the life of our dreams, feeling nourished and taking action steps. The critic will keep us away from just about anything we truly desire and long for.
My solution for working with the critic is not to negate it or try to turn it off. Strangely, the critic, while being our worst enemy, is also the artists best friend. How is that possible?
In many regards, the critic is our resistance, our old patterns- usually based in the mental body or the imaginal realm of our being. Often we've inherited these patterns from our lineage and/or we acquire them through life experiences.
The critic essentially is all the parts of our being that tells us to stop, say no, resist, refuse. Actually this is a very important protection mechanism. In many ways, the critic has our best interest in mind. Literally! In fact, the critic is connected to the part of the brain that can keep us safe and out of harms way. We need it- just not all of the time.
How can we turn off the critic?
Rather than turn it off or silence it, I prefer to invite it in to our lives intentionally. Hey, it's already here, and more resistance is likely not going to be useful- or a good use of our energy. I take a Gandhi approach to the critic- befriend the enemy. See what it has to teach you, what its message really has to share with you and why it shows up when it does. I often tell my clients to invite the critic over for a cup of tea!
Five Steps for Befriending the Critic:
Before we can attend to the critic and its messages, we first need to identify it. Most people walk through life completely unaware of their inner thought processes. The mind is on auto-pilot and it never stops! I encourage you to get into a rigorous habit of using the four levels of awareness as a means of navigating your inner terrain. Doing consistent self tracking with a four level check-in is vital. What is a four level check-in?
Can you identify the critic and its messages? What level of awareness does it usually come from?
In your sacred creative space, leave a chair open for your critic to "sit in". Or perhaps place a special reminder in your art space that symbolizes your critic. This is an open invitation to your critic. It is also your reminder that it may arrive, but you don't need to engage with its behaviors.
Get curious and ask it to share more with you. Create an image of your critic. Let it out of the closet, let it be seen and acknowledge its presence. What colors, shapes, textures and images arrive on the page? Use whatever art medium inspires you- craypas, markers, pens, scraps of paper etc. Give yourself 20+ minutes for this process.
Title your image. Give your critic a name. Clearly identify this part of your being. Who is it? Get curious. Then ask your image to share with you. If your image could speak, what would it say to you?
Ask your image to answer these questions:
Now that you've harvested some vital information from your critic, it's time to look at your findings. What does your critic want and need? How does your critic help you? How does it harm you? Most importantly, does it have a gift to share with you?
Notice the ways in which your critic serves you and acknowledge its messages. Honor this part of your being for trying to help you in some capacity. Now when it arrives, track it. Notice its arrival. Thank it and acknowledge it. You can choose to use the critic to support your creative process or destroy it. What choice do you make? How can you continue to befriend this part of yourself?
"Art is primarily about the development of consciousness, not the development of an object." ~Hudson
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High in the Alps during this last month of July, I did a lot of thinking. With the enormous mountains as my container, I felt held by their massive existence, which became a resource for me. The glaciers were melting for the summer, the streams gushing down the sides of the rocky landscape, the flowers particularly magnificent. Our landscape (both internally and externally) shapes us and it becomes a tool for awareness, if we use it consciously and metaphorically.
And I did. I danced with the rocks, the trees, the tall grasses, the lichen and the gentle breezes. I took my steps gingerly, noticing the way I placed my feet on the earth, step by step. This awareness of landscape as metaphor started, however, months before at the Tamalpa Institute’s Mountain Home Studio during one of my class sessions. I had the realization that the way I was working with the studio floor, walls, and ceiling, were part of my dance- they effected my every move- and I was working with them and even against them in my dance. There they were: Surfaces, landscape. And I was being effected by them and as a result of them. (There’s some pretty compelling neuroscience behind this reality). Our environment shapes us, informs our existence.
Several weeks later in Paris, while taking a workshop with movement therapist, G. Hoffman Soto at Canal Danse Studio, he asked us to use space as "the third". The third is everywhere. It is referred to as “the emergent” in Expressive Art Therapy and also this reality of “the third” appears consistently in the Vedic literature and throughout the Vedic knowledge. (As a result of some pretty big revelations over the last month, my Masters thesis will be about the intersection of these two bodies of work and how “the third” is involved).
This idea of the third has been turning up a lot in my life lately too. Several months ago, I went to my shaman and mentor for a session. I was having a lot of awareness come to me about my victim. She was really getting in the way of my personal progress and fulfillment and it was time to create a shift beyond just conscious awareness, something within my energetic body as well. This session was the beginning of much excavation, uncovering and honesty with my self and some real confrontation of very long-standing mental/emotional habits. My victim was really running my life and I’d not been in right relationship with her. My shaman told me that I was not in “right relationship with the destructive/chaos energy in my life” which both angered me and startled me. (Clue #1).
I will skip over the volumes of personal details that created ripe ground for said victim to flourish. Suffice it to say, there have been ample stories that helped her thrive, and there wasn’t much of an incentive for her to go away up until recently. But much has come of my victim self-awareness since then. And because the victim/perpetrator/savior is so engrained in our culture (almost all cultures historically) it is a story line I prefer to work with, rather than against. We could almost call this paradigm the “holy trinity” of westerncentric psychology. That said, there is no use in denying the existence of this storyline, nor ignoring it, or even wishing it would go away. It’s here. So let’s work with it.
Enter the victim and my inner landscape. The victim is not just a victim. The victim can only be a victim if there is a perpetrator. And every victim needs a savior- eventually. We don’t like to hear this, especially in this era of victimhood and superheroes, of actualized good guys and bad guys. This is the post-modern era of psychotherapy where the therapy often re-enforces the paradigm of victimhood more times than not. (The risk is that victimhood becomes an identity, one that is difficult to shift out of, and away from). This paradigm of victimhood has a long legacy and I could write volumes on it (as many have), but for the purpose of this article, I will stick to the interpersonal dynamics- the consciousness within, the inner landscape if you will- rather then external expressions of this paradigm.
As with the majority of my work, it is the interpersonal I am most concerned with and nuanced with. And I’ve noticed that my own victim is here to stay, and she is hugging my inner child, that little girl who didn’t get all her needs met, quite intimately. So they have this dance together. A dance that includes a tradition of stepping around and with the inner critic- that part of me that is never good enough, never can be, nor will be. Then it became clear to me recently how these two entities work together so epically. And they are so good at what they do.
They need each other- the victim and the critic. They work together. A victim is used to not being enough- not good enough, safe enough, smart enough, beautiful enough, etc. A victim is used to being held down, suppressed, unable to move forward. The victim has been dealing incessantly with the perpetrator of this oppression. Yet we perpetuate this paradigm for ourselves and with ourselves (often because of learned behaviors from familial lineage and/or our environment/social/cultural conditioning) until it becomes our experienced reality.
The critic can be called “the perpetrator” because our critic keeps us in a reactive state. The critic also keeps us in a binary thinking pattern where life becomes enough or not enough. Where we become enough or not enough as a result, creating an experience of being a victim of life and our circumstances, our thinking patterns, emotions etc. The binary state always creates a winner and a loser, happiness or sadness, success or failure. The victim responds to the critic with a need for being “saved,” needing a superhero to bring extra praise, acceptance, healing, wholeness etc. The victim is thus locked into a perpetual state of constant attack from the self. This is a self-perpetuating cycle whereby the critic is able to “attack” the victim with its judgment and the victim remains in a state of “not being good enough.” And the dance continues...
This paradigm between victim and critic continues to create storm energy internally/externally. The mental/emotional storm can become a powerful oppressive force in and of itself, one that is very challenging to extract ones self from. So the dance continues between victim and critic, until, and if, the third arises. What are the possibilities for “the third” here? A force that brings more of the same, or one that offers something different? Perhaps a shift happens, or a resource arises? Perhaps awareness alone, becomes "the third", a new emergent energy?
Like with most psychological phenomenon, I look to the cosmos, to see how we are influenced. I study Jyotish charts to see examples of these modern theories and their effects on life. I’m particularly interested in the mental/emotional experience of individuals and how these experiences and paradigms, both cosmically, and in life, take hold. How do they show up in our life map, our Jyotish chart?
Though there are unlimited possibilities when it comes to the planets, Jyotish is a science of patterns, energies, movements and relationships. We can note Saturn’s influence on the chart to show where the critic shows up. His gaze will give anxiety, worry and turmoil to the mind/thoughts (Mercury) and to the intellect/emotions (Moon). Rahu can bring avoidance, lack of awareness, nervous disorders, extreme binary thinking and emotional behaviors. He can show us what we are refusing to see effectively. Rahu’s effects on the chart overall can show where the karmas are ripe for mental/emotional disturbances. Ketu will remove the obstacles presented on the path to self realization, but usually will not do so with out hardship of some sort- particularly mental confusion and psychic disturbances.
For example if Saturn is the critic, Rahu might show what is being shadowed or hidden from our conscious awareness. Ketu will give the terror of “losing” our control over the matter or the fears over ripping off of the veils of illusion. These three planets are famous for creating storm energy and often they like to play with Mars in order for a bit of anger and fire to be thrown into the mix!
This mental/emotional storm energy is one of the many metaphors for the Vedic story of the churning of the ocean of milk which involves our good thoughts (devas) and our bad thoughts (asuras) as well as the shadowed aspects of our consciousness, Rahu and Ketu. The devas decided to churn the ocean of milk, but they had to have help from the asuras in order to churn the ocean, they couldn’t do it alone. (It’s good to remember that both “good” and “bad” played a part in the extraction of the Amrta, the immortal nectar). It was through this great, epic churning, and with the help of a mountain, a snake, and a turtle, as well as the great turmoil that arose, that Rahu and Ketu came to exist- the shadow parts of ourselves. And yet, out of all of this chaos, great consciousness and awareness was created as a result.
The churning represents our karma, and yet it is also a metaphor for the internal storm between the mental/emotional bodies. The mountain and the snake are indications of the consciousness, the transcendent/kundalini and the awareness that comes through Saturn’s hard work and suffering. Saturn is the grounding force, the structure, the container that enables us to burn off our karmas. Our progress comes when we commit to the process with deep surrender, take conscious action, through transcendence/meditation and sadhana, creative alchemy and confronting “what is” with the least amount of judgment possible.
I’ve realized within the last few months some new sense of what my shaman meant by “right relationship” with the chaos and destruction ever present within ourselves and our lives. Kali (goddess of time and chaos) as well as Shiva (god of destruction and silence) are intimate parts of our internal and external existence. There can be, and must be, an adjustment to and with the inevitable storms, but it doesn’t have to destroy us entirely. It can be done with conscious awareness. Allowing what is to be.
I believe this to be the “emergent third” that arises from the churning. The transcendence and transformation that is inevitable, yet the way in which we go about our metamorphosis can be informed or uninformed, passive or aggressive. I prefer mine to be compassionately informed. I believe I have relaxed more into the inevitable chaos and turmoil that is life at this point. Not that I won’t have reactions to what life brings to me, but that when I do, I can be ok with my response and be consciously informed of my reaction. I trust my self and my response, even when the going gets rough. I see chaos as a part of the wholeness, the container that holds us and shapes us in life. We need both, we are both. They are actually one and the same.
As Steven K. Levine explains in his book Trauma, Tragedy and Therapy: The Arts and Human Suffering, cultivating a relationship with ‘productive chaos’ can help us come to terms with our innate fragmentation. When we embrace the chaos of trauma without the need to expel it from our beings, to embrace it, rather than to escape it, we have the opportunity to find a sense of wholeness in its midst. The Expressive Arts can be a tool that can further our awareness of this “embracing.”
“In expressive art therapy, therefore, the body speaks, dances sings and enacts scenes not in order to deny its fragmentation but to reveal it. Such revelation is also a transformation, a gathering up of the disjointed parts into a unity of signification. This unity forms what we might call a ‘fragmented totality,’ a way of being a self that neither falls apart into difference nor escapes into an idealized identity.” (p.126)
This is where I’m reminded that beyond the ancient tool of meditation and the cultivation of consciousness, we can simply create and cultivate presence. It is the creative act itself that helps us flex the muscle of finding resources- new ways to look at old problems. Using the Body-centered Expressive Art Therapy work, I’ve been involved with this creative engagement process intimately. I’m reminded that the witness, whether it is as therapist or audience, can be a powerful force, can act as the third, and can be the reminder that helps us to cultivate presence, compassion, awareness and creative resourcing. Sometimes we need a mirror and then the mirror can be the catalyst for our own inner change. Ultimately, however, we must be our own mirror.
Being a victim of life is a choice. Letting our inner chaos rule our life is in fact a choice. Sometimes its necessary to choose to enter the storm, to work with it, dance with it, create with it. It is also about choosing when to exit the suffocating storms as well. As Pema Chodron reminds us in Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, the charnel ground can be a metaphor for working with “what is” rather than what we wish it to be.
“Charnel-ground practice tests our commitment to embrace the world. It expands the range of ‘just as it is’ far beyond what we find comfortable. This is a practice for facing the fullness of our life, not hiding the unacceptable, embarrassing, disagreeable parts, not favoring one kind of experience over another, not rejecting our experience when it hurts or clinging to it when it’s going our way. In the charnel ground, we meet both wretchedness and splendidness- the totality of our experience as human beings- and discover that we need both to be a genuine warrior.” (Taken from the November 2012 issue of Common Ground Magazine).
The charnel ground is perhaps the biggest metaphor for working with the landscape- both internal and external. Watching what arises and dancing with the characters that emerge here can be part of the informed churning process; victim and all.
Moon moves through Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius and into Capricorn. Moon is debilitated in Scorpio the 14th through mid day on the 16th CDT.
There is ample movement with the planets this week as well as over the next ten days.
Venus has moved into Virgo, its sign of debilitation as of 8.11 and is still weak (sandhi) through the 13th. Venus will be in Virgo until 9.5 (receiving drishti from Mars until 8.18) and during the next few weeks it is good to be aware of the possible feelings of disappointment and irritation that may arise. Look for being overly critical in regard to relationships, creative endeavors and artistic pursuits. There may be irritations, let-downs, the need to do better, have better, make it better. The “not-good enough” syndrome may be working its charm on you. It is important to stop and give conscious attention to these feelings when they arrive. The “critic” is an opportunity for us to work with what is, to attend to what is not getting nourishment, and to find new ways that bring support. Don’t overindulge in sweets and alcohol. Look for an article later this week with more details on working with the critic.
Sun moves to its own sign, Leo, on 8.16 where it brings some strength to the overall transits. This week, however, Sun is sandhi as it changes signs and will still be quite delicate. The good news is that Sun will be out of the gaze of Saturn now and will be able to offer some shine, some ferocity and its natural stabilizing effects. This is a positive since Mars will also go into debilitation on 8.19 as it moves to Cancer for over a month (until 10.5).
Debilitated Mars will bring a certain impact to our emotions, our heart center, our home experience. Mars will give drishti to Saturn and Rahu (currently conjunct in Libra) which will kick up some storm energy with relationships in general. This will be particularly important to be aware of while Venus is debilitated in Virgo as Venus is the ruler of Libra. Be mindful of your emotional state over the next few weeks and channel this into creative activities as well as meditation and self-care. Look for ideas, projects and creative engagement activities in my daily Moon Mind posts.
Mercury joins Sun in Leo on 8.20. More on this next week.
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August 12th- 18th Horoscopes
*Horoscopes are based on your Vedic rising sign. You can also check your Moon and Sun signs for further insight. Do the same with your Navamsa signs for further clarity. Do not use these horoscopes with your "Western Sign" as there is likely no correlation. These horoscopes are meant to be used as a broad overview of the current transits and obviously do not address the specifics of an individual's unique chart.
Aries: There is a lot of movement this week with courage and self-initiated actions as well as with house/home and emotions. Late in the week the energy shifts with children, creativity, sensuality and higher learning. Don’t forget to attend to heart/home emotions and mother matters as a result. Relationships still demand attention and offer great insight and awareness for you. Work with the mental/emotional bodies and allow some transitions to become conscious now. Watch debts and be aware of creeps. Don’t get taken advantage of, don’t become a victim or go into “victim mode”. Knowledge is key.
Taurus: Momentum and movement with sustenance and courage takes place this week. You are figuring out how to thrive. What does this mean for you and what does this look like/feel like? How can your home space become a thriving enterprise for you on the inner and outer levels? How can you be in service without feeling comprised and drained? Your ability to give and receive is part of the missing memo. Don’t mistake the lull in romance for your own boredom. Learn to survive and thrive alone and tend to your “imperfections” first and foremost.
Gemini: Your dance with the creative has gained some strength recently. Using developing insights into the emotional and mental bodies can intensify your findings and cultivations. Use all of it, the range of emotion, the beauty and the messy, the happy and the tragic. Keep the dial on creativity and use the courage to act this month. How will you charge forward? Even when the emotions and the mind play their tricks? Can you dance with them and alchemically turn them into allies, into support, rather than mischief makers? The opportunities for creating high level art (with self and others) takes center stage in the coming weeks. Find the magic within and with others.
Cancer: Take some of this compassion and caring that you gained this last month and carry it forward with the coming weeks. Your heart work continues to be a general and prolific focus both creatively and courageously. Wealth and necessary life sustenance becomes a focus for you this month. What are your greatest needs and desires? Who and what are keeping you from accessing the center of this wealth and nourishment? Enter the critic, the judge. Who is this guy and what can he teach you about your own brilliance? When mental and emotional bodies flare, it’s time for the self care and self hugs. Maybe it’s time to call in a good friend? Or maybe you are your own best friend?
Leo: You may find your self working with some sense of “royal discomfort” in the coming weeks. What insights or gains can you carry forward from the last month? What new emotional/mental resources are now working with you, not against you? There may be some imbalances over the next few weeks with your inner and outer realms. It will take courage and consistency to even the scales, but don’t muscle it with ego alone. I challenge you to resource from something deeper, beyond the surface, in order to get the job done. Ask for help if necessary.
Virgo: Liberation comes over the next few weeks, but only as you work constructively with the challenges that arise. Discomfort with your self and others hits a maximum and taking alone time might be your only solution. Radical self care, ritualized self care, and dedicated time for spiritual pursuits will serve you well. This week it will take courage to initiate the momentum in this direction. Be conscious, be firm, be regular in your action steps. Find gain through structured activity and stay out of the mire of self doubt, self loathing and self critiquing. Perhaps finding the friend in the foe is the answer.
Libra: Movement in and out of your career house occurs this week. Expect some reorganization on the mental/emotional levels. Prepare for a shift later in the week through friendships (a general theme for the month to come) as well as some financial boosts. Your ability to make some strides right now is interdependent on your relationship to self and how in tune with the mental and emotional bodies you choose to be. Storms, relational woes, and career/educations pursuits can all become tools for inner balance. This takes courage and perseverance as well as a certain dedication. Remember, step one foot at a time and breathe.
Scorpio: Your transformations are your transcendence. Where most will struggle this month with emotional disconnect and potential mental/emotional discord, you will find a way to use the disharmony in order to thrive and survive. Beyond maintenance, your insights will become a potential tool that can then be offered to others- so take notes. Get really familiar with your critic. Can you give it a name, befriend it, invite it over for tea and scones? Do your research and don’t neglect or avoid. Dissatisfaction can be great medicine if used properly. Towards the end of the week, you start to shine and people take notice. Though this month may not turn you into the next Madonna, you may still end up with a few note worthy accolades. Work it.
Sagittarius: Thoughts, emotions and people are moving in....and moving out. Transformations and transitions abound. Who is invited to stay a while longer and who needs to be kicked to the curb? Work your boundaries and get clear within in order to create some new conscious relationships. Father and guru enter from stage right this month. Perhaps some illumination, a spot light, will shine, and some new awareness will be gained. Use this time to gain and acquire knowledge and passion. Be protective of your creativity and who you share it with. There will always be critics and judges. Befriend the haters on an inner level, but don’t put up with BS on the outer.
Capricorn: You continue to learn from what is not working, what isn’t serving you or others. This is the “mismatching” syndrome- those who instinctively know what the problems are and find them constantly. These problems may or may not need to be “fixed”. I recently realized that problems aren’t problems until they become conscious. Until the problem is recognized as a problem, it isn’t one. You are wearing your problem glasses right now and yet there’s an ability to use that to your advantage if you work with it consciously. This is your opportunity to create great inner personal change and inter personal change. And of course it starts within.
Aquarius: It seems as though the stormy season is your best teacher. Great inner awareness provides the necessary foundation for effective relationships. The movement in and between your houses of passion, service and relationships provides you opportunities to work with your new insights and findings. Partners and “others” begin to shine; don’t get scorched. Watch tempers and temper tantrums. When the energy soars, harness it and use it with purpose. How can you use your emotions as your greatest resource? What can they tell you about your needs? How can you use them as a resource for self-care?
Pisces: The theme of being critical of “the other” continues to work its charm on you. Who and what can you learn from when the emotions heat up? How can you keep cool, especially this month as your gut fire strengthens? You will have ample opportunity to digest, to shine in service of others, to cook your debts, but at what costs? Your dissatisfaction with others can become a real pain in the gut if you let it. Resource with the mental/emotional bodies before the fires blaze out of control. It’s an excellent time to put your creativity into action. Create- with self and with others- and see if you can find the alchemy emotionally as a result. Transforming the heat into water and riding the waves is essential.
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