Hug Thyself (Musings About Inner Authority)

Tender middle aged woman hugging self

I recently went on a first date with a man who’d been cleaning out his bookshelves. He gave me Kitchen Table Wisdom by Rachel Naomi Remen.

Tonight, I stumbled across this sage advice:

Everyone’s wholeness is unique and even such common role models as Eleanor Roosevelt and Albert Schweitzer can distance us from ourselves. Our wholeness will look different than theirs. Our wholeness fits us better than theirs. Our wholeness is much more attainable for us than theirs ever could be. We usually look outside of ourselves for heroes and teachers. It has not occurred to most people that they may already be the role model they seek. (p. 106)

The truth of this line enveloped me like a warm fog, settling around…and even into…me. Straight to the heart.

You mean…I don’t have to try to be like others who I think are better than me? I can be my own role model?!

In the past I’ve known this to be truth. In fact, this idea —  we can trust ourselves, and we have much inner wisdom to teach ourselves — is the crux of my academic/life coaching with teenagers. It is also the basis of what we InterPlayers call “inner authority.”

But knowing something  is vastly different than internalizing truth.

This New Years I made the shift from knowing to internalizing by making a simple commitment: to meditate for 5 minutes a day for 365 days. (Read here for more info about how I came up with this resolution in the first place). I *had thought* that this commitment meant traditional meditation, as in: follow my breath. Or recite a mantra.

But on January 1st as I sat down to do my first 5 minutes, a different kind of meditation emerged: I imagined myself hugging myself. I didn’t plan in advance to do it; it just…uhhh…kinda happened. Lo and behold, I’ve now imagined hugging myself for 5 minutes a day for almost 19 days.

Sometimes I imagine I’m hugging myself as a baby. Other times, I’ve become giant-sized, and I’m enveloping my grown-up self with my oversized arms. Each day it’s different. And fun!!! For the first time in my life, I actually look FORWARD to my meditation time. It’s no longer a *should*; it’s now a delight.

I’m noticing that this self-designed meditation is changing me. For example:

Tonight as I sat to do my 5 minutes, I was also aware of some critical voices in my head. “You wasted your day! You had all those important business tasks on your ‘to do’ list, and you didn’t do a single one! What kind of entrepreneur are you? You’re never going to amount to anything!”
Ouch. In the olden days of meditating, I would have tried to let go of these ugly thoughts. Notice I am thinking…Return to my breath… Let go… breathe…

But today I imagined myself hugging that Mean Inner Critic. “It’s OK. I’m here. Let me hold you. Relax into my arms…” The self flaggelating thoughts stopped. Just like that. Zzzt.

Because I’m somewhat of a brain geek, I understand that this is not a magial occurrence. My daily 5 minute meditation is helping me create new, self-soothing neuropathways in my brain. The more I do it, the more easily I will be able to summon up the image of a “hug” to counter any destructive self talk.

But it still feels magical.

I’m in awe that I’ve found a way to handle my Mean Voices (what elsewhere I have termed the “gremlins”; see Confession #4 in this blog post) . I’m stunned that the idea to imagine myself hugging myself came — not from self help book or therapist — but rather just bubbled up from my own consciousness.

Amazingly, I know how to heal myself. I am my own best role model. I have a wholeness that is all my own! Amen.

2 thoughts to “Hug Thyself (Musings About Inner Authority)”

  1. Gretchen, I’m always so amazed by your courageous authenticity. We (humans) spend so much time idealizing other’s (especially successful others) assuming that they never suffer from the daily doubts, worries, ups and downs that we do, and then use our imagined differences with others for justification of our worst fears (that we “can’t”). But you show the World the real-ness that is you and, in doing so, gives us inspiring comfort.

    Thank you!

    And are you familiar with Mike Robbins? He writes some similar sorts of blogs and might serve as an inspiration to YOU!

  2. @Aunt Patricia! It doesn’t at all surprise me that the Dalai Lama might have a high propensity to create self soothing thoughts!!

    @Gary: Thanks so much for your nice words. I have to admit that I felt extraordinarily shy after posting this particular blog entry. There’s something especially vulnerable about admitting the need to hug myself. So thanks for acknowledging my courage; feels GREAT to receive that acknowledgment from someone who I admire as courageous. (Also thanks for commenting, and thereby revealing that I DO have male readers. Months ago I was on a date with a guy who noted that most of my comments come from women).

    Hugs to you both!

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