I tried to be mindful about it. I really did. I tried to really feel the guilt and frustration, and to accept them just as they were. I tried. But I couldn't. Instead, I combed Google for any scrap of information about my mistake and what the consequences could have been. I listened to Podcasts about nursing practice updates in an attempt to achieve some kind of intellectual penance for my mistake. I berated myself for about two days, trying really hard to apply my beloved practice of mindfulness to the situation. My brain slipped back into old patterns of ebbing and flowing guilt, intense and furious inner monologues of how could this of happened, followed by as many episodes of a nineties sitcom I could handle just to quiet things down a little. The slap stick comedy was no match for the judgement parade running a muck in my psyche. I always came back to the question: How did you let this happen?
My self-punishment is an old habit, one that I used to use as means of self-improvement: If I just emotionally and mentally abused myself a little more, then I would never ever make the same dumb mistake again. I have learned the fallacy of this and have found so much peace in this learning, but the habit runs deep and is something I will never, ever truly quash because it is a part of me.
I decided to listen to one of Tara Brach's talks as a mindfulness practice, and found myself sobbing with such joy and love by the end of it. Tara spoke of the RAIN method of approaching these difficult times, in which we first Recognize that we have been swept up in something, maybe guilt, anger, anxiety or any other innumerable combinations of difficult and clouding emotions, thoughts or feelings. We recognize it. Then we Accept it. I realized that I had gotten to this part a couple of times over the past week once my brain decided to bake three-thousand cookies of self-loathing and guilt, all frosted with a fabulous glaze of impotence. But then we hit the next step: Investigate. Tara spoke of investigating what this part of myself needed. I could not change the fact that I wanted to punish myself, over and over, no matter how much logic or distraction I threw in the mix, but then I knew that I could add something even better. I needed to know that I was loved and cared for, no matter how many mistakes I made. And that love needed to come from me.
And finally Nourish. I needed to nourish that part of me that was suffering. I knew what it needed and now I had to let myself have it.
I have so much love in my life. I have many dear friends and family, and a very supportive work environment. I have so much external love but at that moment, I needed to give it to myself. I put my hands across my chest and said: I love you and I care about you, even when you don't love or care about yourself.
I'm actually welling up thinking about it. Whoa. I could be so angry and disappointed in myself, but another part of me, a wise and deep part of me that is rooted in truth of all shades, could love and accept all of it. The part that made the mistake. The part that couldn't get over it. The part that ate all the potato chips.
And then she read one of my favourite poems and that really pushed me over the edge. I had a really fantastic cry about the whole thing:
My beloved child,
Break your heart no longer,
Each time you judge yourself you break your own heart
You stop feeding on the love which is the wellspring of your vitality
The time has come, your time
To live to celebrate and to see the goodness that you are…
Let no one, no thing, no idea or ideal obstruct you
If one comes, even in the name of ‘Truth’, forgive it for its
Do not fight
And breathe, into the goodness that you are.
I am so moved by this experience that I had to share. May you hold yourself in your heart as you would a frightened child and give all the love and acceptance you have.
PS- Tara Brach is hilarious, kind and wise. I have listened to several of her Podcasts and recommend any one of them. Here is a link to the one I mentioned above: