Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. ~ Max Ehrmann
On a recent Wednesday to give an inspirational talk I was driving in my car when I noticed what appeared to be a speck of dirt on my clean ivory skirt. When I went to brush it off, some-how it smeared into a dark streak of oil. I looked down at my lap and as is the custom of spiritually-advanced souls such as myself, trained in Mystical Christianity, I immediately called on Jesus. "Christ Almighty!"
I fumed, venting my exasperation, "How am I going to stand in front of an audience with my skirt looking like this?!" My frustrations turned from Jesus towards myself, and a critical voice inside me began a smear campaign of her own. "Angela, how stupid of you not to be more careful. When are you going to learn how to pay attention and stop being such a klutz! What are you going to do now? You can't go in there looking like this!"
The inner critic continued her clothes-minded sermon for a few more moments until a kinder and wiser voice took a turn at the pulpit. "Let's take a breath and remember what's really important. You're on the way to express light and love. What do you want to focus on, the stain on your skirt or the love in your heart? You'll be there in ten minutes. Do you really have the time to spend beating yourself up?"
I took a breath, re-established my priorities, and dropped the self-criticism. Just like that. Without therapy, affirmations, lengthy meditation, colonics, or psychic surgery. I spent those last ten minutes in peace, enjoying the drive and reflecting on the ease of my attitudinal adjustment.
I wondered why it had been so easy, almost effortless, to let go of the self-attack. So often people struggle for hours or even days with their inner critic, shaming themselves for what they perceive to be shortcomings. What could I learn from the ease of this experience that could have transfer value to some of my more challenging lessons in Self-loving? I realized that I shifted so quickly in that moment because I was on my way to a spiritual center, and I knew that it was part of my divine job description to be clear, lighthearted and loving with the audience.
I knew self-judgment would be a heavy weight on my shoulders that would interfere with my ability to serve. Self-criticism, I recognized, was off-purpose, a luxury I could not afford to indulge in while preparing my consciousness for my talk. I dropped it instantly because instantly I saw its valuelessness.
Then I had an inquiry that stretched me, excited me, and truly threatened my inner critic, which is always a good thing. "Aren't I always on my way to a spiritual center? Is there ever a moment or a place where the opportunity to express love doesn't exist? In God's eyes, is speaking to a consciously aware audience any more important or holy than speaking with a gas station attendant or smiling at a clerk when he hands me my change? Is there really any moment when self-attack is constructive?"
Shame is a condition of mind that can make a convincing case for the belief that we deserve to suffer and have little substance to offer humanity. It is like a shovel that can temporarily dig our souls into a grave. Each time I make my way out of that tomb, I rise with a story to tell, a gift of hope for those still climbing out. I re-connect with more love to give and more enthusiasm for living. It is becoming obvious that self-criticism paralyzes my heart and accomplishes nothing. Is that the kind of sermon I want to practice while on my way to expand consciousness and inspire? Not!
That day I started my talk by mentioning what I went through in the car. Everybody could identify with how I initially made a big deal about the stain, and people were inspired by how I let it go and the insights I shared about my process. I realized that my talk was more effective and more fun because of the stain on my skirt and what I did with it. Perhaps there is more wisdom and happiness to be gained from dealing with stains gracefully than from keeping our skirt forever ivory.
Now, when I find myself in critical condition, I can remember the experience of spontaneous remission in my car. I can say to myself,"Hey, let's wake up! We have a ministry of love here. The entire planet is a temple and all people, including myself, are a spiritual congregation. What I preach to myself in the pulpit of my mind is simultaneously being broadcast to the world, so let's put the sin, fire and brimstone away and remember some loving kindness and original innocence."
In every moment I am always faced with the opportunity to choose between focusing my attention on the dark spot on my ivory skirt, the mistakes I will inevitably make as an evolving human being, or on my unchanging love-ability. I want to remember that just as the dark spot doesn't alter the fact that the skirt is ivory, my fumblings don't change the fact that I am of the Light, and anytime I transmute self-criticism into acceptance I am doing my job and living my purpose as a minister of love.
The conglomerate effect of the One Divine Life's inner
influences and upsurgings become the visible formations
and characteristics which we ordinarily experience and think
of as ourselves. I am a beautiful mixture of Its dynamic self-
building power through evolution to emerge full grown and luminous.
Within the conditions of my life I become sensitive to the Soul
element within. This secret form recognizes the deeper character
of all existence. She leads me to look more and more within
myself for true good. This ever pure flame of Divinity lights
the hidden crypt of the heart's innermost sanctuary and I am
immediately, intimately, directly aware of the Truth of my Being.
I allow this permanent essence of Soul to ascend into my terrestrial
existence and use my mind, life, and body as its instruments. This
crowning movement of spiritual change opens the passages of higher
Light, Knowledge, Power, Force, Bliss, and Purity into my daily
living. From this moment forward I am the vital and bodily experience
of Soul assimilating and coordinating the farther evolution to Supreme
Reality. It is so easy to be this self-affirmation of Spirit in the material
universe; effortless to complete what God has begun. The mask of
ignorance drops and I am free to live as the luminous Creator
Consciousness carrying in her the eternal Existence and its universal
Delight of being.
I am humbled and grateful because this principle of spirituality now
affirms its own complete right and sovereignty as permanent order
in my life. I am the Divine child of the Mother Infinite. And so the