A Student’s Question: How can we work with judgemental voices during meditation?

A Student writes:

“Rumbling on in the background is a feeling of ‘I can’t do this, it is too hard, too alien to me’ – all of that. All I seem to see is my own inability to settle down to a practice and all my negativity. I have no regular practice. Seeing this does not seem to motivate me and I don’t understand why? I seem to have a real problem with boredom, I want to do things quickly, but I am always rushing ahead – three steps forward and it seems four back.”

Lama Shenpen replies:

I think you are forgetting that awareness itself lies outside that loop of judgemental voice telling you off all the time. Awareness is your friend and the judgemental voice is, believe it or not, just thinking.

It comes. It tells you what’s what. And you just need to acknowledge it like an old friend, ‘Oh how nice to see you!’ That is resting in awareness and is all you need to ‘do’. It isn’t doing anything except adopting a light touch.

So you can take that as your instruction from me. Whenever you find yourself feeling or thinking ‘Oh I should be doing better! Oh I haven’t practised! Oh what a hopeless person I am!’ think of me and remember – these are thoughts – old friends of mine. Hello. How are you?’ Then look straight at them.

Just wake up and look. Where are they? What are they? Who told them to come? Who told them to go? Just look straight at them – how long do they last? How many of them are there? What is the sound of their voices?

This kind of direct looking is what meditation at its best is. So when you look like this, it is the best kind of meditation. Try this wherever you are, whenever those feelings and voices come up. After you have stopped to look like this, remember your heart.

Somehow just drop your awareness down into your heart and ask yourself what you really want. That is meditation, too – just being there with the fullness of the moment – a kind of timeless moment somehow. It isn’t about how long you do it for. It’s what happens when you do that. I want you to contact me to tell me what happens when you have tried this for a while.

You don’t need my voice in there telling you that you have been a good girl. Your lordly judgements will only start arguing with that too. You need to learn for yourself how to lighten up and live with an inner confidence that somehow that connection with Truth is always there.

This is good practice for when you die! Maintain that confidence through every situation, whether you are distracted or not. This means dropping your awareness into the heart and trusting that wisdom is there, your connection with others is there, your connection with the path to Awakening is there.

Sometimes we are very focused and pushing forward, sometimes we are just learning to be patient and relax with confidence. Both ways of practising are important. So whichever way you are practising, do it well. Then the time will come for the other – you will know when the time has come.

I hope this helps.