Why do I go on about becoming aware of and understanding our Inner Critics and other negative parts of the Ego? Isn’t that focusing on the negative when we should be focusing on the positive? Perhaps. But what I have found for myself is that knowing our Inner Critics helps us to loosen their influence on us and actually helps us to make progress on the spiritual path. Ironically one of the things that religion so often confuses with enlightenment is a kind of harsh morality that we think will push us on to spiritual perfection. Instead it cuts us off from Love and causes us to be anxious and depressed.
in my own life I have had two very stubborn, pervasive and powerful Inner Bullies, the Perfectionist and the Efforter or Pusher. In the past, they served to cover over my childhood wound of feeling not good enough. Perfectionism and Efforting have long been a part of my spiritual life, often resulting in a kind of spiritual exhaustion from too many overly earnest attempts at connecting with the Beloved.
These days I have been gradually letting loose my grasp on intense spiritual practice and allowing – yes that’s a key word – allowing the Beloved to enter into my heart. What I experience then is an incredibly soft and vulnerable tenderness that sometimes brings gentle tears to my eyes. There is a beauty in this bright, oh so tender poignancy.
My Zen teacher gave me the Buddhist name of Jik’Shin KanDo, which means “straightforward Mind penetrates the Way”. What I did not know then as a young monk was that I had it turned around: it was the Way that would penetrate me to the very center of my tender heart.