As young children, we inhabit our bodies and breathe naturally. We’re open, present, curious, and real. Slowly and steadily, we receive messages that we should be better or different, conditions on our acceptance, so we stop being real and begin to protect our hearts. Most of us experience hurt, loss, or trauma, and to cope with these unpredictable circumstances, we unconsciously build more layers of armor. We find strategies that help us survive. These strategies work for a while, but they’re not true medicine. To heal, we must—in small, safe ways—remove the layers and investigate what’s underneath.
With awareness, we investigate thoughts, beliefs, and judgments that protect our hearts and limit our choices. With compassion, we heal our soft, tender places—the places underneath—and we become more alive, real, and whole. Eventually, we return to the presence, wonder, and curiosity of childhood. We trust, again, in our innate goodness: we are lovable because we exist—no extra conditions.
Some of our most-believed thoughts aren't actually true. They're old tapes playing in our heads. We get used to these tapes. The message might even go unnoticed, but it stays in our psyche. We can't heal if we continue to harm ourselves with untrue, unkind words.
I have many ongoing open wounds. One is an old (untrue) shame story: I’m unlovable and not enough. Another is an old (untrue) control story: I’m responsible for the world. My relationship to these stories has changed. For years, I unconsciously lived through these tainted filters. Then I spent years healing with writing, therapy, meditation, awareness, and self-compassion. I allowed (and still allow) myself to feel what I feel. Now I see limiting beliefs sooner. If I recognize them soon enough, I don’t listen to the voices. If they slip past me, I correct my course more quickly. This takes presence, compassion, and patience.
Interestingly, we can witness our self-judgment and then judge ourselves for judging, which causes more suffering. We heal by investigating beliefs from a larger, kinder awareness. Noticing our inner speech, asking if it's true, and letting go—little bit by little bit—of limiting beliefs while opening to possibility.
It's helpful to have gentle guidance in this process. Here's a short meditation: