A few months ago, I wrote about “braving the mind field,” basically how hard my mind can be on me, especially when things in life don’t go as planned or as my mind expects them (can you relate?).
It’s not very fun topic. I would much rather not deal with it. And yet, I find that sometimes my head has just been merciless. This week I have been looking at some of these mental prison chambers I allowed for so long.
Case in point: a few years ago, mother came in with her two twin boys to start piano lessons. These kids were under five years old, and if you know me as a piano teacher, maybe you know that I generally prefer working with older human beings. So that was already a red flag. Yet I took the kids on.
It might have been these kids’ first lesson. They ran into the studio with an abandon and energy that would be appropriate if they were in the playground. Their mom asked if they could go to the bathroom, so of course I (begrudgingly) let them into the rest of our flat. They then proceeded to run around like they were playing hide and seek at a birthday party. Plus, their antics disrupted my wife’s privacy.
I ordinarily have no problem with the idea of kids being kids, but it doesn’t bode well for teaching piano. At that moment, I had a very fast dose of clarity, and I concluded instantly that teaching these kids was not going to work. I forget if I finished out that lesson or not, but I offered the mom a full refund, apologizing and explaining that I just didn’t think we were a good fit.
I acted swiftly and, looking back, am confident I did the right thing. The mom seemed understanding enough about it all. And that was that, right? No siree. Because then my mind started going at me: “You should have known better than to let those kids in the house!” “How could you be so stupid?” and “What? Are you so desperate that you will take any student? And just let them invade your privacy like that?” And “You’re a complete loser, you suck.”
The fact is, the situation was very uncomfortable for me. It sucked having to reject two new students (and refund them). It was a more dramatic, emotional type of situation for me than I usually have to deal with. Yet I handled the situation well, with decisive action and without causing anyone excessive upset or stress.
But my monkey mind did not see things this way. It assaulted me with thoughts meant to make me feel guilty, basically denouncing me as if I had committed a crime against humanity. Apparently, its antics worked, because a lingering feeling of guilt and failure has surrounded this memory ever since.
This was over three years ago. Up until this week, I had not moved on.
I’m glad to say that in the last few days I have started to fight back against crazy mind. Here are some of the questions I asked it today (I did not get much of a response, by the way, but it felt good to say anyway):
why are you so hard on me? why does it feel like i have to suffer over everything that doesn’t work right away? what exactly is your fear? why can’t you just lighten up?
Am I just supposed to feel bad about myself forever and hide in a ball, and not ever risk anything, for fear of your punishment? What kind of life is that? That’s not who I want to be.
Believe it or not, this kind of questioning of myself is rather new for me. I think I got the idea a few months ago, when I happened to watch an ad on Youtube for a Mind Valley course. The instructor (I didn’t write down who she was) was talking about how to avoid rejection. Here were her suggestions of what to say when someone says something mean to you:
- “Thank you for sharing.”
- “Would you repeat that? I missed that.
- “Are you trying to make me feel bad about myself?
- “I’m not going to let that in.”
- “You must feel really bad about yourself to say something like that to me.”
This technique, especially the third line–Are you trying to make me feel bad about myself? —has been on my mind for the past few months. It’s really empowering to call out someone who is dishing out something unpleasant towards you. I think I’m starting to put it to good use… with my own mind.
I like to think I am learning not to take crap any more from it. As self-aware as I am, it is humbling to realize how much this stuff had a grip on me even recently. But I guess that just comes with the territory of being me. The stuff of this lifetime.
So I will start with accepting the crap for what it is, as I use my awareness and intention to dismantle it, one dastardly thought at a time, if need be.
Down with the mental torture chamber!