We grow neither better or worse as we get old, but more like ourselves.
Mary Lamberton Becker (also attributed to Bernard Baruch)
There is a voice in each of us that is unburdened by fear….and is the part of us that is whole, centred, and loving.
Within each of us, regardless of age or life circumstance, is a wise self. It is the voice of compassion that reflects who we really are- an Inner Mentor that guides us through the twists and turns of life. Although I sometimes forget to listen to this wise part of myself, I know she is there. She is present within all of us and visible when we act decisively in the face of difficult circumstances, when we follow our hearts, or when we make a right decision that flies in the face of logic.
In a world that values rationalism, observable phenomena, and the left side of the brain, it is a radical notion indeed to conceive of having a wise self. It is easier in some ways to seek answers from experts, listen to the external critics, or play tug of war with that sometimes noisy and pushy gremlin called the inner critic. But if we pause for a moment, we can listen for that calm voice that often knows the answers to our questions and responds with our best interests at heart. That voice is peaceful and loving and embodies all that we long to do and be. I think of her as our true spirit.
We have the ability to access this part of our wise self or Inner Mentor at any time and there are a number of ways to do this. The group of women who came together for the Quieting the Inner Critic series spent time exploring their Inner Mentor using a visualization exercise. Equally important, however, was the time we spent together raising questions, expressing hopes, and sharing our thoughts with each other through conversation and quiet moments. Such an experience does not diminish the supportive relationships of family and friends who we love and who enrich our lives. But there is something extraordinary when a group of women come together who listen without judgment, who understand and accept your seemingly contradictory statements, and who you can laugh with! The synergy of the collective wisdom that complements that of our own wise self is powerful.
Overactive Inner Critics can make it difficult to hear the voice of our wise self or Inner Mentor but we can come to know her. One strategy that our group used was a relaxation exercise followed by a visualization in which we imagined our future self in the years ahead.
Think about this for a moment. Who do you imagine yourself to be in the future? What would you love to be doing? What do you look like? What kind of home do you live in and how is it furnished? Is your home by the sea or in the woods, or somewhere else? What kind of clothes do you wear? Are you alone or are you in the midst of others? Now imagine your future self or Inner Mentor welcoming you warmly into her home. Use this as a time to ask her what lessons she has learned over the years. How would she respond when you ask her about a question or issue you are grappling with?
Our Inner Mentor or wise self can be experienced as an internal knowing that draws on our well of life experiences. She keeps things simple and not overly complicated and she may come up with ideas or solutions that are unconventional but can work. She is who we are – who we are becoming.
Some of us may have the good fortune to be well along in being who we want to be and living the life we choose. But I also think that life is enriched through relationships with the community of women we have come to know. There can be many of these communities of women. One of mine is the running group I meet with every Saturday, but others are my friendships with work colleagues, women in my neighbourhood, or women I grew to know through volunteer work- both professional and otherwise. Together, all are an unfolding, rich tapestry of wonderful friendships formed over the years.
Such friendships need to be acknowledged, valued, and celebrated. And so to celebrate the collective wisdom of women who came together for the Inner Critic series, we created a quilt (image in the post) that reflects what each of us learned and wanted to express. Women becoming…Women being who we are….Imagining the very best for each of us.
Content on the visualization and Inner Mentor is drawn from Tara Mohr’s book, Playing Big (2014) and the work of the Coaches Training Institute.