Ambushed two weeks ago while teaching. Blindsided by the jackal. The inner critic. The dude in charge of corralling me safely into my comfort zone. So I never go belly up or feel uptight or (heaven’s no!) do something fraught with risk. He’s a panicky beast and though I know he has my interest at heart, he’s also a bit mean-spirited. Surely you have your own version?
Mr. Wednesday Waves jackal has lurked and whined mostly on the sidelines since 2005. His unwavering presence is part of what draws me to this particular work. I know there’s valuable juju in his banter: You’re not enough. You’re too much. You’re flawed. You better be careful. Come on, try harder. Never mind, give up. Shame on you.
Wednesday night is a unique juggling challenge: manage computer music, stay present with ever-evolving group dynamics and, hopefully, offer up vital, clear, effective teaching. It is far from a comfort zone for me. Two weeks ago someone else did the music and all I had to do was stay present and offer up cogent teaching. Liberation from the computer freed me up to see with greater clarity, trust myself more deeply, be more spontaneously creative. The more I approached this intriguingly vulnerable edgy zone, the louder the jackal howled.
In the course of this two-hour offering I realized I was vaguely miserable. Clearly everybody out there was judging me and couldn’t wait for this tortured class to be over. I’m familiar with this undercurrent story; it arises time to time in this particular setting. But tonight was different. The emancipated opportunity for my authenticity to fabulously flourish scared the bejeezus out of the jackal so he upped his discouraging ante. By 8:30 I was clear that the whole evening was a flop.
And here’s the breakthrough part. At night’s end, several students I implicitly trust approached to express sincere gratitude for such a relevant masterful class. I went home confused by my experience, my need for exterior validation, the apparent lack of clarity of my own internal witness. Over the next week I really gave the jackal his due. He got more attention than he has ever received. I let him out of his cage, let him strut around. I put on music, felt his shapes and repetitions. I thanked him for his diligence and twisted love. I assured him that I was OK.
I began to imagine his less obvious, much quieter accomplice, the inner mentor. This benevolent presence beckons me to my intriguing brink. A Golden Labrador retriever, wagging at the wonder and potency of risk-taking. Angelic being assuring me I am capable and worthy and totally deserving of love. I stayed in this dynamic polarity—critic vs. mentor—all week. The next Wednesday I offered up a practice drawn from this territory.
This night I was in the usual multi-tasking place: manning the music AND teaching. This was a dicey class to teach, based as it was in my own vulnerability with a request for those present to drop into theirs. Guess what? Mr. Jackal, who had received so much attentive appreciation all week, just lollygagged in the corner, unconcerned with the imaginative edgy instructions bubbling out of me. I could clearly see what was happening in the room and follow and lead based on that vision. I enjoyed myself. I absolutely knew it was a class of great value.
This is only one of the absorbing ways we get stuck in our heads. It was a thing of beauty to feel and work with where and how this finds expression in the body. So revealing. I love this work. And I love the devoted persistence of my jackal who, in total frustration, had to finally howl to get the attention he deserved. Bravo.
So here’s to letting our inner critics out of the cage and giving them their due.
And here’s to imagining that inner mentor cheering us on.
And here’s to engaging in the transformative work that brings this type of thing to light.
Courageous….every one of us.