Make Peace With Your Mind: How Mindfulness And Compassion Can Free You From Your Inner Critic
Meditation teacher and therapist Mark Coleman begins his book with the chapter titled ‘Change is Possible.’ That simple statement acts as a beacon inviting the reader in closer to hear exactly what this change entails and what has to be done to see that it happens. Using mindfulness and the meditation practice known as loving-kindness, Coleman writes that he was able to turn off the tyrannical self judgments and negativity that were making his life miserable. Consequently, he began noticing what was uplifting, beautiful, and inspiring. Awareness and kindness are two wings of the same bird, he writes. They both worked together to allow him to turn off the judgmental inner critic that made his life challenging and painful. This book presents the tools that we readers can use to promote these same positive changes in our lives.
In this comprehensive guidebook, Mark Coleman explains what the inner critic is, where it came from, how it manifests in our daily lives, and what strengthens or weakens it. And perhaps most importantly, he gives practical advice on how to free ourselves from its paralyzing grip.
This book came out at a very important time; with all of the stress, anger, and fear many have been experiencing with the US elections, any kind of peace is a great idea. But peace with our own minds is a great place to start because if we can make peace with ourselves, then it is easier to make peace with others. Mindful awareness helps us to look deeply into our own selves, our own psychologies, and discover that, in the words of Suzuki Roshi, “Each of you is perfect the way you are….and you can use a little improvement.“ Yes, we make mistakes, but we keep trying to do our best. Once we accept that we are trying to do our best, although quite imperfectly, it’s easier to accept others’ imperfections. This is where self-compassion comes in. Compassion is contagious; if you can have it for yourself it will certainly spread out to others. And if we cannot completely accept others or their viewpoints, at least with compassion, we can try to understand them.
In chapter 10, ‘The Mantra of “Not Enough,”‘ Coleman writes that the critic often uses comparison as a weapon against us. When we are feeling deficient, and we usually do when we compare ourselves to others, he suggests we amp up our capacity for gratitude. Gratitude also helps with feelings of scarcity. The practice at the end involves cultivating gratitude using stream-of-consciousness style writing or meditating. Just allowing the mind to wander over all that we have and are grateful for in our lives. You’ll be surprised at everything that comes up when you focus solely on what is already available and present in your life. While writing down all of my thoughts of gratitude; people, things, places, and events kept coming to mind faster than I could write. It was a humbling exercise for me.
At the end of each short, yet comprehensive, chapter, Coleman includes beneficial, easy-to-understand practices that assist in further driving home the that chapter’s main message. For instance, a chapter that really hit home for me was ‘From Judgment to Discernment.’ In it, he explains that learning the distinction between discernment and negative judgment is a key element of working with the critic. Discernment is clearer, leaves room for a greater perspective, and is a necessary tool. Judgment (as the term is used in this book) is reactive, close-minded, and an unhealthy habit. He writes that we can learn to discern rather than judge. The practice at the end is titled ‘Replacing Judgment with Discernment.’ It involves thinking about practical things in your life that need your attention or are problematic. Then, reflecting on several questions and their answers, distinguishing between approaching the situation with judgment or viewing it with discernment. Listening to how the critic shows up in our everyday lives is very telling. Once we are aware of the critic’s prevalence, we can begin to become free of it.
A short list of a few of the other chapters (There are actually 31):
You Are Not Alone: The Epidemic of Self-Judgment
Imposter Syndrome: If They Really Knew Who I am (Loved this one!)
Thief Of Peace: The Critic As The Cause Of Low Self-Esteem
Teflon Mind: The Power Of Nonidentification
Reality Check: Are Your Judgments Really True?
Befriending Yourself: You Are Not Your Enemy
The Power Of Vulnerability: The Hidden Strength Of The Heart (Another Personal Favorite!)
(A favorite passage in the book)
Mark Coleman has compiled so many beneficial practices and mindfulness techniques in one place. Make Peace with Your Mind is one of the most useful books on mindfulness that I’ve seen come out in a while. I know I will turn to this book often to find meditation practices for my Yoga students and myself. Now that I’ve read it all the way through, I plan to use each chapter as a stand-alone reference for whatever type of situation I am facing and technique that I need to employ at that time.
Yes, I certainly will return to this book often, especially the last chapter, ‘The Critic Toolbox.’ With concise, important strategies for dealing with the inner critic like Fierce Compassion, Loving-Kindness, RAIN (recognizing, allowing, inquiring, identifying) and Humor, it is a good toolbox to keep handy! The Further Reading list offers several other excellent books to continue on the mindfulness and compassion journey. Hey! We need all the help we can get! 🙂
To watch an interview with Mark Coleman and to read an excerpt from Make Peace with Your Mind: How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Free You from Your Inner Critic, visit New World Library’s website here.
Find Make Peace with Your Mind: How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Free You from Your Inner Critic at your local library or bookstore. Or to order from Quail Ridge Books, visit here.
*I received a galley of this book from New World Library for review. I was not financially compensated for this post. The opinions expressed are completely my own.
*Photos are mine