The place our minds go to in an attempt to “objectively” judge ourselves and our experiences.
Heather came to me looking for some direction in life, but every time we tried engaging in a visualization process to imagine what a compelling future would look like, she’d derail the conversation. I finally confronted her about it:
Chana: What is so challenging for you about imagining an exciting future for yourself ?
Heather: It’s hard to believe any of that stuff can actually happen.
Heather: Because I couldn’t do all the work required to make it happen.
Chana: Why do you believe that?
Heather: I’m lazy. I’ve always been lazy. I don’t ever follow through on stuff.
Chana: So let’s take a look at that belief. Perhaps it’s worth questioning.
Chana: Can you think of a time you firmly believed you’re lazy?
Heather: Yes. Last week when I was sitting in front of the computer. I was supposed to be working on a resume to apply for jobs. But I was checking Instagram instead.
Chana: You’re lazy. Is it true?
Heather: Yeah. I’m wasting time.
Chana: Can you absolutely know that you’re lazy?
Heather: Of course.
Chana: How do you react when you believe that you’re lazy?
Heather: My body sags. I feel drained.
Chana: What else?
Heather: I want to curl up into a ball and hide under the covers. I feel depressed.
Chana: What are you afraid would happen if you didn’t believe you’re lazy?
Heather: Then I would never get anything done. My apartment would be disgusting!
Chana: And tell me, what are you not able to do when you believe the thought?
Heather: I don’t want to do anything except curl up in bed with a bag of chips.
Chana: So is the thought helping you get stuff done?
Heather: No. Not at all. Gosh. Just the opposite.
Chana: That’s usually how it goes. And whose Business are you in when you believe the thought?
Heather: Mine. I’m talking about myself, right?
The most insidious way we leave our Business is when we judge ourselves with statements such as:
I should lose weight I’m not smart enough I deserve better I’m selfish
We think we’re in our Business because we believe our thoughts are us. What we miss is that, in believing these judgments, we leave our center of power entirely. To help Heather understand this, I guided her through the Back in Your Business visualization.
Chana: Close your eyes. Breathe deeply and place your hand where you usually do when you say, “I am.” Feel the energy under your hand. This is your power center; it’s where you hold the energy that vitalizes you, holds up your body, and drives your actions. Now, think of another person in your life who you often define as lazy. Got it?
Heather: Yes. This guy Greg from work.
Chana: Now I want you to feel what happens to that energy under your hand when you believe the thought, “He’s lazy.”
Heather: It just floods out of me. Just seeps out of my toes and goes oozing over to Greg.
Chana: And what happens to your body?
Heather: It collapses. Like a puppet.
Chana: Nothing is holding you up anymore?
Heather: Yes. And I feel sad. And angry here.
Chana: Because you’ve left yourself. You’ve left your Business.
Heather: I can feel that.
Chana: And you’re over there in Greg’s Business.
Heather: But not really. I can’t change him or anything.
Chana: Exactly. It’s just wishful thinking except for the part about your loss of energy.
Heather: Yes. That feels very real.
Chana: Because it is. Now shake it up and clear the air. Take another deep breath and feel your energy again. Good. Now, notice what happens when you believe that you’re lazy.
Heather: Uch. Yuck. Same thing. I’m drained.
Chana: You’ve left your Business.
Heather: But where could I go? This isn’t about Greg; it’s about me.
Chana: You’ve left yourself to jump into The Courtroom. You’re not only playing the prosecuting attorney, claiming that you’re lazy. You’re also in the judge’s seat and the jury box deciding the verdict!
Chana: Because to judge something, we have to stand outside of it and, clipboard in hand, make all sorts of assessments about it. We leave ourselves in order to judge ourselves.
Heather: Ok. I get it. I’m no longer present in the moment. It’s like I’m watching myself.
We score ourselves against a Platonic standard of what is an ideal amount of intelligence or beauty or strength, not just for ourselves, but for the situation. This judgement requires a level of knowledge that’s beyond human. It’s pure arrogance to think we can know such things. When Heather describes herself as lazy, she assumes she knows precisely how much effort the universe is demanding of her at any given moment and of how much she’s capable. She’s simply invented the standard to which she compares himself. It’s not real. Every human’s capacity is unique, so there is no accurate metric.
Chana: Now, the question is: According to what standard are you assessing yourself ?
Heather: I never thought about that. Well, in school, they told us how much homework we were supposed to do and how hard we had to work to get an A. So I guess that?
Chana: Did every teacher have the same standards?
Chana: So whose standard did you bring into The Courtroom?
Heather: That’s a good question. I guess my dad’s. He’s crazy industrious. And my favorite teacher in high school. My biology teacher, Mr. Adams. He gave us a test every Monday, and I loved doing well on them. I usually made the curve. The other kids made fun of me and threw spitballs at me because they wanted the curve to be lower. But inside, I was so proud of myself.
Chana: And who decided to put those standards into The Courtroom?
Heather: Oh! Me!
Chana: So whose standards are they?
Chana: Can you absolutely know you are capable of meeting those standards at all times and in all circumstances?
Heather: No. I can’t.
Chana: And can you know whether that standard of work is exactly what you or the universe needs?
Heather: No. Not at all.
Chana: How does the standard of industriousness that you’ve created make you feel?
Heather: Horrible. It’s so much pressure; I can’t think straight. I want to run away.
Chana: So it makes you less industrious.
Heather: Exactly. That’s so sad.
Chana: Can you think of a peaceful reason to keep this standard?
Heather: No. It’s stressful.
Chana: Let’s try turning the thought around. In dealing with these type of beliefs, we benefit greatly from switching the subject of the statement from “I” to “my thinking.”
Heather: My thinking is lazy.
Chana: Yes. Give me three reasons that’s true.
Heather: My thinking doesn’t work to show me all the ways that I’ve pushed myself to achieve my goals. My thinking focuses on the same tiny collection of thoughts all day. It’s such a waste of time, and it’s exhausting.
Chana: Good. One more.
Heather: It’s busy judging me, rather than trying to find solutions to problems. And my thinking wastes a lot of time whining over things I can’t change.
Chana: It pushes you into The Courtroom.
Heather: Which is a fantasy. It would be much more useful to complete the task in front of me. Like my resume. Without the thought, it actually feels like a much smaller task.
Helping ourselves feel empowered to effect real change in our lives is the most powerful thing we can do as facilitators of our growth. Coming back into our Business and focusing on staying there is a key tool for inspiring that empowerment.
Summary of The Courtroom
Use The Courtroom image to better understand how, in judging yourself, you’ve left your Business. By trying to attain some ultimate ideal for your life, you lead yourself down a path to suffering.
Like what you’ve read? You can learn The Courtroomalong with 21 other tools in my book, Hold That Thought. Download a free copy of the book here.