A Mantra for Inner Safety
by Rachel Zimmerman
I search through my near surroundings, looking for a place for my soul to rest, settle, and speak. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but quiet helps, nature helps, coffee helps, music helps. All these help me go inside to think and feel. But mostly I have to feel safe to go inside and take a look around. I’ve spent a lot of time and effort in my adult life looking for safe spaces, both internationally and around the US. I keep coming back to the truth that safety is something I carry inside of me wherever I go.
I’ve just moved 2,000 miles across the country to a region known for its breathtaking scenery and trendy coffee shops. But it takes time to establish new rhythms and familiar spaces in a new place. How can I continue writing from the soul in the midst of such change? By creating safe spaces within myself. By being gentle with my mind, refuting the demands and expectations I place on myself. Quieting the inner critic and what I think society expects of me. Giving myself space to breathe and rest are essential to soulful writing, like a key unlocking and accessing my soul is kindness towards myself and my mind. In this space I can write words that have meaning. Places and spaces matter, but creating a safe internal space matters even more.
Writing from a place of vulnerability is key to soulful writing. Vulnerability has become increasingly important to me as I have identified the destruction that perfectionism causes. Perfectionism is the gremlin that demands and expects an unrealistic lifestyle. Perfectionism and shame go hand-in-hand; perfectionism states its demands and when unmet (which is always), shame runs in and splatters its messages of unworthiness all over the place.
Vulnerability is the antidote to both. Vulnerability says what is true and honest to me, from the deeper level of my soul than where perfection and shame reside. Vulnerability carries my human experience; perfection and shame carry an experience that is unrealistic, inhuman, machine-like.
In my younger years, I used to brag that I was able to study harder and longer than most of my classmates and colleagues. It was so natural for me to push beyond a reasonable stopping point. This worked well for me in academic and athletic spaces, but it has worked less well in any other space, especially the spaces of my mind and heart.
I’ve had to unlearn some of those habits that worked well for me because the pushing harder is not always the answer. In fact, I’ve found that this often leads to burnout in my life: in my helping profession, living overseas, as a leader, etc. My mantra these days is ‘be kind to your mind.’ As an Enneagram 1, I have to practice kindness toward my mind in order to quiet the inner critic and speak from a place of whole-heartedness and vulnerability.
Often it’s helpful for me to write out a mantra for myself:
Go to wherever you feel safe and be there
Be safe inside of you first and foremost
Don't deny your own feelings to do what seems most socially acceptable
That’s never how great things are accomplished
You don’t have to produce in this time
You can just be
You need to honor yourself by acknowledging how you feel
Just like you honor your body with nutrition, sunshine, and exercise,
You can honor your heart by acknowledging the way it feels
Honor your soul by integrating each part of yourself
Rest when the body feels tired
Cry when the heart wants to cry
Eat when the body speaks hunger
Kiss when the heart says to kiss
You are safe inside yourself
You can trust your instincts
You can release your worries, anxieties, and cares
Set them down for a moment
Allow your grip to relax
Your shoulders to relax
Your body to grow heavy
Feeling connected to the earth
You are safe in the refuge inside of you
Even if the earthly ground feels shaky at this moment
Be integrated with yourself by stating what is true
It’s okay to be true to you
In fact, it’s required
Be honest with yourself
Be brave enough to do that and then be brave enough to be honest with others
You don’t need someone else to validate or tell you what you already know
You can boldly live out your truth
You are allowed to do that
Give yourself space to do that
And then write about it.