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Befriending Your Inner Critic

By November 19, 2019January 22nd, 2020Podcast

Join us in Chicago for House of Bodhi with Lola Wright at Lincoln Hall on November 26th. Visit bodhicenter.org for tickets!
On a previous episode of this podcast, Bodhi Center’s Creative Producer Tyler Greene asked Lola how she stays grounded “in the midst of all of this?” Her reply was “I tell on myself.” On this episode, Lola continues her practice of using her own encounters with her egoic self to guide you through similar challenges.

To financially support the on-going availability of our live events, classes and this very podcast, visit us bodhicenter.org/giving, or text GIVE to 773-770-8577. No contribution is too small and no contribution is too large.

For more information on Bodhi Center, please visit us at bodhicenter.org.

For more information on Lola Wright, please visit her at lolawright.com.

Despite the mental image you may have of someone who leads an organization devoted to personal growth and self-awareness, Lola is not immune from self-critical thoughts, anxiety, and rumination. Through a conversation with her husband, Nathan Wright, Lola unpacks a recent experience of intense anxiety that was brought on by her powerful Inner Critic. This episode gives you some tools to cope with similar experiences of your own and reduce your own suffering.

For more information on Bodhi Center, please visit us at http://bodhicenter.org.

For more information on Lola Wright, please visit her at www.lolawright.com.

This “talk” is electronically transcribed. Please excuse any errors or omissions.

Lola Wright: I have recently launched a new project. It is titled House of Bodhi with Lola Wright. It is a live experience that gathers monthly and travels to various iconic music venues in the city of Chicago. This November on the 26th we are gathering at Lincoln hall. It’s a special evening with guest artist, Avery Young, world famous juggler, Cyril Rabbath, myself, and the incredible Bodhi House Band. I’d love for you to be there. Find tickets bodhicenter.org. Invite your friends! It’s intended to be an evening that transports you to another dimension of reality. It is intended to be an unpredictable experience that shifts you out of status quo consciousness into greater states of creativity, aliveness and freedom. I look forward to seeing you there.

Lola Wright: You are more than this meat suit. A feeling lasts 90 seconds. A multiracial, intergenerational, queer affirming, non-religious, pro woman community in the most segregated city in America, Chicago. Hello and welcome to And This Is Bodhi. I’m your host, Lola Wright. Bodhi Center exists as really a reminder of the truth of who you are, not your egoic construct, but rather some higher, greater idea of you beyond that which we see in this conditional realm, this material realm. The idea is that if you connect to your essence, your higher self, you can walk on the planet with a greater sense of joy, freedom, peace, creativity and aliveness, and ultimately you will be a much greater contribution to society and you’ll experience a much greater sense of serenity where you are. This podcast is a digital gathering space designed to support you in reconnecting with your essence. In awakening to the truth of who you are.

Lola Wright: As always, Bodhi’s programs are supported by our incredibly generous community of supporters. Please consider visiting bodhicenter.org/giving. Or text the word GIVE to (773) 770-8577. Every bit makes a difference. So a few episodes back, I had the opportunity to turn the tables and actually be interviewed myself by the brilliant creative producer, Tyler Greene. Tyler interviewed me and at the end of our conversation he asked me this question, “How do you stay grounded in the midst of all of this?” And I knew the answer right away. I tell on myself all the time. Honestly, telling on myself is a way that I keep myself free and clear. I know that I am the CEO of this thing called Bodhi Center and a lot of times we’ll create these ideas of what people in leadership should be as an appropriate demonstration of their role. But for me, being the CEO of a transformational organization that’s devoted to practices of awakening does not mean that I spend my life meditating on a mountaintop or that I’m living in some kind of idealized perfection.

Lola Wright: What I know to be true is that who I am as I am the essence of who I am is whole, holy, perfect and complete. That there is an aspect of my being that as I always say, has never been hurt, harmed or hindered, but I also am really comfortable with my humanity and I allow myself to play with my humanity. I have a devotional practice of acknowledging that which the world may perceive as messy, uncomfortable feelings. You know those feelings that we have been socialized to suppress. I see people try to suppress and ignore and numb their feelings all the time. I can assure you this is not of highest service to your being. The suppression of our feeling states causes all kinds of disease in our mental, emotional, and physical bodies. It is essential to move through these feelings states to allow them to have full place and space. The real work is to look at the things that historically we’ve been unwilling to look at. To find means, learning partners, practice partners, allies, advocates to support us in moving through these spaces consciously.

Lola Wright: In this podcast, I’m going to use examples from my own life to illustrate this very experience. It’s another one of those episodes where I tell on myself. I’m going to do that through a conversation with my husband, Nathan Wright. In October Bodhi launched this big new thing. It’s a live experience that we’ve titled House of Bodhi with Lola Wright. We travel around music venues throughout the city of Chicago and it’s really intended to be….Now, excuse the reference for those of you who are not of an age to know these references, but House of Bodhi was inspired by Phil Donahue, by Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, and by the incredible show In Living Color. With all of that in mind, starting something new has felt hard. It’s felt scary. It’s a totally new thing and you know, for me, I felt like I’m really putting myself out there.

Lola Wright: The night after the launch of House of Bodhi, I began picking it apart. I started spinning out in my own self criticism. This podcast is the debrief of that. It’s a conversation that I’m having with my husband. We talk about our life together, the way the Bodhi principles and practices help to ground us and guide us. If you don’t already know Nathan, he is an extraordinary human being. We met through Bodhi nearly 13 years ago. He’s a landscape architect, a former community organizer. He’s an incredible father and he’s my partner. He’s my guy. Thanks for listening. Here’s our conversation.

Lola Wright: Here we are.

Nathan Wright: Yes, here we are.

Lola Wright: So last month I launched this new project and a couple of things happened for me. Number one, I could not get present in my body. I was fixated on one human’s face in the room that looked to me like a curmudgeon. The production of it I think was spectacular and I really did feel overwhelmingly affirmative about the evening. But if I just look at like my own neurotic process, where I found myself hung up was in fixating on this one face in the audience, nevermind the fact that there were 149 other humans that were joyfully engaged. And then the complete spin that I did following the conclusion of the experience. So the gathering was from seven to eight 30 and almost instantly as walked off the stage, I could hear my mind critiquing. I saw my friend Gaylon McDowell and he gave me a big hug and he’s like, “If only just for tonight, give yourself the gift of not finding all of the things that could be done better or differently.”

Lola Wright: And I mean I think he said that because he not dissimilar from me as a facilitator, teacher, speaker, and it is something that happens almost instantaneously in my experience. You had a very different experience of the evening. I would love to hear what was your experience and then I want to talk a little bit about how the mind works and how it can serve us in so many ways and if we don’t have self-awareness and right relationship to the mind, it can also cause us to totally lose presence and spin the fuck out.

Nathan Wright: The main thing that I noticed in the beginning was that basically there are 150 people sitting in chairs looking at this stage and we had no idea what was about to happen and for me that was unlike anything that I experience in any other area of my life. I feel like most of us have designed our lives that very predictable experiences. You know, you go to Starbucks, you expect the drink to taste the same as it did at the previous location. But I felt like there was just something unknown that was about to happen.
New Speaker: [phone ringning]

Nathan Wright: Oh my God.

Lola Wright: That’s super annoying.

Nathan Wright: The irony is that it was your phone after you tell me, turn my off.

Lola Wright: Well it’s because it’s hooked up to this thing.

Nathan Wright: You can’t silence your phone.

Lola Wright: It’s silent. Because it’s a Mac book to an iPhone, it picks it up. Ok now it’s on do not disturb.

Nathan Wright: So the part that I felt that I, you know, that I really felt excited by, was sitting in the chair not knowing what was going to happen. And for me, that’s just such an unfamiliar experience because so much of my life, I know exactly what I’m doing, what it’s going to be like, and I know what to expect.

Nathan Wright: What it reminded me of was a time in college when a friend of mine, Matthew Hoffman would create these performance art pieces where he basically would set up a tent, fill the tent with a bunch of cardboard boxes, and then within the boxes there’d be styrofoam beads. And he basically would draw an audience of people that would be like, what is this guy doing? What are in these boxes? And then the more people that would come around the tent, everybody just kept on watching and waiting for something to happen. But he literally intentionally created the experience of curiosity and just waiting but not really knowing. So that’s kind of how I felt there was just waiting and wondering. But in this experience, what was so unique is that it just felt like there was something building and building to what we didn’t know. But then when the, what occurred, it did feel like a seismic boom or a cosmic experience of just energy and life and expression.

Nathan Wright: It was like drinking from a fire hose. It was like more than I could absorb in that moment in those many moments. And I didn’t really want it to end because it all just felt so good.

Lola Wright: Yeah. You’re also someone who you have a very like somatic experience of energy. You have a very physical experience of energy. And so, I mean, as long as I’ve known you, you’ve been very open and available to having your body be used as a tool for transformation, consciousness, altered experiences without the need to use substances. Does that feel true?

Nathan Wright: Yeah, I think I have a unique ability in a moment like that just to relax and enjoy like just deeper and deeper experiences of appreciation and joy and love. Now, in that environment I do let myself go. And I think that was part of what was so powerful of the music. You know, the energy was just, you actually didn’t have a choice. Like you actually –

Lola Wright: Well you did have a choice though because….And that’s where I think it’s actually quite interesting because as I said, there was another guy who didn’t have, I mean I don’t know what his actual experience was by the way, but at least from my perspective, well here’s what’s ironic –

Nathan Wright: He could have had indigestion.

Lola Wright: [laughs]

Nathan Wright: I mean it could’ve had nothing to do with an experience in that moment –

Lola Wright: That’s true.

Nathan Wright: – relative to what you were creating.

Lola Wright: Yeah, that’s true. But what I also know to be true is that when you and I met at Bodhi this coming December, it will be 13 years. You know at the time my family, when they would see you called you joyful because we didn’t know your name, but you had this very obvious ability to let go and to allow joy to sort of overcome you.

Lola Wright: What I hear you say is you loved this unpredictability because so much of your life is prescriptive. So much of your life is predictable. Also because I hadn’t really shared much with you. You and I had not talked really about what I was creating.

Nathan Wright: No, you know, music was great. The layering then became in the content and it was like, okay, yeah, I’m familiar with music and I’m familiar with music plus a message. But then when you started to add in an interview, I was just like, Whoa, this is like a new combination.

Lola Wright: So the idea is that I have long desired to create like a late night talk show with the underpinnings of awakening, of consciousness. And so the inspiration was like, what if we could create something that was like Phil Donahue meets Super Soul Sunday and sprinkled with In Living Color.

Lola Wright: Yeah I notice even my mind wanting to explain how….And we’re getting there. Like it was just the first one. It’s not perfect yet. You know? And I think about when I used to sing, I actually stopped singing because my perfectionism made it almost unbearable. It was like so not fun. Do you have any experiences like that with your own creativity?

Nathan Wright: I regularly critique my own work and I constantly think that my work could be better. And yes, it makes the whole experience a little bit less pleasant than it would otherwise be if I could just relax. But I also feel like that’s the drive, that’s the motivator. That’s the thing that keeps, it’s like the sand in inside of the oyster that like the agitation just constantly making something more and more beautiful, more and more polished. And I feel like that is just a lifelong struggle, but it’s like there’s a perfection in the struggle that I am here for.

Lola Wright: I remember many, many years ago, our friend and early teacher Mark Anthony Lord said to me, “No matter what happens in this experience we’re about to create together, you have to always know that the way it unfolds is perfect.” And that’s like a really big idea. It’s a core principle teaching practice of my life. And one that to your point is an ever, ever present journey with. Like would you be willing to consider that the way this entire thing has unfolded, even the perceived problems or challenges are a part of some greater and higher order?

Nathan Wright: Sure. I mean I’m –

Lola Wright: I was saying that more like rhetorically [laughing].

Nathan Wright: I mean I’m just, I’m over here thinking about a project that I was, I just came out of a meeting with a client of mine and just my example up to this point is that….You know, basically we’re putting in boulders, we’re putting in large stones in her backyard that are not inexpensive.

Lola Wright: So just to provide context. You’re a landscape architect, you have design build firm.

Nathan Wright: Mhm and somebody paying us to bring large stones into their backyard and we can move them one time and we want to get the right, we want to bring the right stones and not have to take them back to the store. So we’ve been searching for like the last couple of days here to get the perfect stones and we have all kinds of criteria. You know, I explained to her that we had these different criteria and I was out searching for the perfect ones and but for whatever reason, they only have certain kinds of stones at any given moment. So you just go and you see what they have and then you pick out the best that you can. And she completely understood. She’s a counselor for kids going to college. She tells her students that like nine out of 10 is great. And I’ve heard different business coaches say eight out of 10 is good, good enough. But for me it’s like, I just noticed that I’m always striving for the perfect solution.

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Nathan Wright: So it’s just nice, I think to be with people who can accept that things are as good as they can be, you know, as good as they can be in this moment because I know I can make myself crazy in this way. And when I work with a client who also makes themselves crazy in this way, it literally becomes –

Lola Wright: Debilitating.

Nathan Wright: Yeah. And we’ll kind of spin.

Lola Wright: Yeah.

Nathan Wright: Together.

Lola Wright: Well that night after walking off the stage, I felt electric from the entire experience. So I did feel like an overwhelming sense of aliveness, of joy, of enthusiasm and excitement. And then as the evening progressed, I noticed my mind get more and more activated and begin to look for evidence of what could have been done better and differently and the risk of having not executed those things perfectly.

Lola Wright: And so by the time you and I got home, I think it was like maybe 11:30. Fell asleep. I then woke up at 12:30 in the morning and I stayed up until 3:30 in this like painful three hour examination and critique of the evening. And at that point, this has now been compounded by the fact that I had an alcoholic beverage after the experience, I am now exhausted and doing this exercise in the middle of the night. I made a cup of tea for myself and just kept trying to breathe. I went back to sleep and fortunately got like a nice good chunk and my nervous system started to readjust. I texted my friend, our friend Kate Hudson, who’s a somatic therapist and told her sort of what was going on with me and she’s like, “Yeah, like anytime you take on a big new thing like that, your adrenaline is way up and your body has a physiological experience as it’s coming down from that adrenaline. So there actually is something that’s happening in your biology.”

Lola Wright: That made a lot of sense to me. But I remained sort of neurotically picking at myself and I should say that the part that I was most critical of was my own role. Everybody else was extraordinary and amazing and I just had this very sort of neurotic critique that was going on of me. Maybe like two weeks later I was sitting at the home of Chris Andrew where we were reviewing the video from the night and I watched, you know, my segment and I was like, what was my problem? That was like really solid. I didn’t say anything that I don’t stand behind. I didn’t say anything that I don’t absolutely believe. Immediately my mind was like, it relaxed. But I think that, you know, I talk a lot about the survival part of the brain, the reptilian part of the brain that it gets activated.

Lola Wright: Fear, unconscious fear gets like a strong grip. And as soon as I saw actually what occurred, it completely loosened its grip and I was able to like reconstitute myself. That feels so, I mean that feels so weird. Why does it have to be that way? And yet I have enough experience to know that that regularly and reliably happens for me. I guess I also have the thought like if I did not have the practices that I have, those experiences would be like infinitely more painful. Like, seriously for me, just breathing, you know, if I wake up and I’m like, my mind’s off to the races, you’re like, “Hey hun, just take a breath.” And it’s like, Oh yeah, that’s right. But imagine you don’t have someone laying next to you that says, “Hey hun, take a breath.” I think that’s actually sort of the big idea of Bodhi is that we actually be a place in space that hopefully offers tools, principles, practices for people to shift out of these conditioned ways of being. Why are you smiling?

Nathan Wright: Well, I think my first observation when you originally started to speak is I just thought I have a much lower threshold for mental and emotional pain. I don’t really suffer as much as you describe yourself suffering.

Lola Wright: Is that true? Is it that I’m just like very willing to narrate my internal process.

Nathan Wright: I think you are much harder on yourself than I am.

Lola Wright: Hmm, okay.

Nathan Wright: You know, I was putting myself in your shoes and yeah, I mean I’d probably worry about my performance for like 20 minutes, an hour or two hours. But like the length and the drama that you just described just sounds intolerable to me. And at some point I just say, “Oh well moving on.”

Lola Wright: Yeah. I think that if we were to bring a little Pat Bales-ism, channel a little bit of my dad into the conversation, he always said, you know, our strengths are also often our weaknesses. So I think that the precision with which I focus like to focus and the micro experiences that I notice is a great gift and it can be super painful at times too.

Lola Wright: So that was my conversation with Nathan and I guess what I can say now is House of Bodhi was flipping amazing. Like after all that drama I created for myself, when I actually got to watch the footage, I felt nothing but appreciation for pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, collaborating with these extraordinary artists and musicians and culture creators. I know that my mind went into a kind of tailspin in the immediate after glow, but that is really just what the mind does, or at least it’s what my mind does. I stretch beyond my comfort zone. And then, as I’ve talked about before, this upper limit sets in and it’s a kind of unconscious self sabotage to bring me back to a set point that’s familiar. I don’t know if you know anything about that, but the mind is a powerful thing and when I am in the trance of it, Ooh baby, we all encounter the neurotic tendencies of the mind in some way, shape, or form. When I can remember to not take my thoughts too seriously, as Eckhart Tolle says, I can give myself place in space. So here’s something that you may choose to try on when you find your mind in a similar tailspin.

Lola Wright: First, always start with the breath. Just invite, yeah, yourself to take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth and begin to scan your body from the crown of your head down to the the soles of your feet. Placing particular awareness on your brow. Just allowing the breath to relax the brow. It is often a place where we carry a ton of tension. Just notice if there’s a furrow to your brow and would you be willing to soften it? Place your awareness on your jaw. Also, a place space where we can hold a lot of tension. A great hack here is to rest your tongue on the inside of your bottom teeth, creating a little bit of space between your top and bottom teeth. Allow the jaw to relax. Bring your awareness to your shoulders. Create space between your ear lobes and your shoulders. Allow the heaviness of your arm to pull your shoulders down, perhaps rolling them back slightly. Just imagine your shoulders being pulled down. We so often we’ll have our shoulders bunched up. Now bring your awareness to your belly. Soften your belly. Invite the breath to move into the belly such that you begin to notice the expansion and contraction.

Lola Wright: As you practice activating your breath, it is quite difficult to maintain anxious and neurotic thought patterns while fully activating the breath. Your breath is your greatest tool to shifting out of a triggered reactive state and reconnecting with presence.

Lola Wright: Thanks so much for being here. I hope that you will breathe consciously, regularly. Between now and when we meet again next. I hope that you will join me next week. Again. All of Bodhi’s programs are supported and funded and made possible by the generosity of people like you, people who find value and meaning in this work who’ve been supported in their growth and expansion. This podcast is made available because of your generosity. Please contribute to this work. It makes a difference. When you do, you can give by visiting bodhicenter.org/giving. Or text the word GIVE to (773) 770-8577 make a onetime gift or set yourself up on a monthly schedule. If you don’t already hang out with me or follow me on social media, please find me @lolapwright on Instagram and Facebook. If you don’t yet follow Bodhi, do so by finding us @BodhiChicago on Instagram and Facebook. And This Ts Bodhi is a production of Bodhi Center. Funding comes from our generous contributors. I’m your host, Lola Wright. This podcast is produced by Katie Klocksin with editorial guidance from Bodhi’s creative producer, Tyler Greene. This episode was recorded at my home studio in Oak park, Illinois. Special thanks this week to my incredible husband, Nathan Wright. Our theme music is provided by independent music producer, Trey Royal.

Lola Wright: Well here’s what ironic –

Nathan Wright: He could have had indigestion. I mean, it could had nothing to do with an experience in that moment.


Bodhi is a conscious community in Chicago, IL. We offer in person and online experiences for people who are ready to transform themselves and their world. Bodhi uses media, education, entertainment, and like-minded community to support transformation.

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