Host Robert Strock teaches the process of moving from self-criticism to pivoting and accessing our own wisdom through self-inquiry. The process starts when we face challenging emotions. In these moments, we ask ourselves questions, searching for the best of who we are. What is our best self, our best actions, best communication, and best attitudes? These questions will guide us toward the thoughts we will derive benefit to think rather than self-criticizing ones. They direct us toward becoming the person we aspire to be even in the midst of difficult situations or challenging feelings. This is an ongoing practice of activating inquiry from the heart that naturally leads toward self-wisdom. As we become more adept at accessing self-wisdom, we can open ourselves to a loving heart that benefits ourselves and the world around us.
Resources related to this episode
Robert Strock Website
Robert’s Book, Awareness that Heals
Free Downloadable Introspective Guides
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Awareness That Heals, Episode 27.
Robert Strock: (00:05)
Because our tone and our words need to be combined to look for our best self, call it our best self, call it wisdom, call it being silent enough to hear the voice of God, call it whatever you will, but it’s whatever place inside you where you can be guided in a direction that’s going to serve you and those around you and is never going to be harmful to anyone.
The Awareness That Heals podcast helps its listeners learn to develop the capacity, to have a more healing response to emotions and situations rather than becoming stuck. Your host, Robert Strock has practiced psychotherapy for more than 45 years. He wrote the book Awareness That Heals, Bringing Heart and Wisdom to Life’s Challenges, to help develop self-caring and the capacity to respond in an effective way to life’s challenges. Especially at times when we are most prone to be critical or to withdraw together, we will explore how to become aware of our challenging feelings. And at the same time find alternative ways to live a more fulfilling and inspiring life.
Robert Strock: (01:16)
I’d like to welcome you again to Awareness That Heals, Bringing Heart and Wisdom to Life’s Challenges, where today we’re going to talk about one of the most inspiring and flexible under used practice that we can do anywhere, anytime. And in this episode, we’re going to be bringing in a natural extension from inquiring from the heart to activating, discovering how we can find our own wisdom guidance. And we’re going to explore how to ask ourselves these inquiring questions. That guide is from our heart and also arise in a way that has a tone. That’s going to bring us to the wisest part of ourselves and this tone of voice that we ask ourselves, how can I best take care of myself now? I know I’m suffering. What would be the thoughts that I would think to myself? What would be the actions that I would take? If I was the best to take care of myself, we realized that the tone of voice of how we ask ourselves these questions is critical.
Robert Strock: (02:36)
Now, if we’re really down under, then probably the best we can aspire toward is some kind of neutrality. But if it’s more of a garden variety suffering, there’s probably a pretty good chance that we can have elements of kindness or warmth and start to enjoy asking this question because asking this question and then starting to hear the responses to it can actually be more central in our lives than our feelings. Our feelings can indicate, our challenging feelings can indicate, oh, I need inquiry. Oh, I need to find my wisdom guidance. And if we get to that point where that’s a Pavlovian response by arithmetic, it starts to become a higher percentage of our life because we have a lot of evolutionary interruptions. It’s like a friendly takeover rather than a hostile takeover. So in this episode, we’re going to start it for how we ask these questions to guide us from our heart to our wisdom.
Robert Strock: (03:55)
We’re going to ask questions, wise questions that optimize who we want to be, who we need to be to really be fulfilled, content, inspired, and being our best self. And we’re also going to highlight the fact that we’re not going to be asking the kind of questions that are really veiled judgements. Like what’s wrong with you? What’s your problem? Why are you doing this again? I don’t understand why, why you’re so caught up in this. You learned how to do this long time ago. Why are you still doing it? Those are not inquiry questions from the heart. Those questions will not lead us to our wisdom. So we want to be very careful of our tone because our tone and our words need to be combined to look for our best self, call it our best self, call it wisdom, call it being silent enough to hear the voice of God, call it whatever you will, but it’s whatever place inside you where you can be guided in a direction that’s going to serve you and those around you and is never going to be harmful to anyone. So I’d like to introduce, before I go any further, my partner at the Global Bridge Foundation, closest friend for 50 years, Dave.
Thank you. Uh, Robert, good to be here and, uh, looking forward to exploring this, uh, and as much as we can get to, uh, this is so important to so much a part of my life, uh, is asking these questions and discerning what you just said.
Robert Strock: (05:41)
Yeah, it really is, generally speaking, it’s a step beyond therapy. Therapy usually does not include wisdom, certainly includes elements of reframing and there are certain approaches that are trying to move you in a subtle way toward your best self, but really isolating this as your own wisdom. And your own inquiry is such an inspiring place to see inside yourself, largely because it not only leads you to your best self, but there’s never a time where you can’t do it. You can do it in the car. You can do it while you’re playing sports. You can do it when you’re in the bedroom. I wouldn’t recommend getting in your head too much in the bedroom, but it still might make you be a little bit more sensitive, perhaps be a little more interested in each other’s needs. And this is something that is a goal of mine.
Robert Strock: (06:40)
You know what we’re talking about here in developing our wisdom is really maybe better than our best dreams, because no matter where we are, we always have this ability to start with this inquiry, inquiry from the heart and access elements of our wisdom. When we look at our lives, we see that we haven’t really been taught to ask ourselves, what would my wisdom tell me, what would my best self tell me, what would my best perception of reality, taking in the truth? We’re not talking about just fantasy and thinking about angels, guiding us, although that might be part of it for some people we’re thinking about how do we really in a grounded way and as a lifestyle, hopefully, how do we really get into the natural groove of having this be a part of who we are, no matter what state we are, or maybe even more importantly, when we’re worst off, how do we click in when we’re in an angry state, we’re in an accusatory state.
Robert Strock: (08:05)
We’re critical. We’re unhelpful. We believe somebody deserves punishment. We believe we deserve punishment. How do we click in and say, okay, wisdom. Okay. What, what do you have to tell me about this? Am I handling this in a way that’s going to optimize my life and the people I’m interacting with. And so we’d be asking questions to help lead us. Like what’s right with me that could help me right now. How can I move toward my best self right now, given how hard things are. What do I need to do to take best care of myself and others. And asking these questions is like being pregnant and looking for the birth of your own wisdom. And that metaphor is a very intentional metaphor because each time we really move from a reactive, challenging feeling that usually keeps us circling around in assess pool and we actually see a line up where we can pull ourselves partially out, or sometimes all the way out, at least on a thinking level, we start to see, oh yeah, that’s right I can inquire right now. What is my best self? What are my best actions? What is my best communication? What are my best attitudes toward myself? What are the thoughts I want to think.
Just as you speak, what I’m aware of, and it’s, it’s such a segue for me from our last discussions on self-rejection because often, maybe very often I will start from a discussion inside of myself. That’s, that’s pretty hard on me because I have patterns that have gone on for decades. And I’m always saying, what the hell? How could I not have learned this already? And then it’s this movement, this hoped for transformation to what you’re talking about. And it’s, it’s a very, very important thing for me to always remember that. Yeah, it’s, it’s okay. That I start there. It’s okay that I start there. It’s not just going to be a warm and fuzzy, friendly, wise friend inside of myself. It’s going to be, it may start with a pretty harsh judgment.
Robert Strock: (10:39)
And could you give us one example of where you think you should be more ahead of yourself or have thought you should have been more ahead of yourself than you were?
I mean, we need hours, but we can start with, uh, living for everybody but myself, being aware of that pattern of being a, a person that wants to please other people since I would say I first became aware of it clearly at age 19. So it’s embarrassing and I’m 72 and I’m, I’m watching that pattern play out. I’m watching that onion peel itself and finding the layers of my being. It still exists. And when I find it, uh, one of my first responses is to say, oh, not again, are you kidding me? You’ve been at this so long.
Robert Strock: (11:35)
Well, I’ll tell you the good news and the bad news. Uh, the bad news is I don’t think it started at 19. I think it started at 3. Uh, I think my awareness of it. Oh yeah, exactly. I was just hoping to tweak your awareness a little bit. Um, you, you are a mother pleaser from way back. Beyond your memory you were probably doing it at 1 year old. I’m probably giving you the benefit of the doubt at 3. So what’s so important about this and what you’re more than alluding to is you could probably list five areas pretty easily. And for all of us that can see areas where we believe, oh, I should be farther along with my depression, or I should be farther along with making money, or I should be farther along with my love life, or I should be farther along, you know, with my friendship life or my spiritual life, my meditation, all of us have that tendency to believe that we should be farther along.
Robert Strock: (12:40)
And that’s a perfect time for inquiry and wisdom guidance to be sought and asking ourselves and say, okay, you’re laying a trip on yourself right now, you aren’t in a state of self-rejection. You’re saying, why am I not farther along? You suck basically. And then you say, wait a minute, let me take a look at this. How can I see this in an accurate way and support myself? Okay. It’s been hard for me to find someone I love. And you ask yourself questions. Like, is there anything I can see that I can do? And if there’s things that you can see you can do, then you need to do them. Again, inquiry and wisdom guidance is not a free lunch. We have to listen to ourselves and we also need to move from fleeting awareness to having it become a stable awareness. And we need to bring our heart to it ultimately, but to realize there are a lot of areas that are important in life that we haven’t arrived at yet.
Robert Strock: (13:46)
And if we can identify it, it feels like a bummer. It feels depressing. But if we activate our inquiry, that is rooting for us and we activate our wisdom that is rooting for us, it’s going to guide us to realism. It’s going to tell us why we haven’t made more progress. It’s going to tell us if A we need to do something more or B if we need to really accept ourselves, trust ourselves, recognize where we’re giving ourselves a hard time, but we don’t see any way we can move forward in this area or we do. And when we listen to which way we move, either toward acceptance or toward asserting ourselves or engaging ourselves in some way, we develop a deep trust and a peace that comes with inquiring from the heart and comes with wisdom. And it doesn’t take away some pain or some fear.
Robert Strock: (14:46)
We’re not looking to be one dimensional gods. We’re looking to maximize being our best self while we’re still a human being. And underscoring that again, that these questions when they’re really inquiry from the heart, looking for wisdom, are always for us, and never against us. And it’s not blind validation. It’s an honesty. It’s a truth telling, you know, it’s a moment of truth or moments of truth, where we’re facing the reality as it is, and then being our best self. And then we can afford to really be the Inquirer and be the activated wisdom. Because the only reason why we’d have to be afraid of ourselves is if, when we find what is really the truth, we say, you know what? I think I’d rather just go to sleep. Now, if that’s what the real issue is, then of course you need to face that.
Robert Strock: (15:54)
And if you don’t want to face that, then you’re not going to gain wisdom. And you’re not going to be able to inquire from the heart, because if you, if you find the right answers, you’re not going to listen to them. So it’s very important that we do a certain prayer that I really want to be my best self. And when you really see the being and wanting to be your best self is the key to life and is the key to being an Inquirer. It’s a key to gaining wisdom. That is an aspiration. That from my vantage point is the key responsibility of a parent. It’s a key responsibility of an educator, especially into kindergarten or first through sixth grade, but even through junior high school, high school and college, the reality of us going for being our best self. I many times have called it my religion, because the idea of being a little bit better than your best self is a setup for self-rejection, because none of us can be a little bit better than our best self.
Robert Strock: (17:08)
And there’s something really relieving, especially if you’re someone that really has tried reasonably to be your best self. And I say reasonably, as I said, in a prior episode or two, because there are some people that are perfectionist and they’re going to always be critical and say, well, I could have done this, or I could’ve done that. And they’re not going to recognize the three or four other things that we’re pulling on them that were co-priorities that they still need to do. Or, on the other hand, we have the slackers, you know, that you might really not go for it, and you’ve got to admit, you know what I have been a bit lazy and now I finally have the courage to see here are the changes I need to make and how I speak, or what I do. And then I can really utilize these practices.
I think it’s important. And you, you said it directly and alluded to it several times that at these moments, and I, I find even with that longstanding pattern that starts with self-recrimination or self-judgment. That what a relief. I also feel that I’m seeing it, that I’m I’m I have a shot, you know, I have a shot, I have a chance to not have this kind of a smelly belch, emotional belch, or, or feeling come up in me and giving myself a chance with that awareness and again, with that intention to heal.
Robert Strock: (18:43)
Yeah. Well, I liked, I liked the smelly belch. I mean, I really liked that a sense of being there at times where you temporarily, or for some people more enduringly have that smelly belch. But again, whenever we have anything that’s suffering or challenging at all, it’s never too late. We can have been lazy or a perfectionist for our whole life till this minute and if we can see it and redirect ourselves and set up inquiring questions that are really wanting to aim toward our best self and we listened to it and then we respond to it. It’s never, never too late. So I don’t think there’s anybody that has arrived where this is not a lifelong practice. It needs to be right through our death. And probably especially right during our dying process where we’re intuitively asking ourselves, how can I be the best I can be?
Robert Strock: (19:51)
And of course at that point, you, you might not even have an “I,” it’s, it’s more like there’s just a intuitive sense of the question being asked. Probably, it’s probably not even verbal. So one of the things that is important to understand, and especially if you’ve listened to a lot of the episodes, you can see that both inquiry and friendly mind are really like an assist in basketball. And for those of you that are not basketball fans, that means you’re helping someone else score. And in this case, inquiry and friendly mind are really an assist to wisdom guidance. Because if you’re speaking to yourself in a way that has a reverence, even if you don’t feel it, and you’re saying, you know, I know this is really hard for you. Uh, you can afford to ask the questions, or I wonder how I’m going to make the best out of this very difficult feeling or situation that encouragement is going to move you to a different state of self-trust another level of peace, another level of courage, and another level of humility, where you’re going to recognize that we’re all in the same boat, we’re all human, you know, again, making a slight reference to The Missing Conversation.
Robert Strock: (21:24)
So few of us recognize that we could have born been born into anybody’s body and we could have been anyone. And when we recognize that it can spawn the awareness of, you know, what if I’m fortunate in life, it’s natural to want to share my fortune. And if I’m having a hard time in life, it’s natural to work on survival and dedicate myself and give myself positive messages. And by doing that and staying focused and not getting pissed off at the rich and, you know, draining your energy by spending so much time being pissed off at the rich, even though if I was poor, I know I would be doing that, but I would have to be intervening on myself on a regular basis, which is highly what I’m suggesting, but being in that state of inquiry in front of the mind is going to lead us to our wisdom.
Robert Strock: (22:25)
So it’s important you can see how a lot of this, this is sequential because if we’re really against ourselves and we’re not asking questions, and we’re being an unfriendly mind, then we’re going to lose this evolutionary capacity to develop our wisdom. And we’re also going to need to, as I said before, listen to what the wisdom says. We need to be executioners of execution. Again, I don’t mean execution as like killing people, but I mean, executioners of what our wisdom guidance is telling us. So we’re going to be asking ourselves questions, like how can it be as good as possible? How can my day, how can my next interaction, how can I, my next thought about my self be as good as possible? Now I want to say that a little bit longer, because that is so radical. We spend our time almost like we’re a pinball machine and we’re just bounce around, bounce around, bounce around.
Robert Strock: (23:31)
But what if we really stabilized with a question that saying, how could I be as kind as possible in my thoughts and my tone to myself right now, what would I be thinking about? What would my attitude be like? Would it be more gentle? Would it be more strong? Would I be, if I’m thinking about someone else, would I be more empathic? What is it right now? That would really be helpful if I’m depressed? Would I be saying mercy, mercy, mercy, you’re not doing it on purpose. It’s perfectly okay. You can still function. And you deserve the most credit of anybody. If you’re really dealing with a difficult situation, health situation, a pain situation, an emotional situation, that’s long-term, you deserve the most credit of anyone. And that’s very, very important. And the more we can stay with it in our present experience in our near future experience, the more real it becomes.
Robert Strock: (24:39)
And there isn’t anyone that this doesn’t apply to. We can all guide ourselves to our best self, and we can all not allow the chain reaction of negative feeling/negative thinking, negative feeling/negative thinking. Suddenly we have an evolutionary voice that comes to us and says, listen, how can I best take care of myself right now? We find ourselves on a negative chain of thinking, boom, boom, boom, boom. Is there hopefully to be an injection inside your psyche to be able to go, boom, boom, I’m going to really shift it and ask myself the question, how am I going to best take care of myself and my thoughts and my interactions in my day and my week, my month, my life. So we also want to ask ourselves when we’re in these difficult situations, how can we be with the difficult situations or difficult feelings?
Robert Strock: (25:47)
And at first, probably it’s too grandiose to think about acceptance and certainly too early to think about self-compassion or compassion, but how can we tolerate? And many times I’ll say, even barely tolerate, let’s say you’re with somebody who’s being abusive, but you can’t afford to speak. And you’re in a group. And for whatever reason, you’re going to get fired from a job. You know, the person’s going to punch you, whatever it is, how can I be with myself to tolerate the situation? So in that situation, you’d be saying, you know what? This is really hard to keep my mouth shut, but I’m wise to do that because if I did, it would be speak up, it would be, self-destructive, so good on you that you’re doing that. So again, you’re asking yourself, what kind of attitude, what kind of thoughts, you know, would it be a gentle thought?
Robert Strock: (26:52)
How would I breathe? Maybe my breathing is frozen and I need to breathe in a way that’s more fluid and relaxed and it has a rhythm. What’s my body posture. Am I contracted? Am I tense? Maybe I can just, uh, open up a little bit and just breathe and have my body posture relax. If you’re walking and something’s disturbing, am I walking in a way that’s really keeping my ankles safe, flexing my muscles in a way that are going to really allow my body to be in the best shape it can be. If I’m speaking with someone, what’s the tone of voice that I can use that’s really going to be creating the best communication as possible. And of course tone of voice we’re going to be having as a series of episodes down the line. So being able to really ask yourself again, how can it be as good as possible? You know, maybe it’s smelling the flowers. Maybe it’s listening to music. Maybe it’s a soft touch, but remembering that question, which is what I wish for all of us, which will really assist us to finding our wisdom, how can I be as good as possible and have that include others as well? So you recognize it’s always, at least being harmless, if not helpful is a wonderful place to end and to begin and to contemplate and to have the foundation for all of our lives.
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