How To Know If You're In a Good Relationship With Yourself


Several years ago I was at a Vipasana meditation retreat in Northern California. I was kneeling with my bottom propped up on one of those moldable cushions filled with buckwheat - facing the wall in my own dark little cell like room. In this empty room of nothingness. It was just me and myself. It was dead quiet and I was trying to meditate.

To tell you the truth, I was feeling pretty proud of myself for following through with my fierce commitment so far to practice ten hours a day for those ten days. Well, I was there and I was trying - hard. If you're like me and you don't change your mind after your decide to do something, then you know that it's a awesome to have a strong will. Maybe you're also proud of that - rightfully.

And maybe you'd agree that it's a blessing as well as a curse. From what I've seen, strict discipline can come with harshness swirled in and a handful of "shoulds" sprinkled on top.

I went into this meditation retreat with a decade of severe physical and emotional pain. I knew that's what I was going to encounter -  I was ready and fearless to do so. But I wasn't quite ready for what happened.

Actually, it was like nothing was happening for several days. It was only pain. No big moments of realization - nothing!



Sometimes there's not much to listen to. Nothing seems to be up.

I've learned that there really is a lot to listen to, but it's hidden beneath the surface and consciously there's nothing really there to look at. We're just fine.

Yet the symptoms of something lurking below are at play and we're feeling generally blah - or dissatisfied. That's where I was during this meditation retreat. 

Sometimes, something happens - a sort of ripening of experiences - and a characteristic may be brought to the surface. Then **** hits the fan.

When it does rise to the surface, it causes all kinds of whirlwinds of feeling. Then it's in full blown manifestation and we feel more pain than before when we weren't aware of it. Ignorance is bliss right? Sort of - but not really.

When we're hit with one of these moments, the things that we find out are not new. Actually, they've always been there impacting our thoughts and decisions. In other words, whether we're aware of how these things play out in our lives or not - they're still playing out.

At the meditation retreat, we sat three times a day for an hour with the whole group. On the third day, just before one of those group sits, I remember I was uncontrollably squirming - a look of pure despair across my face and silent tears rolling down my cheeks. I thought I was going to die. I was in so much pain physically that I couldn't take it and I didn't know how I was going to do the group sit at that moment.

I had made a promise to myself to do it, so I was going to do it and somehow I made it through. I remember only the pain, no big insights, no thoughts - nothing - just silence and screaming pain. I had longed for an epiphany about the nature of my pain - and all pain - but I got nothing. I guess that was what was there to listen to, so I tried anyway. 

I know now that I was putting in the work to learn to listen to myself and that whether something is up or not, to keep on keeping on - because practice itself is important. 

There is you and you.
This is a relationship.
This is the most important relationship.
— Nayyirah Waheed


Psychiatrists as far back as Jung have recognized that slowly we discover and eradicate our subconscious conflicts. These conflicts are what causes us so much pain unhappiness and anguish in life - and they are buried deep in the unexplored realms of our minds. We feel the result of this conflicts, but we don't really know what the cause is. Anger is often the result - which works like a safety valve for other pent up emotions. 

Realizing that this is the work everyone has to do in relationship to themselves, and having a perspective on our problems consciously is the first step to resolving deeper conflicts. 

The yogic tradition presents a way to study ourselves using the deepest psychology that addresses the symptoms as well as the roots and origins of life's conflicts and difficulties {known as the klesas}. 

Every single one of our conflicts can be traced to one or more of these: 


1. Wrong perception.

When our knowledge isn't piercing through a situation - we don't have accurate knowledge though we think we do.

e.g {We're walking down the street and there's not much light, and we see that there's a snake. We get worried for our lives. But when light is shone, we come to know that it was only rope. We suffered fear due to our lack of correct perception}. 


2. Ego

We are more than our body, mind, and personality. When we identify with the small "i" version of ourselves as everything - we end up creating a conflict. 

e.g {When I felt pain in my body, I used to think that there was something so wrong with my body, therefore, me. Actually, I am more than my body and though my body was currently experiencing intense pain, that's not everything and I was still a part of life and a part of something special}.


3. Mood

We end up creating a conflict when we like something so much that we expect to keep repeating that experience over and over.

There's nothing wrong with being attached to our near and dear ones. It's painful only when we cling so hard to the idea that something needs to be recreated in order for us to be happy. 


4. Dislikes

When we identify with what we don't want and don't like - we create a conflict because often it's there anyway. 

e.g {I sat with the pain at the meditation retreat for a total of 100 hours and hundreds of thousands since then. What I learned is that I still try to push it away. It's in my nature {all of our nature} to resist pain. It makes sense. And when we resist all the things that we don't want all the time, it multiplies the suffering - trust me on this one. Eventually the pain and anger turns to depression, helplessness, and finally hatred for the self and the world}.


5. Fear of death...and life

If w're being brutally honest, accepting the cycle of life and death is scary because it represents an ending of the ability to fulfill our desires - and we're so wrapped up emotionally in our body/mind complex. It also represents the unknown.

e.g {I remember when I found myself on a jungle island in the Philippines with my Dad, a shy teenager. His words still echo in my head, "Get outside your comfort bubble, Lauren." We expand our consciousness by moving into unknown variations of our world and then those unknowns become known}.

Sometimes, when I realize that I'm confused and dissatisfied, I study these five things and I always see one or more at play - depending on where I am at in the cycle of being able to see and be brutally honest with myself. 



As the meditation retreat moved forward, I began to hear a voice in my head - it was sharp, harsh, and downright cruel to me. It was telling me things that made me feel ashamed, inadequate and even disgusting. It was in that moment that I caught an "outsider" glimpse of the part of me that is so incredibly hard on myself. 

It is part of me and I still have that voice. I call it the, "hard on myself voice." Interestingly, I can see how it impacts my self-discipline I've been so proud of.

I remember being so sad. Like, "Ohhhh, this has been part of my internal chatter my whole life, and I'm just now finally realizing it." It hurt so bad to hear myself talking to myself that way.

It was actually a pretty simple process for me to deal with this - which I'll be sharing in an upcoming course offering. When I recognize the voice, I treat this part of myself like a little one that needs my love. I decided not to meet it with scorn and not to patronize, but to really hear and listen to what it might need. At the same time I wont let it control me.

A sweet hug, a knowing smile and move on.

Nothing really goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. I thank the "hard on myself voice" because it continues to teach me to love myself sweetly. 

I have deepest gratitudes for my meditation practice. It’s given me the sense of empowerment in my relationship with myself. That I can do something about it and that it can be awesome. Since working on it - I’ve seen things in my outer world shift.

An image comes to mind that our lives are like a spacious field. We explore what's at play in that fertile, happening field at any given moment. We uncover abundant beauty and when we see the weeds that hinder that beautiful growth, we dig some of them up at the roots. 

I've found that having a good relationship with myself is to tend to this field on a daily basis, to recognize the signs and symptoms and trace it back to the basis of the conflict.

And that a good relationship means to love myself sweetly no matter what I'm able to see. 

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