By Sam Morris, Founder of Zen Warrior Training.
I woke up this morning with a persistent thought that I should be doing something that I wasn’t doing. It was aggravating and draining. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was. I felt myself absorbed in a cloud of low-level shame and lethargy, and over what I didn’t know.
Then it dawned on me. It was the Should Police. The Should Police are the voices inside my head that insist that I’m not living up to my full potential. They are the inner critics who are constantly condemning the growth work that I’ve done so much of because I’m not living in a state of perpetual inspiration and empowerment. They quickly judge the fact that there is so much work yet to be done without allowing me to appreciate how far I’ve already come and the degree of commitment that I have to my life.
They tell me that I should be more grateful.
They tell me that I should be farther along the path.
They tell me that I should be more focused.
They tell me that I should be more responsible.
They tell me that I should take better care of myself.
I notice the Should Police in the minds of the clients I work with every day. It’s so easy to pick up from the outside. I remind them that what they think they should do is actually just an illusory and disempowering thought, a mental construct based on the mind’s comparison to some picture of the ideal self that the ego has fabricated. It is the opposite of authentic inspiration.
But despite the fact that I remind my own clients about the Should Police so often, I am still subject to the same experience. These thoughts are insidious and difficult to detect when we are in the midst of having them. Once I become aware of what is actually happening, I can take steps to get out of it, but not before.
The path of the Zen Warrior involves training the mind to be in a state of non-judgment; in other words, developing the clarity and presence to simply observe things as they are and to not get entangled in the web of obfuscation and drama that the mind is so easily capable of.
When I stop thinking that I should be more grateful, I instantly feel gratitude for my life.
When I stop thinking that I should be farther along the path, I instantly see that I’m exactly where I need to be, and that the path has no beginning and no end.
When I stop thinking that I should be more focused, my mind begins to focus on what’s needed.
Beware of the should police.
Sam Morris is the founder of Zen Warrior Training. In 1999, just after leading a bicycling trip for nine teenagers across the United States, Sam was in a car accident caused by a drunk driver which left him paralyzed from the waist down. Years of struggle from his condition forced him to experience over a dozen surgeries and to lie down for over three years, two of which were in hospitals. Determined to not become the victim of his circumstances, Sam learned and created a system of mental and physical training based in Zen philosophy, meditation and somatic disciplines that healed his mind and body and brought him more vitality and clarity than he had before his injury. He created Zen Warrior Training as a means by which to share what he has learned with the world.
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