Monk in the World Guest Post: Carmen Brown

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to our Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Carmen Brown’s reflection on welcoming the Inner Critic.

Christine Valters Paintner’s reflections and writings both challenge and soothe me like no other. This emotional juxtaposition often compels me to take the painful first step on a contemplative pilgrimage into self-discovery and love.  After reading Paintner’s reflection about welcoming all parts of ourselves as sacred, I realized that I had not been especially hospitable to my Inner Critic. I wondered if it was even possible for this tormenting, depleting voice of criticism to have any redeeming value. This part of me was the loudest voice—the most familiar yet unwelcomed.  She started shouting on the day of my abuse at age 4 and has continued on for the next 43 years.

One day, I decided to tangibly characterize her.  I sketched her out in my art journal and gave her a name.  Around her picture, I wrote out the hurtful words and phrases she daily breathed into my wounded soul.  I put down my pen and looked at her.  Taking in letter after letter of the words that broke my heart, tears began to fall down my cheeks and compassion filled my heart—for her.  I cautioned myself:

 This cannot be happening. I am not supposed to love her; I am trying to destroy and silence her.

And, there it was. The Divine truth that set me free: destruction brings death; acceptance brings healing.

You see, until then, I had never fully realized that by hating her I was empowering her because a spiritual being cannot peaceably exist without love, acceptance, and harmony—especially within oneself. Paintner beautifully summarizes this yielded truth, “The heart of hospitality is to welcome in that which is most unknown, most strange, most discomforting, as the very face of the divine into our lives.”

In Matthew 22, Jesus instructs us to, “love your neighbor as yourself.”  How can I love others if I not only do not love but despise parts of myself? And, perhaps more importantly, how is this lack of selves-acceptance affecting my journey as a monk in the world with my brothers and sisters to whom I am called to welcome as Christ?

As I walk with these contemplative questions on my healing journey, I continue to write poetry to help me process the complexities and layers of trauma with my Healer.  In those moments of creation with the Holy Spirit, I find strength and encouragement.  I offer my wounded self in exchange for His peace in sacred moments of Divine alchemy that only He could fashion.  The following poem reminds me of the importance of those moments and the promise of His transformative powers.  And, most importantly, to persevere through the pains of labor in exchange for the divine gift of welcomed wholeness.

Recoil

Sometimes, I forget
Become carefree, open
Dare I say – happy,
Fulfilled, loved, and safe.
Then, you remind me.

The you(s) always come,
Unexpectantly,
Like a bullet
Piercing a hopeful heart
On a wedding day.  Or
A broken soul slaughtering
The innocence as he implodes through
The Parisian countryside.

Joie De Vivre.

Those moments.
That moment where bliss
Is dampened by a dark, heavy blanket that
You know too well, but
Tried to forget
Again.

Those moments where consistency
Becomes inconsistent.
And, spirals me once again
Under the covers
Of hellish ruminations
Of which, Herculean strength cannot
Lift the load.

Furrowed deeply in my mind,
Each moment planting the toxic
Seeds in the garden of my
Discontent.
Tended.
Again.
Again.
Again.

Closing the aperture
Another centimeter. Just
When the baby
Was about to be born.

Carmen L. Brown 2017


Carmen L. Brown is an associate professor of English at a community college in Knoxville, TN.  Additionally, she is a beholder of all things herbs.  This passion led her to create Carmen’s Herbs, Balms and Salves, a small farmer’s market business of organically-crafted herbal skincare focused on the Creator and the awareness of self-nurturing practices.  She can be reached at cbrown9673@aol.com and carmensherbsbalmsandsalves@aol.com

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