Endless comparisons


One of the insights I realized while at last month’s meditation retreat (they don’t call it Insight Meditation for nothin’), was that I spend a lot of mental time comparing and judging.   It’s a strong tendency for me.  For others, they may spend their time reformulating the past, or strategizing their future.  But for me, my mind falls into a well-established groove of constantly checking on how I measure up with others, or how others aren’t measuring up to my standards.

I guess that’s really the difference between comparing and judging: when I compare, there are two distinct subjects – myself and others, with the myself part of that equation being quite strong and explicit.  Whereas in judging, the I is more implicit.  The I sits in judgment of others. I assume that my I is correct and is the supreme arbiter of all that is good and right in this world.   So, for example, at my retreat, since a big part of my identity is the idea that I’m sincere spiritual practitioner (I know, I know, I’m missing the point) I found myself comparing myself to my co-retreatants in terms of their ability to sit still, stay awake during the sitting and the level of knowledge displayed during the Q&A sessions.  And while this mind could have focused itself on those whose performance and knowledge were superior to mine, my ego prefered to focus on those people to whom I felt superior.   And then there were those with whom I couldn’t compete at all, in particular, the young, nubile yoga chicks in their stretchy tight pants and impossibly firm buttocks. My I (or my butt) was not even in the competition, yet I felt completely free to judge them as being shallow or there for the wrong reasons or having an eating disorder.  My mind was not kind to the yoga chicks.

Of course, at their core, both of these minds, the comparing and judging minds, come from the same place.  From a Buddhist perspective, one would say that source is the self-grasping mind that sees the I as quite real, and therefore develops all sorts of machinations to prop up and make this I feel good (self-cherishing).   But, from a less intellectual  and more gut level perspective, you can say these minds arise from insecurity, a fear or belief that I’m simply not enough.

But, it’s one thing to recognize this, it’s quite another to reduce the volume or silence this constant chatter in my head.  Lately, though, I’m trying to challenge those voices.  For me, the comparing mind can be quite insidious and keeps me locked in what is safe and known, because it wants to be in situations where it can feel superior.  So, I’ve started taking a writing workshop, Writing from Real Life – Personal Essay Workshop.  The very idea of sharing my work and taking criticism from real flesh and blood people who are in the same room as I am is absolutely terrifying. But, as my teacher, Alison Luterman said, when we get to a certain age, we have to start doing stuff that scares us.  So, in taking this class, I’ll be challenging my comparing mind.  Or at the very least, having some amusing conversations with it.  Perhaps even challenging it to a debate.  And hopefully, one day, having realized that I am indeed enough, telling it to shut the hell up.


11 responses »

  1. compared to sum of your other posts this won is great ~ no judgement tho ~ suma them udders real eye sucked = duz that help?

  2. oh dear, I do both those of things, too. I’m in yoga, with people either side of me, and my mind is constantly comparing my ‘performance’ against theirs… even though I KNOW that’s not the point.

    And I tend to stick to activities I know I’ll be good at.

    Right, more things to work on… 😉

  3. Been reading you on twitter, you seemed a bit storm cloudy. Seemed relevant to this post, I donno. Something about your tenacious desire to distinguish and neutralize your ego, does kind of have a downside in that, some days you seem to live there- feeling bad about you or stuff in general maybe because you’ve *really* taken the time to focus on it.

    Okay, it got its attention, but now lets give credence to that revolutionary idea: You *are* good enough. Maybe instead of owning up to your flaws so unflinchingly, sometimes the easiest way to change may be to let this go now…

    Let go. You aren’t perfect, no. But people like you. You’re very much good enough. Now, come laugh at my weak little jokes, my ego could use it.


  4. AnotherQ – I was feeling a heck of a lot braver when I initally signed up. But, now, having gotten a taste of some of the characters in the class, I’m not feeling so brave. The temptation to run away is great.

    BBG – no

    woo – I think its pretty darn common in all walks of life. I guess it’s whether or not we notice it and whether or not we’re OK with it. But, yeah, when we practice some form of mindfulness we start to see how we are trapped by it. Oy. Maybe ignorance is bliss.

    Am – Good description of my mood – storm cloudy. But I don’t think it is because I’m being too severe with myself in some kind of weird flog myself into enlightenment sort of way. If anything, I’m indulging in some good old fashion “nobody loves me everybody hates me I’m going to eat some worms” self pity. But, thanks for the Stuart Smiley pep talk. I laugh weakly in your general direction. 😉

  5. OK then sew try this = try chanting U SUCK until it becomes ridiculous or boring or both ~ that’ll werk

  6. now eye know why she drives you up the wall and down the hall ~ because it always sounds like shez narrating her own acid trip – AND SHE”S KNOT SHARING ! !

  7. It’s okay to go through “storm cloudy” because the storm always passes, as do the clouds. I think it’s actually healthy to do it as long as we don’t brood for too long.

    The class sounds super! I’m sure you will learn and grow from it.

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