The other night I listened to a spiritual “healing your inner child” video. The speaker made the point that the wounded inner child was the source of all strife in the world, all violence, all personal antagonism. That it is a force alive in each adult and is a harmful presence. When I heard that, I related that to what I’ve written regarding the ego-mind and insecurity, so nothing new. (See my post, “Facing my Insecurity.” Also “The Root of All Abuse and Violence - Insecurity” at PreservingAmericanValues.blogspot.
But in talking about this later with my partner, who was taken aback by what he heard … that his inner child was his antagonist (as opposed to his ego-mind) … I all of a sudden had an epiphany. Just as my smiling toddler is the avatar of my true Buddha self, my wounded inner child is the avatar of my ego-mind.
This should not have been an epiphany. As I’ve noted before, when people talk about the “good” me and the “bad” me, or when they picture the “angel” me sitting on one shoulder whispering in the ear, and the “devil” or “evil” me sitting on the other, that is recognition by our popular culture of the opposing natures and power of our two aspects, out Buddha nature and the ego-mind, of light and darkness. But I did not connect the dots. (As an aside, when we say this, we are not consciously subscribing to the perspective that our ego-mind is bad or evil, just that people would view its advice as not something one would learn in Sunday school; it’s not goody two-shoes. And somehow we like that.)
The embodiment of my ego-mind in my wounded inner child is why it continues to have a presence in my life despite all the progress I have made on the path. I have focused my practice on freeing myself from the influence of my ego-mind by connecting with and strengthening my true Buddha self, my heart. By being discerning, saying “no” to the emotions and judgments of my ego mind, and turning instead to guidance from my heart. And that has worked … up to a point, as readers of my blog will know.
But I now realize that the ego-mind is not a disembodied specter, it is a live being in the form of my wounded inner child. And so it is with me always in a very palpable way. The path to end suffering and find peace and happiness must therefore combine connecting to, being one, with my true Buddha self on the one hand, and healing my wounded inner child on the other. And the only force that can do that is my true Buddha self, my smiling toddler. “I” cannot do that, because “I” am still too entwined with my ego-mind, with my wounded inner child. Only my true Buddha self can.
In The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Sogyal Rinpoche recommends that before doing tonglen for others, one must first do it for oneself. He recommends “for the purpose of this exercise” dividing oneself into the part that feels harmed and the part that feels whole. What I realize now is that he is describing my true Buddha self, my smiling toddler, on the one hand and my wounded inner child on the other.
My true Buddha self needs to perform tonglen on my wounded inner child; breathe in all his pain and suffering and send him unconditional love, compassion, faith, and trust. And so I am doing that. (I have practiced tonglen on myself previously, but in an abstract way, unconnected with my wounded inner child.)
When I imagine myself in a dark room and seek my smiling toddler who stretches out his hand to me and leads me out of the darkness into the light, it is my wounded inner child who is in the dark room, not the adult me, and my smiling toddler leads by wounded inner child into the light. They are like twins separated at birth who have found each other again.
Also, when my true Buddha self opens up my heart and embraces all aspects of my being, that now includes my wounded inner child. And when my true Buddha self opens up the well-spring of loving kindness in my heart and lets it flow out to myself and to others, and thus is a light unto myself and others, the loving kindness flows out to my wounded inner child, and so my true Buddha self is a light unto that child.
Early in my practice, I had struggled to put my hands around the concept of my true Buddha self. It was only when I saw the image of my smiling toddler during a meditation that I knew at once that that was my true Buddha self. Likewise, the concept of ego-mind was one which, although very familiar and clear, I could not conceptualize and all I could do was to negate it. Now I know it is my wounded inner child and my compassion is endless.
And since my true Buddha self has already to a large extent healed my wounded inner child, that means that it will be able to heal my ego-mind. In the past I was certain that because the ego-mind could not be trained or controlled, my only choice was saying “no” to it. I now know, however, that my ego-mind can be healed. This healing will continue to be a focus of my practice.
I know deep within that this epiphany is a turning point in my practice. And I am deeply grateful for the happenstance of my partner watching that video, calling me to listen to that one part, and talking about it later.