Taming our inner critic:

allowing the weeds among the wheat

silencing the inner critic - allowing the weeds and the wheat

Like me, you may have gone through childhood thinking you needed to contain or suppress strong feelings, that to express them might not be acceptable. 

Or you may have been raised in a church that said (or left you with a concern) that certain feelings are wrong.

One way or another, many people come to believe that what they feel is unacceptable, that experiencing certain strong feelings means some part of them might be unacceptable.

With the practice of meditation, we can gradually learn to meet our feelings, to meet what we might have feared is unacceptable in ourselves.

When we can acknowledge, name and allow our feelings - the sadness, the shame, the heat of anger, the heartbreak of grief, as well as the delights of pleasure and the intoxicating depths of joy - just as they are, minus the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves in reaction to them - we enter a process of great liberation.

Next comes the freedom to express our feelings. 

Not in a way that might simply be throwing our hurt or anger at someone else, but in finding we can say, “This is what is important to me. This is how I feel. This is what I need.” Connecting with our feelings like this helps us reconnect with others, to be more fully, authentically present in relationship.

If for whatever reason we had to suppress our childhood feelings, to express our fear, our anger, our hurt or frustration, can be very scary at first. The critic we internalised will likely appear and have plenty to say, spinning all manner of accusations in our heads and rehearsing variety of fearful stories about being told off or shamed, about being disliked or rejected. If we come from a background where anger and frustration, demands and conflicts were frequently flying around or barely contained, we might be afraid that expressing our feelings might release a destructive storm, overwhelming us or others.

The wisdom and healing processes of meditation can help us meet and give voice to our feelings. 

The simple practice helps integrate and harmonise all dimensions of our being and opens us to a freedom and peace we might never have imagined.

In the Parable of The Weeds among the Wheat, we hear Jesus teaching that the field of our life contains seeds which grow into wheat and seeds that grow into weeds, and that we shouldn’t be too quick to try and pull up the weeds and get rid of them. [1]


In fact, Jesus says very directly that we shouldn’t pull them up all, that we should allow the wheat and weeds to grow together. The weeds have a role to play. Met with greater silence and less reactivity, weeds can become windows of light, opportunities to practice and discover greater awareness, freedom and compassion.


When we meditate, we learn to be fully present in the field of our life. We learn to sit with the wheat and the weeds. Our practice is not to try and weed out what we would prefer not to see, but to cultivate a wholly new relationship with what we encounter.

Sitting quietly with what we dislike, with what we dislike in ourselves (or have been taught to dislike), can teach us a great deal. 

It’s perfectly natural for all sorts of thoughts and feelings to arise during our time of practice and we are likely to notice them with much greater clarity. As we bring our whole attention to the gentle repetition of our prayer word (or short phrase) in union with the flow of our breath, the surface mind stills and awareness opens. 

Saint Diadochus compares the surface mind to the sea: “When the sea is calm, fishermen can scan its depths and hardly any creature moving in the water can escape their notice.” [2] When the surface mind is calm, less filled with chatter, we can look deeply within.

When wheat-like thoughts or feelings appear, many of us will feel pleased to welcome them and pleased with ourselves. When weed-like thoughts or feelings appear, many of us might feel disappointed with ourselves, or a great deal worse than that. But our practice of meditation remains exactly the same whether we like what we see or not. We greet all that arises within us with silence and quietly return to our practice.

Speaking from her own deep experience of contending with thoughts, Saint Teresa of Avila says “the harder you try not to think of anything, the more aroused your mind will become and you will think even more.” [3]

Trying not to have thoughts or feelings doesn’t work. If we say to ourselves “I will not have a thought,” we’ve just added another thought to the pile!

Trying to battle directly with thoughts and feelings is equally unhelpful and frustrating. If we think we can uproot an unwelcome thought or feeling through sheer head-on force of will, we quickly discover that all we have been doing is watering and feeding it with our attention, helping it grow larger, more stubborn and persistent.

However frustrating or painful they may be, each weed-like thought and feeling brings with it an opportunity. 

Instead of automatically reacting to them with aversion, with fear or self-reproach, we can choose to see them as invitations; invitations to practice patience, understanding and compassion, to be compassionate, just as our Father is compassionate.[4]

Greeting what arises within us with silence, we avoid judging our thoughts and feelings, which is to say, we avoid getting caught-up in being judgemental about ourselves.

After silencing the crowd of accusers by means of his silence, Jesus said to the woman who was about to be stoned:

“Where are they? Does no one condemn you?” She replied, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I.” [5]

Just as Jesus silenced the accusers by means of his silence, Christ helps us silence the accusing voices within us by means of our deepening silence.

Little by little, like a sunrise in the heart, as we learn to greet ourselves with quiet compassion, we discover, like the woman who was about to be stoned, that there is no one judging us, there is no one condemning us.

“One of the most important insights that comes from working with silence” writes Maggie Ross, “is that nothing in our lives is wasted.” [6] 

Even the most difficult weeds, the most painful realities of our life, can become gifts which enrich the soil of our practice and help reveal the treasure buried in the field of our life.

In our depths there is only the infinite, unconditional, unalterable, eternal love of God.

Christian meditation - a new way of seeing for a new way of being

If you feel inspired to meditate, you’re very welcome to join one of our free online meditation sessions or read one of our practice guides.

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