The gateway to all things kooky?

Exploring the Labyrinth of Repressed Emotions, Part 3

Simon Timm
4 min readDec 8, 2023
Photo by Cyrus Crossan

The year after I left the monastic order was the saddest of my life. Being a monk is like marriage in the profound commitment it requires. Leaving felt like a tragic divorce. I spent that year in graduate school and now and then I had to tuck into the empty library stacks or find a quiet stairwell where I could allow the waves of grief to wash over me in solitude.

Hard as it was to bear, my grief had a sweetness to it. The feelings of failure that hounded me, however, did not.

I kept ruminating over the same interactions, the same shortcomings, the same things I wished I had done differently. I kept wondering, how was it possible that with all my sincerity, determination, and commitment that chapter of my life ended in an epic failure?

The judge within us all

The idea that we need to silence our inner critic to attain success has become well-understood in our society. But the voice I’m speaking of here wields far more power than a mere critic. It’s a voice that judges you in the name of moral authority.

This judge comes in as if it were your conscience but there are many ways to recognize that it is not. To begin with, the judge’s rulings may be rooted in moral principles — but how just are the rulings? Whenever you pick apart the judge’s condemnations you will find draconian sentences for petty misdemeanors.

The judge also loves to dredge up failures from the past, trying you over and again for the same crime. This is because one shortcoming on its own is rarely enough to warrant the judge’s harsh verdicts.

Furthermore, the judge presents a skewed version of history-one that omits important facts, exaggerates faults, ignores virtues, makes complex events appear black and white, and always holds you up to impossible standards.

The greater law: love

Having reviewed all the evidence before me in this matter, I hereby declare that this so-called judge is not a real judge at all and has no authority for any proclamations and sentences for me or you or anyone else and shall therefore be disrobed immediately and referred to henceforth as the Imposter Judge. Hah!

Learning to distinguish between your Imposter Judge and your moral conscience is an essential step in the process of transformation. The telltale sign of the Imposter Judge is a strict and punitive moral code that’s divorced from the far greater law of life-the law of love.

Even in the world of criminal law it is well known that justice without mercy is never truly just. And so it is within your heart as well.

Don’t get me wrong. There are times for all of us when we need to confront a genuine shortcoming. In such times, you may experience remorse. But when your true conscience speaks, it does so with love, not shame. And in such moments you will also feel an overriding sense of liberation at having arrived at a deeper alignment with truth. Because of this, the experience will be positive.

The solution that might make you squeamish

I wish my above proclamation was enough to banish the Imposter Judge or that it was as simple as drawing up a list or doing an exercise the way you might in a self-help exercise. Unfortunately, it’s not.

The shift from being your own worst judge to being your own best friend is a gradual transformation that requires excavation. You will need to find your way through the Labyrinth of Repressed Emotions to the Garden of Vulnerability. Doing that is a gradual process that unfolds with the events of life.

There is something you can do in the meantime, however. You can learn to go deep into your heart and love and accept the person you find there.

If you’re cringing at that solution, I get it. For the first 20 years of my adult life, I fled from anything that smelled like self-love. I thought it was the gateway drug to everything kooky. Seances, crystals, UFOs. God only knows what would become of me if I started accepting myself!

In reality, self-love is the gateway to genuine transformation. It’s therefore the cornerstone of the Self Salutation.

When you develop a practice of filling your heart with a felt sense of love and acceptance, then you may still say, oh, but no, not this thing I did — there’s no way I could possibly forgive this. And not that failure. Not that way I have of being. But a soft voice will say, yes, that also.

In my year of sadness and groping my way through failure, the practice of self-love helped me find peace with myself in the day-to-day. It still took time beyond that before I could really set myself free and accept that I’m just another fallible human being making my way through a tough world. And that’s okay because I have the thing that matters: love.

Simon is the author of An Introduction to the Self Salutation: How to resolve negative feelings through mindfulness meditation. He spent sixteen years as a Hindu monk and later earned a Masters Degree in Ethics from Yale. You can find out more at



Simon Timm

Mindfulness and meditation teacher. Author of The Self Salutation. Sign up for my weekly newsletter at: