Cleansing the Inner Shmuck

The author and philosopher Alain de Botton once said ‘Whatever one does, the inner shmuck never quite goes away’. I’m afraid I have to agree.

While we all have moments or perhaps even extended periods where we feel good and life flows, we can be sure it is only time that separates us from a reunion with the dragon inside.

It is hard to overestimate the strength of the conditioning of our early lives, and the capacity of our monkey minds to make miserable what should be merry. Indeed, many of us spend years, or perhaps even lives, working on ways to cleanse that inner shmuck.

That’s not to say that type of work is not necessary, admirable or indeed a worthy cause, but that there is a valuable lesson in acknowledging it may never be complete.

Realising the inner shmuck ‘never quite goes away’ need not depress us, though it may. Rather, it is an opportunity, a prompt to come up with strategies to mitigate the damage when the shmuck returns and to accept a fundamental tenet of life in this earthly realm.

Mindfulness practice and particularly meditation are such strategies, and regular practice of each, in time, develops our ability to observe the shmuck rather than react to and fall victim to it.

Observing but not reacting denies negative thoughts the fuel they need to burn and consequently their fire recedes more quickly.

Knowing the inner shmuck never quite goes away teaches us to live with our foibles, and to have tolerance for the foibles of others.

At times it may depress the shit out of us, but realising this universal truth of human nature is a key step on the path to accepting who we are and what we have become.