That's when I heard the voice: "You're such a fucking idiot."
"Wait, what?! Where the hell did that come from?" I thought. I was in shock. This voice was familiar, but I had never noticed it before.
There was a narrator inside my head. We all spin stories; I knew that. What I didn't realize was that the narrator in my head wasn't very nice. But of course the narrator was me. How could I talk to myself like that? This had obviously been going on for many years, under the radar.
That moment changed me for good. I had realized something my meditation teachers were telling me over and over again: be gentle toward yourself.
Gentleness towards oneself is a foundational practice. There are a multitude of reasons why. For example, we can't effectively be compassionate toward others while we are beating ourselves up.
Gentleness also gives us the ability to see reality more clearly. A person who is gentle towards him/herself doesn't have to put as much energy into protecting the ego. So when the truth appears, it is less threatening. So we can hang out with the truth and get to know it, rather than defending against it.
It's amazing when I make realizations like this. Little by little meditators untie the knots in our lives, we drop our hangups as the truth becomes clear.
Of course, these kinds of realizations tend to come more quickly when you are a beginner. Maybe the trick is to always come at meditation with the mind of a beginner.