Are you aware of the voices in your head?
Most of us are, and for most of us, it’s just one voice – the voice we associate with self, meaning we think that voice is who we are; it’s not.
Who we are, is the person listening to the voice. Who we are, is the person who gets up in the morning – no matter what the voice says – the person who helps a friend, even when the voice is telling us to make an excuse.
If you are not sure what voice I’m talking about, stop for a moment and listen. You’ll probably hear something like: “what am I listening for?” – that’s the voice.
The constant chatter that never stops from the moment we wake until we finally fall into an unconscious sleep.
The interesting question is: if the voice isn’t us, if we are listening to the voice, then who is the voice?
I like how Michael Singer, author of the brilliant book The Untethered Soul, describes it. The voice is our internal narrative that helps us feel more comfortable with the world. When our voice narrates the outside world that we come in contact with, we have a greater feeling of control.
I think our language skills have evolved to such a high level that what may have started out as a few words to get things done and express our needs and wants, has become a highly complicated process in our head. Often losing its objectivity, confused and destructive – randomly reacting to our emotions.
Imagine a time way back when humans didn’t have language. They still got up in the morning, had a pee, felt hungry, ate, played, shagged, worked to survive and slept. Few if any, words were spoken.
What was going on in their heads? Was it a great big silence? Or were they operating completely from a place of feeling and instinct? They must have felt the full range of emotions, from joy to jealousy, but those emotions would have come and gone as the moments passed in their day. Did this mean they were more present in their daily lives, rather than living with the exhausting back-analysis or forward worry that plagues most of us?
How would our lives feel without our constant, internal companion – over-thinking everything?
It is the subject of much discussion – the misery that negative chatter creates. We often make poor decisions because of it: it’s brilliant at inflaming an argument and very crafty at getting us to send stupid text messages. It seems to have this incredible power to throw us from ecstasy to despair in a moment.
However, against popular belief, I don’t think it is all delusive. None of us would forgo the limitless realms of our imagination. I love getting lost in daydreams and fantasies and can spend hours imagining far-fetched and exotic possibilities, or indulging myself in a great internal discussion about my next adventure.
Our minds are also super cool at problem solving, chewing over obstacles and finding solutions; throwing up a hypothesis, only to discard that thought for an improved idea.
The solution is not rigid mind control or mindless spaced-out oblivion. It is perspective, understanding and the adoption of useful practices to create clarity, objectivity, focus and happiness.
Clearly meditation is a big part of this – I get it. In today’s world, if one is to be a credible coach of mind, body and soul – from biceps to beliefs – one must include the benefits of meditation in our repertoire of offerings. It reduces cortisol, releases fat, builds concentration, lowers blood pressure – it pretty much impacts positively on almost all our biochemistry.
Unfortunately, I’m shit at it!
Probably to uptight, too ADD and nowhere near patient enough!! Yes I know, meditation would help with that! Ha ha.
However, I have worked out a number of very useful practises that help me in much the same way meditation does.
Here are the techniques I use to keep that voice in check!
First, you have to get some perspective on the idea that you are not your thoughts.
You are all of your life’s experiences, your learnings and your relationships. Most importantly you are the person who shows up every day in your life. The voice is just a highly strung commentator who is tagging along.
Work on becoming aware of the fickleness of your thoughts, notice how you can follow them down a rabbit hole; happy mood sacrificed to the random appearance of some unwanted occurrence.
As you do this, you will also start to look objectively at your feelings. Teach yourself to become curious about the beautiful, subtle range of emotions we have the capacity to feel, from shyness to confidence, hatred to devotion. I am all for experiencing our feelings – I think they are the juice of life, even the unpleasant ones – but we need perspective and the ability to decide how they are going to impact on us. Otherwise, our days are sacrificed at the altar of chance.
Imagine you’re out walking, feeling chipper and across the road you spot someone who brings up a bad memory. Wham, your thoughts are doing somersaults, revisiting the past negative situation, ruminating over what you wish you had said – or hadn’t said – before you know it, the sun has gone out of your day.
If you had been able to see that person, note your emotional response objectively, been curious about your feelings and then withheld the internal, verbal battering, you would have been able to maintain a positive mental state.
We can’t drop and meditate on the side of the street in this situation. We can notice our feelings, be prepared to feel them, without resistance – then choice a technique to allow them to pass, as they most definitely will.
How I use my happy repetitive thought.
It’s like the Little Red Hen technique I taught my children.
When I was young, if I woke in the night scared, I’d put all my mental power into thinking about a happy little red hen sitting on her nest. (Clearly a farm girl!) I’d imagine how her feathers felt on my face, how she smelled and the sweet cluck-cluck noise she made; it gave me great comfort and soon I’d forget what I was terrified of and fall back to sleep.
We can do the same when our thoughts are in a negative, crazy loop. First, we must notice our thoughts aren’t serving us right now, then override them. Choose a positive statement; mine is Life is Good. Even if I’m not feeling it, I just say it in my head, over and over. I sing it, I say it out loud and whenever that repetitive pesky, thought pops up, I replace it as soon as possible with Life is Good.
Hey, I know – it’s not that simple, there is some seriously tough stuff to deal with in this life. It’s a technique that can lighten the load and can be effective if you are stuck going over and over a situation that has nowhere to go.
Grandma was right – an idle mind is the devils playground.
Have you noticed how our minds are often destructive when they have nothing to do? Or the flipside of that, when something has turned to custard, how great it feels to clean the house or pull an engine apart, and rebuild it?
Our minds are the happiest when they are problem-solving. If you are down or stuck, give your mind something to do; don’t go to passive entertainment like social media – put your brain to work. That might be as simple as shooting hoops – getting the ball in, over and over.
This to me is a form of meditation and can be accessed by everyone. Two hours running in the bush can totally do it for some of my friends. For others, there is nothing quite like the beautiful mindlessness of pulling weeds in the garden with headphones on. It may be painting, knitting, building, walking or baking.
Think about what it is for you right now; what is that thing you can find yourself lost in and time goes by and all you have done is thought about the job at hand. Adult colouring-in books were born out of this need. If you can’t think of anything, go back to your childhood – what did you love? Find inspiration there.
You are your life’s triumphs and failures; you are every choice, every moment, every feeling you’ve had. Embrace all that you are; life is going to unfold and we have little control over most of it. What we can control is how we step up to meet it, with kindness and courage – loving who we are, as wonderful, perfectly imperfect humans.