Those crazy voices in my head…

So, I was listening to Deepak Chopra today and he spoke of the idea of “no problem without a spiritual solution” and “awareness without boundaries”.   Tough topics, but so essential in living a peaceful, happy, serene life.

He talked of a dark room to illustrate levels of awareness…

 Starting out-  dark room with one candle lit and the idea that you could not see everything and there would be MANY obstacles, and you would be bumping into them

Expanded awareness- you might get a small flashlight and then you would look around and see that all the “so called obstacles” have a specific purpose (a sofa, a table, etc…) and he likened this to “expanded awareness”.  

Awareness without boundaries- then the room transforms with glass walls and the sun shining down on you, and the universe is your playground

Well, I have to say, he had me until the glass walled room and playground.  Then I seemed stuck.  I believe that I often touch that room in meditation, or a spiritual talk, or retreat, and lose it so quickly the moment I become frustrated or angry, or too busy.  I feel overdone and overwhelmed by my life, my obstacles.   Strangely, I think it has to do with the voices in my head.

No, I am not talking about schizophrenia or multiple personalities.  I am talking about the dialogue that plays out constantly.  The one that tells me what I need to get done, that the car in front of me is going to slow, that I didn’t say the right thing or wear the right outfit.  It talks ALLLLLLLLL the time.  I do not need to ask it anything, it already gives me its view.  Honestly, if it were manifested into a human being hanging out with me, I would have ditched it long ago.

Michael Singer, author, calls it “the roommate”.  I call it the crazy voice.  It talks to its self and then answers.  It has assumptions about everything!  Why someone did not call me back, why something happened, why someone made a face at me, etc…  Honestly, it is wrong MOST of the time and has little to no basis in reality.  Mostly fear based.  I speak of this to my clients in terms of distorted thinking (cognitive behavioral therapy).  It has been called the “Gremlin” in some coaching circles.  The list could go on and on as to what people have referenced it as, but what I did not do until recently is step back and observe it.  Truly observe it.

I am not talking about therapy like thought logs and challenging thoughts and beliefs.  I am talking about just the observation to REALLY get how bad it is.  You really have to decide that the voice/voices aren’t useful to make a change.  You have to truly GET that the voice is crazy, and it is taking you down.

OK.  When observing it on and off for a whole day I was shocked.  I have been making decisions and having interactions based on this voice quite often as it elicits fear and then I work from an emotion based space.  It is a vicious cycle of starting out serene, some “problem” arising, instantly that crazy voice chimes in to make sense of it, emotions begin to stir and reactions occur, then the voice begins to voice doubt the decisions that were made and more emotions follow.  If I am lucky I notice my emotions and take time to calm down, breathe, and start over.  If not my whole day is crazy and I go to bed exhausted and done.

I would not tolerate a friend telling me the things the crazy voice says…  honestly, listen to yours and see what I mean.  It will interrupt any quiet moment you have if you let it.  I am pretty sure that this is why I cannot imagine being in a place where the sun is shining and the universe is my playground.

So, what to do?

I am starting by truly observing and distancing myself from the crazy voices and realizing… that if “I” am listening, then the voices are not “me”.  I can distance from it and move to a place where there are always solutions, or as Depak would say, always “spiritual solutions”.   The voices are based off of fear and past experiences, childhood issues and messages I received.  Becoming an observer, helps to see the issue without emotional attachment.  It becomes simple.

Depak Chopra uses the idea of STOP, S- stop whatever you are doing, T- take 3 deep breaths, O-observe, P- proceed with kindness, love and joy.

For today, I am beginning to quiet my mind (no voices), and realize that life is a lot simpler, and in that space I find a bit of serenity.

Handling Difficult Emotions

Thich Nhat Hanh likened emotions to a storm.  A storm comes, stays for some time and then it goes.  An emotion, too, comes, stays for awhile and then it goes.

When experiencing difficult emotions, Thich Nhat Hanh writes that your head is like the top of a tree in a storm.  It is not suggested you stay there.  Instead, bring your attention to the trunk of the tree where there is stability, your belly and your breathing for ten or fifteen minutes.  (Be Free Where You Are, Thich Nhat Hanh)

I used to be very skeptical of breathing exercises, however I found that paying attention to my breath or just paying attention to my surroundings- what I see or hear, or just focusing on drinking a glass of water or tea can truly help.  It can be difficult due to our old habits and patterns that direct us to do what we have always done.

I decided to test this out for one day, trying to be aware of when difficult emotions were present and taking a ten minute break by focusing on my breathing and my surroundings.  It was difficult to give it a full ten minutes, and to be honest, in the beginning I could not, but even a few minutes made a difference.  After one day I was amazed at how my emotions shifted.  I decided to keep at it, and over time my patterns and habits have shifted.  I still struggle at times, but I am truly grateful for this tool.

For those that despise breathing exercises or just can’t focus on breathing, the five senses mindfulness exercise might be for you.  It is simply stopping and focusing on your five senses one at a time.  This too can make a huge difference if you enter it in a couple times a day.