Slow the internal narrative

Conversations in my headIt’s a party! Seriously. Every day. In my head. The left, right, frontal, amygdala, all getting in the mix, spinning in so many different directions I get dizzy. I could label the voices, there are those that are what I suppose other people would be saying, a couple that swirl in ‘what if’ land, a few more that believe they’re in acting school – walking out a variety of conversations and situations at any given time… and then there are those that are quieter. The little girl inside me, the still, small voice of God. Those voices get drowned out most of the time by the others that are arm wrestling for front and center, but they’re there.

I began to hone in on the voices, the tornado of thoughts, a few years ago, realizing that all the noise (because that’s what it is, loud, obnoxious noise) is nothing more than that. It’s not actually what’s happening. It’s easy to convince yourself that the way you play things out in your mind will happen, but still, it’s not truth, not fact. Yet, the voices are so distracting. They can divert us from life right in front of us. In our minds, we can make situations so much worse.

When I started to become aware of the runaway train in my mind was around the same time I began learning about mindfulness. The practice of being present. Of eliminating the distractions so that I can be present with myself or with others in the moment. It made sense to me. But in practice, was not quite a simple as it presented itself to be.

For one, the voices in my mind still would not shut up. Determined to create more stillness, I turned to  meditation. Years ago, I would meditate daily, truly helpful I believe. But it fell away as my time became tighter. To quiet my mind, I tried a meditation app, one that had guided meditation. If someone else was talking, there was a much higher likelihood that my mind wouldn’t. By and large that worked, not entirely, but slowly it got better. I found that 15 minutes a day can be carved out and the stillness has a trickling effect throughout the day.

Another idea I was encouraged to try was eating without distraction. No book, no phone, no TV – even when I was alone. Ummm, seriously? When I was with another person, no problem. But alone? What would I do with my mind? That was the point. Nothing. Focus on the food, the texture, the flavor, the experience.  I started experimenting with it. I can not promise you I’m a poster child for it, but I’m working on it.

Mindfulness would have you stop multi-tasking, which is a sham anyways. You can’t effectively focus on two things at a time. You’ll end up half focusing, or less, on both. I find I have an advantage here because my mind has less capacity to multi-task than it used to. The desire is there, but less so because my brain straight up doesn’t want to work like that. So, one thing at a time.

Ok, so a few mindfulness tactics worked in, and they help. But the internal narrative is still there. The difference is I can see it happening. I began using a strategy last year of naming the voices. Is it the voice of fear, or perseverance, maybe joy? And I would ask myself, what is it trying to tell me? I also started asking the voices questions. What was the little girl in me trying to tell me, to remind me of? Truly listen to what I was hearing.

If we’re honest, most of us have the voices. The question is how can you be the one calling the shots instead of them? What mindful practices can you put in place to quiet them? What are they trying to tell you? Just for a moment, take a breath in, hold it, gently sigh out. Do you feel the stillness? I encourage you to engage that practice, or another mindfulness practice several times during the day and still your mind. And when you’re ready, listen carefully, your wisdom will be ready to talk to you.

 

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