“Life isn’t as serious as the mind makes it out to be” – Eckhart Tolle
As I sit down to write this article I look out my window and watch the snow outside and wonder how it is impacting on peoples mental health. I wonder about the different feelings people have towards the snow. Some love it, some feel anxious, some worry, some hate it, others feel frustrated at the limitations it puts on us. Either way the snow seems to elicit an emotional response of some kind from everyone. So what makes it a pleasant experience for one person and not for another? Is it the snow or is it actually our thoughts around the snow?
And of course its our thoughts. Yes the snow causes a little havoc but its our response to the havoc that creates the unpleasant feelings. This follows through with everything in our lives. Its never what is happening but our thoughts around what is happening that can either please or disturb us.
So what can we can we do to make life easier come hail rain or snow?
Firstly, recognise that it is within our power to decide how we are going to react to something. We are all in control of our thoughts although at times it does feel like they are controlling us. Begin by observing your thoughts. Observe how quickly negative thoughts grow and how we often indulge the negative thoughts more easily than we do the positive ones. Thoughts will arise but it is within your power to make a decision not to indulge the negative ones. Observe how the negative thoughts make you feel and decide ‘ I’m not going to think like that today’. Find something positive to think about and make that your dominant thought. Take control of your thoughts as opposed to letting them control you and remember they are just thoughts not facts.
We all have inner chatter going on all the time. Will I do this or that? I should have said this or that. I should have done things differently. Am I going to be able for this? What if I say the wrong thing? Should I wear this or that? Should I stay or should I go? The questions are constant and we are constantly trying to answer them. But often our inner criticism in just as constant telling us what we should or shouldn’t be doing or saying. Observe this internal critical voice. Don’t let it be the boss of you. You are not the voice or your thoughts. You are the observer of this voice and the observer of your thoughts. Knowing this allows you to take more control of what you are thinking and how you’re allowing your thoughts dictate to you.
Take some time today to sit and be with yourself and your thoughts in silence. Instead of finding silence you’re going to listen to incessant internal dialogue. Observe this, observe how your thoughts drag you into thinking about the future or the past and so often we lose the only moment we have which is the present moment. Try today to spend some moments with yourself in the present. Sit down, take a breath, focus on your breathing. You might hear your internal chatter saying “why am I doing this, I’ve more important things to be doing, this is such a waste of time, what’s this all about anyway?” The wonderful Michael Singer in his book “The Untethered Soul” refers to this voice in your head as your inner roommate.
“You may have a clear intention to be quiet inside, but your roommate won’t co-operate and you don’t generally notice because you don’t step back from it. You’re so close that you don’t realise that you’re actually hypnotised into listening to it. If you haven’t reached this awareness yet, just start to watch. Spend a day watching every single thing your roommate does. See if you can notice whats its saying in every situation, every time you meet somebody, every time the phone rings, just try to watch. You’ll be shocked by what you see, It just jumps from one subject to the next”.
Now imagine if this roommate had a body of its own. Imagine it as a person talking to you and that this person is saying everything that your inner voice would say and now spend a day with this person. Every time you want to make a decision it questions you. If this was your roommate you wouldn’t last a day living with them. You’d have moved out or asked them to move. But yet we allow this internal roommate to remain with us on a daily basis. So how do we move out from our own internal roommate?
Try to spend some mindful moments in each day. When you’re eating focus on your food, focus on the sensation your food makes in your mouth. Focus on the taste. Spend some time thinking positive thoughts. Think about what you have rather than what you don’t have. Think about what your are grateful for. Take time at the beginning and end of every day to feel grateful, for your warm bed, your friends, family, carers. Feel grateful for your body, your ability to walk, to talk, to breathe easily. Feel grateful for the small things for these are indeed the greatest gifts.
I‘ll finish with an excerpt from a book by a renowned psychologist Steve Taylor called The Calm Center. Taylor refers to the inner roommate as the voice inside your head and in this reflection he calmly suggests how we can begin to ignore it;
The Voice inside your head
One day you’ll grow fed up with the voice inside your head
with its constant murmurings of discontent
its fearmongering thoughts of the future
and its questioning of every choice you make
One day you’ll turn to it and calmly say, “I refuse to listen”
then stand back and look away
turning your attention to your surroundings
or to a quietness and spaciousness you can sense
inside you, just behind the voice.
The voice is so self-absorbed
that at first it won’t even notice its being ignored
and will carry on chattering away to itself.
You’ll still hear its complaints and criticisms
but they wont convince you anymore —
you’ll doubt them, laugh at them, reject them.
And gradually, without the fuel of your attention,
the voice will become more hesitant
will stumble and slow down, leaving space;
until eventually that self-assertive drawl that demanded to be heard
and seemed to submerge the rest of reality
will be no louder than a whisper, like a gentle breeze
that seems to be part of silence.