“Your inner growth is completely dependent upon the realization that the only way to find peace and contentment is to stop thinking about yourself. You’re ready to grow when you finally realize that the ‘I’ who is always talking inside will never be content.” —Michael A. Singer, author of The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself
Assumptions are aplenty of how we think life should unfold or look or move forward or . . . you get the idea. Humans, as we know, are social creatures, we grow up in a culture or many cultures that overlap depending upon where and how we are raised, and we are conditioned from a very young age, in order to adapt and contribute to accept certain ‘truths’ of how life should be lived.
It is only when we are given or learn the tools of critical thinking that we begin to examine what is innate and what has been taught, nurtured in other words. And it is then that we have the opportunity to accept or brush aside the ways of life that we either want to embrace or wish to discard.
A significant part of strife in our lives is our mind when we do not have a full understanding of how it works. Consequently, if we do not understand how to control it, it can easily control each one of us and run us ragged if not utilized well.
Each of us has an inner voice. The voice has been conditioned based on how we have been raised and the cultural influences that have been its companion unconsciously or consicously to be a constant critic of ourselves and/or others, or worry incessantly or assume the best and overlook preventative actions or [insert any unhelpful mental habit]. However, the good news is, with conscious attention and practice we can harness our ever-busier inner voice and reach our true potential. How?
Let’s take a look at a few ways:
1.View the incessant chatter in your head objectively
Michael Singer shares that in truth, a mind that feels as though it never shuts up is actually a mind that is “trying to find a comfortable place to rest”. Just understanding this pursuit of the mind brought calm to my own mind. The tricky part is, our mind doesn’t always find the best and most helpful places to rest if we leave it up to its own devices.
The truth is that upon stepping back from what your mind is saying and objectively observing it, “much of what the voice says is meaningless”. In other words, by not harnessing our mind, we are wasting valuable time and energy.
This is not to say we should not think, that we should not have an active and alert mind, but it does mean we, by not understanding why our mind does what it does, we waste valuable energy and resources on things that are completely out of our control and not worth our attention.
2. Understand this: Thinking more will not change what is out of your control.
“Your thoughts don’t change the rain.” —Michael Singer
Trying to figure everything out — what the future will be, how or if your dreams will be realized, how the economy will fare, what the weather will be like six months from now, etc. — actually can have the opposite effect we desire. When so much is out of our control, by focusing more on the external factors, we create a “commotion [in] the mind . . . about life that really causes problems.”
As I shared two weeks ago, there is an abundance that is within our control, and we can absolutely focus and think and use our mind to address these things, but beyond that, we actually are not doing ourselves any favors.
3. Recognize when your inner voice becomes more active
“If you watch objectively, you will see that when there’s a buildup of nervous, fearful, or desire-based energies inside, the voice becomes extremely active.”
Understanding this simple truth about our inner voice is to become more deeply in-tune with ourselves and thus, strengthen our self-awareness which in turn builds the muscle of emotional intelligence (EQ). “The voice talks because you’re not okay inside, and talking [the inner voice talking] releases energy.” The releasing of energy is an expending of energy. Energy you could have been able to use in far more worthwhile pursuits that will garner the results you seek or at least enable you to make progress towards them.
Energy that you use well is energy that elevates the quality of your life. Energy you waste on activities that do not help or enhance your life have the opposite effect.
4. Refrain from judging, complaining or trying to make sense of something that you can’t, at this moment, make sense of and you take back control
Even simple narration of the world, Singer argues, is our mind’s way of trying to make sense of what we don’t fully understand. And since we do not have access yet to all the information that is necessary to understand it, we narrate our own story to feel comfort, to feel empowered, to feel in control. When in reality what we need to feel more comfortable with is not knowing and accepting we cannot have control over everything.
Singer challenges readers to refrain from letting not only the inner critic speak, but also from narrating situations in which we fill in the unknowns with our own judgements, complaints or narrations that comfort us. Why? When we choose to just be present and observe, not narrate, we no longer are “buffering ourselves from life, [and] instead [are] living it.” And just to be clear, our goal, our desire is to truly live this one and only life we have been given every single day.
I have only begun to read The Untethered Soul, but what I have read has been insightful. As someone who’s mind is quite active, his explanations as to why our minds do what they do brought clarity as to why such mental efforts were unfruitful, and point in fact, exhausting mentally rather than beneficial to forward progress.
If at this time in your life you find yourself busy mentally trying to make sense of a world and your role in it that seems more unknown than before, I encourage to start first with understanding your mind and how it works so that you can use it well rather than in a way that is exhaustive and unhelpful.
I am confident, as I have shared in the past seven weeks, that there are benefits to be found, life treasures and discoveries to be unearthed in our current times if only we harness the abilities within each one of us to be honest about what is working and what is not as we strive to be truly content and reach our full potential. Part of our discovery lies in questioning what is not working, having patience with ourselves and the world and then seeking out expertise from those who have insights and wisdom to share.
I chose the image at the top of the post because it reminded me of what can be achieved when we work out the kinks in our lives. Sometimes ideas, people, ways of living become a part of our world that we think ‘should’ be the way to live, but as we never feel quite ‘right’ or our best selves. We may stick with this way of living for a while until something comes along unexpectedly, most often, that wakes up us and gives us an opportunity to shake-off the restrain, step away from the life that is not enabling or supporting our ability to live well. The good news is, life can straighten out and become better than we may have ever imagined, but we have to have the strength and self-awareness to let go of what is not working. This will take time and patience, but the efforts will not be for not.