It starts with a whisper. This little voice, close to your ear says, “Are you sure?” And so it begins. Self-doubt. You might think it’s your own voice because there was no one in the room with you when it spoke. It came from within your own head, so it must have been generated by your own mind. If it was generated by your own mind then it must be true. Right?
First: Don’t believe everything you think.
Second: If that voice doesn’t support you, then it’s not your voice.
So, whose voice is it? It’s your family’s, your teachers’, your childhood enemy, your best friend, the news, the music, the internet, it’s basically everyone and everything you’ve ever mentally digested.
But somewhere, deep inside and alongside all of those other voices is your own.
Everyone has a crowd in their head and everyone has one singular voice in the crowd that is their own. When I say “their own,” what I mean is that we all have an innate capacity for knowing our own truth. The trick is to figure out which voice is which.
So, how do you distinguish your own inner voice from the cacophony of white noise culminating from a lifetime of chatter? I know of a couple of ways.
One of the first ways is to check in with my body. I have a good mind. I’ve worked it and trained it and it’s served me well over the years, but the strength of my mind is it’s ability to problem solve, so see patterns, and so on. When it comes to figuring out my truth, it is woefully inadequate. For that, I turn to my body.
Try it now: Tell yourself a lie, close your eyes and turn your attention inward. What does that lie feel like? Can you feel it in your gut? Your heart? Then try a truth. Where does truth reside? What does that feel like? You probably know what I’m talking about. When you hear a lie, isn’t there a little “clanggg” of wrongness? When you hear a truth, isn’t there a flush of rightness?
Sometimes, however, the body trick doesn’t always cut it. When I’m really spinning out of control over something, I don’t always have the ability to tune into my body like that. That’s when I’ll sit down to formally meditate.
I know we’ve all heard about the benefits of meditation: it calms you, increases your peace of mind, helps you deal with stress, focuses you on the present, helps with anxiety disorders, asthma, cancer, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, pain, sleep problems, and . . . it increases your self-awareness.
To sit and meditate is to let all those voices be recognized as mere “thinking” and not “Truth.” As Pema Chodron puts it in her book How to Meditate, “Meditation is about a compassionate openness and the ability to be with oneself and one’s situation through all kinds of experiences.” It’s a way of putting aside all of the voices and settling into yourself with kindness. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the only way to be with yourself: kindly. When you find yourself speaking to yourself in a way that is less than how you might speak to a cherished friend, it’s time to shut down the voices and check in with your real self.
Question: What does your truth feel like?