You Don’t Have to Listen to That Voice in Your Head
~there are other options
Most of us wake up in the morning talking to ourselves; not out loud, of course, but within the confines of our own minds. The commentary is about life and our view of it, sometimes concerning ourselves in the affairs of others, bemoaning the difficulties in our own lives, obsessing about the apprehensions of the future, replaying an uncomfortable conversation from the past, or a myriad of other artless narratives. This ceaseless chatter does not add value to our experience of life in the present moment, so what is a person to do?
The gold standard in learning to dis-identify with the voice in your head is to practice meditation. As you focus your mind on a mantra, the breath, or simple awareness of what is, you begin to recognize that you are not your thoughts, but the consciousness who is aware of them. Just as sediment falls to the bottom when the water is still, so does your mind become quiet and clear when you allow your thoughts to pass through without entertaining them.
In the meantime, however, here are some worthy options to consider in refocusing your mental commentary:
1. One of my favorite passages from the sacred Buddhist text, the Dhammapada, says:
Use your mind for doing good, not for harm. Train your mind in love.
A loving way to engage your mind is by offering gratitude and appreciation for the gifts of your life that are right here and right now present. Look around and start mentally listing the things you love and appreciate about your present environment, your abilities, and the circumstances of your day. Smile to the beauty all around you and consider how fortunate you are to be alive today. Lose yourself in admiration.
A loving way to engage your mind is by intending prosperity for others and yourself or by reciting ready-made prayers. One way to employ this process is through the Buddhist loving-kindness practice. You could occupy your mind all day by extending loving-kindness to everyone you know. I offer one version:
May _____ be filled with loving-kindness. May _____ be well. May _____ be peaceful and at ease. May _____ be happy.
2. In the ancient Hindu text, the Bhagavad Gita, it says:
Fill your mind with me, love me; serve me; worship me always. Seeking me in your heart, you will at last be united with me.
Living your life as an act of worship and devotion to a Power greater than yourself, whether from a spiritual or a secular human perspective, can facilitate peace of mind. What this looks like in practice is thinking about a higher purpose in all that you do. For example, you may think, “I make my bed for you, Holy One.” “I listen to this person who wants my attention in honor of the greater good.” “I receive these gifts as from you, Holy One.” “I offer my service for the community of beings.” In the process of worship, there is no room for worry.
3. The folk group, The Wood Brothers, wrote,
If you get to worry, what you ought to do is sing.
A simple way to divert negative thinking is to sing a song, in silence or out loud. Singing gives your mind a compelling focus when you are getting caught up in obsessive thoughts, and singing aloud stimulates the vagus nerve, which is important in eliciting the relaxation response in your body.
The voice in your head is not who you are, it just represents a form of mental energy that is flowing through you. Thoughts arise and they float away. To cultivate peace of mind, simply let the energy pass without engaging it, and fill your mind with the thoughts that support your thriving. You have options.