During times of significant change, whether it’s in our career, a relationship, or even a shift in our identity, the chatter in our minds can intensify. Like a ping pong ball that won’t stop pinging and ponging.
A common challenge I hear in my work with clients is either, "I'm caught between multiple ideas of what I should do next” OR "I'm just in a haze with no clarity at all."
This can happen for all of us.
What I often see underneath is a tug of war of competing inner voices. In some cases, the voices are so loud, we can allow ourselves to become paralyzed between opposing views. In other cases, the tug of war is so intense we can reside in a fog.
In an attempt to reduce the pain of internal clutter, a common strategy (whether it’s conscious or not) is to try and shut off, get angry at, or pretend these inner voices aren’t there. In other words, use the egoic mind to try and control itself.
I've done this too and still catch myself.
Although some of these ‘shutting down’ techniques may work in the short term, I find there's something else that can bring greater peace to our nervous systems and more inner clarity in the long run.
Letting the egoic mind be as it is.
This may sound counter-intuitive at first. However, in my experience, it’s where our true freedom lies, and it’s our most powerful doorway to the clarity we seek.
Why is this?
Deep within ourselves is a little voice that judges and interprets every experience we have. It even judges our inner experiences –– the very thoughts and emotions that flow through us.
So, in the original scenario above, this little judging voice sees the experience we’re having in our mind (the conflicting ideas of what we should do next in our life, haziness of what’s true in our business/career/relationship, and all the accompanying emotions), and it says:
These voices (and emotions) are driving me nuts.
Why is this happening to me?
Oh no...here we go again! Not these endless thoughts.
In other words, all this inside of me shouldn’t be happening. And from there, our true source of suffering begins, and the deeper clarity we seek comes to a halt.
Because our mind gets amped up and goes to war with itself. Essentially, we’re just battling ourselves. This can wreak havoc on our bodies and our overall wellbeing.
Paradoxically, when we let the voices just be as they are and show kindness towards them, the mind naturally quiets down.
Showing kindness doesn’t mean believing the thoughts are true, or that the accompanying emotions reflect out true identity. It simply means showering them with the love of our own heart, like the love we’d show a frightened child.
In essence, when we accept what is there as it is and loosen the grip of what we think should be happening, it gives our minds and nervous systems a chance to relax. A part of our mind (like a child) begins to understand that it’s not doing anything wrong. It’s ok that these thoughts exist. It’s ok that these emotions exist. It’s even ok that there’s something in us that’s resisting our thoughts and emotions in the first place. We don’t have to be experiencing anything other than where we are right now and be present with it.
This is a true form of letting go.
Letting go isn’t something we ‘try’ to do. It’s a state of grace that we become aware of that already exists within us. When we open to this grace, the challenging thoughts and emotions start to let go of us, as they’re held in the light of love.
Awareness and loving kindness are the keys to inner freedom.
This takes ongoing practice to simply observe our inner world with kindness and, very often, the support of another to hold a space of presence so we can see the truth of what’s happening underneath.
From there the innate healing energy that lies within us surfaces and surrounds the frightened parts of ourselves with love.
It’s this place of deeper relaxation and understanding where we can experience more peace with not knowing the answer to something. With peace comes greater inner stillness and from there we can more easily hear the quiet whispers of our soul, if we choose.
Essentially, our deepest inner wisdom comes when we're not holding on so tightly. It's why so many people get their creative inspirations while they're in meditation, in the shower, out for a walk, engaged in a creative hobby, or playing with a pet.
As the mystic St. John of the Cross said, “In order to come to the knowledge that you have not, you must go by a way in which you know not.”
I keep that message with me daily for my own life.
How do you go about quieting the mind and opening the heart, at work, in the midst of tough decisions, or in other areas of your life?
Ryan is an Integral Coach, consultant and musician based in Northern California. Read more of his writing and learn about his offerings on his website.Share:
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