“You can do this. This is the year. This is your time.”
“Oh, but you say that every year. You don’t have it in you. You can never complete anything. You think you can do this? No way. Not a chance in hell.”
“Oh come on, don’t listen to her. You know that’s not the Truth speaking. You know it’s not real. Fight through it. Ignore her. Drown it out!”
“Who do you think you are though? 32 years old already… and what have you got to show for it?”
“You are amazing! 32 years old and look at everything you’ve done, seen, experienced. Look how strong you are! Look how you made it through. Look how much you’ve grown.”
“But what of that really matters though? What matters is what other people can see. And when they look at you, they don’t see anything special. On the contrary, actually.”
. . .
I feel like I’m going crazy. The voices in my head are there again. Ten years I’ve spent getting to know them, tame them, understand them. Ten years I’ve spent observing them, watching them and letting them pass. But now, suddenly, I can hear them louder than I have in a very long time, playing tug of war atop the battlefield of my mind with no ceasefire in sight.
Maybe it’s the fact that there’s a global pandemic that doesn’t seem anywhere near its end; maybe it’s because we’re now in our third lockdown here in the UK and I haven’t had any quality time alone in what is coming up to a year, or maybe it’s the fact that I’m newly post-partum and there are hundreds of hormones wreaking chaos across my mind and body.
As a matter of fact, it’s most probably a culmination of all of the above and more, granting the voices in my head the perfect opportunity to come out to play and truly test my growth and the lessons learned over the last decade of my life, ever since I began my spiritual journey of awakening and consciousness. And testing it truly is.
So what have I actually learned?
To answer that, I must first address what the voices in our head actually are.
What are the voices in our heads?
I know there are mental conditions such as schizophrenia where an estimated 70–80% of people living with it hear actual voices, usually extremely negative in nature. However, for the purposes of this article, I just want to clarify that the voices I refer to are actually conflicting thoughts: ideas, opinions and beliefs about ourselves and the world around us that arise inside our minds.
According to the Brahma Kumaris there are four main types of thought:
- Necessary thoughts
- Waste thoughts
- Positive thoughts
- Negative thoughts
The latter two, positive and negative thoughts, I believe are impacted highly by our environments, experiences, our upbringing and all the many types of conditioning imposed upon us from the day that we are born into this world.
As I’m currently experiencing at the moment, our days can be filled with a constant battle between the two — for many, unconsciously, because those who haven’t become consciously aware of their thoughts are yet to come to the realisation that they are the thinker of their thoughts, and not the thoughts themselves.
How can we learn to understand them?
Eckhart Tolle, Spiritual Master and best-selling author of The Power of Now, even goes one step beyond the above notion and explains that we are not even the thinker of our thoughts, but in actual fact the Being beneath even that:
“When you recognize that there is a voice in your head that pretends to be you and never stops speaking, you are awakening out of your unconscious identification with the stream of thinking. When you notice that voice, you realize that who you are is not the voice — the thinker — but the one who is aware of it.”
Taking this into account, it becomes much easier to learn to understand that our thoughts do not have to have a negative hold over us; in fact, we can observe them and consciously choose to think better thoughts — thoughts that actually serve our wellbeing and growth.
But before we get to that, we must first learn to tame the monkey mind — aptly named so by Buddha, who described the mind as a place filled with drunken monkeys, flinging themselves around and chattering non-stop. Taming the monkey mind can help to bring you clarity, peace and joy — all things that can always be found in the here and now.
So how do we tame the monkey mind and bring ourselves to the present moment?
Here’s what we can do
As a reminder to myself first and foremost about all the progress I’ve made in my journey of coming to consciousness over the past decade, here are just a few things that you and I can do to help bring some peace to the wars waging inside our heads.
1. Know that the mind can be tamed
It seems so simple, but this is the first and most vital step. Once you know that the mind can be tamed, you can take the action required to tame it.
2. Observe your thoughts
Another Eckhart Tolle quote that I love and that helps to explain this better is:
“You are the sky. The clouds are what happens, what comes and goes.”
For me, this is a reminder that I am the Being behind everything that happens in my life; the silent witness that can choose to observe everything without judgement, and allow whatever comes and goes to come and go.
The same can be said of the mind. Get still and choose to witness the thoughts that are flowing in and out without judging them. When you are able to watch without judgement or attachment to anything that comes through, it is so liberating and even entertaining! Just sit back, unattached, and enjoy the show.
3. Establish a journaling practice
Morning Pages is a practice created by Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way. As recommended by her, they are three pages of long-hand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. For your eyes only, the idea is to get out anything and everything that crosses your mind.
I find that this practice of Morning Pages actually works at any time of the day, and is extremely useful in those times when your mind seems to be going overboard. The whole process can be extremely cathartic, helping you to alleviate the pressure and noise in your mind by getting it out on paper.
And even if you don’t want to use an actual notebook and pen, I find typing the words on a screen can help to achieve the same outcome. I even have a folder in my Google Drive dedicated to this practice. Once the thoughts are out and the document is closed, I immediately feel so much lighter. Try it!
4. Meditate, pray, or both!
Meditation is the process of coming to be in the present moment and learning to observe without judgement. I find that breath-focused meditations are very powerful and will help to calm down your mind, bring you clarity, peace and even joy. For anyone new to meditation, I would definitely recommend starting with the app Headspace — it’s like having your own meditation teacher in your pocket and there’s heaps of stuff on the app that could really help you in various aspects of your life.
And prayer is something that always works for me. Despite whatever you believe in, the simple act of getting quiet and speaking all your thoughts and troubles out loud can be extremely therapeutic — much like the practice of Morning Pages outlined above.
Personally, I believe fully in God or a higher entity, and there is just something so beautiful about sharing whatever is troubling you through prayer and handing it over to a Higher Power. Now prayer coupled with meditation is an absolute game-changer, so if you currently do one or the other, try and bring the two together and just watch how things change for you.
5. Engage your mind
I’m sure you know the feeling of getting lost in a good book or being completely absorbed by a movie… it feels good, right?
This is because your mind is engaged elsewhere and it’s as if an ‘off’ button has been switched on, on your thoughts.
If you’re really struggling with the monkey mind and can’t seem to calm it down, try reading or watching something that you really enjoy and allow yourself to get lost in it. Your thoughts will then be focussed upon what you’re engaged in, rather than the things that were troubling you previously. Honestly, I’m really not a Netflix girl, but watching trash on Netflix is what got me through severe nausea and exhaustion during pregnancy, and all the crippling thoughts that came along with that.
6. Disengage your mind
Some might say this is the same thing as above, but for me, it’s really not.
Disengaging the mind, in my opinion, is bringing yourself fully into the present moment where there is no thought at all.
As a mandala artist, for me, this comes through creating my art. Where I am so completely absorbed in the flow of the present moment, that there is nothing but beauty and joy and peace — leaving no space for anything else.
Find the thing that does this for you. Whether it’s singing, sky-diving, whatever — doing something that you love that completely disengages your mind and brings your entire being into the present moment will leave you feeling rejuvenated, refreshed and at ease.
Whatever was troubling your mind before will instantly feel a million miles away.
I know it can sometimes be the most difficult thing to try and tame your mind and become present, but as many of us know through experience, the more difficult thing is usually the thing that is better for us.
Seeing as we’ve already shared two Eckhart Tolle quotes, why not make it a trinity?
“To know yourself as the Being underneath the thinker, the stillness underneath the mental noise, the love and joy underneath the pain, is freedom, salvation, enlightenment.”
Here’s to freedom, salvation and enlightenment for us all — places where the monkey mind simply can’t exist.