What are You Practicing?
The Journey from a Chattering Mind to Self-Awareness and Beyond
Whenever I talk about my journey, the most frequent comment I hear is, “I’ve read all those self-help books, but I haven’t changed.” My response is always the same: “Reading is only the start. Have you put any lessons from those books into practice?”
The journey to self-awareness takes many years. It also takes constant, daily practice. I haven’t reached that state of constant inner freedom, but I have achieved it for short periods. What’s more important is that I re-commit to the journey every single day.
Ever Want Your Inner Voice to Be Quiet?
Introduced in my “Live Life in Slow Motion” post, The Four Agreements provided a great starting place to give my mind focus, my inner voice didn’t subside. The captain of that speech and debate team in my head just kept going, like the energizer bunny.
While I appreciated the increased intensity and effectiveness of my thoughts, I wondered why the voice inside my head was so constant. How does it decide what to say? And why wouldn’t it go on vacation – even for just one day?
My curiosity – and desire for a quieter mind – led me to a wonderful book entitled The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer. The moment I started reading Singer’s book, I couldn’t put it down. He opened my mind and my heart to a totally new aspect of thinking and behaving. I like to highlight when I read so I can come back to messages that really grab me. As I found myself highlighting page after page, I realized I should stop before the entire book was covered in neon yellow highlighter!
I’ve read it many times over the past decade, spending a significant amount of time putting its lessons into practice. The guiding principle is “Show me a path” – the process of learning how to untether the constant voice inside my head from who I am and showing me a path to a state of inner freedom.
Watching Your Inner Voice Act Instead of Listening to It
The book stated that true personal growth is to understand that the one inside you – the one who is aware you’re always talking to yourself about yourself – is always silent. To arrive at the realization that you are the one watching the voice talk is to stand on the threshold of a fantastic inner journey. And when you finally cross that threshold, you will see that the real cause of problems is the commotion the mind makes about life.
To attain true inner freedom, the book further declared that you must be able to objectively watch your problems instead of being lost in them. So, I accepted the author’s dare to try an experiment wherein I didn’t try to make my “Roommate” (his name for our inner voice) stop talking.
I spent a day watching everything my Roommate did. I started in the morning and tried to notice what it said about every situation, even as my Roommate jumped from one topic to the next. It was difficult to stay conscious enough throughout the entire experience to be aware of what happened. Also, it was somewhat depressing to realize how the non-stop talking had always been that way.
Upon diving deeper into The Untethered Soul, I laughed out loud when I read this passage:
“ The bottom line is undeniable: if somehow that voice managed to manifest in a body outside of you, and you had to take it with you everywhere you went, you wouldn’t last a day. If someone were to ask you what your new friend is like, you’d say, ‘This is one seriously disturbed person. Just look up neurosis in the dictionary, and you’ll get the picture.’
As it is right now, your life is not your own; it belongs to your inner Roommate, the psyche. After some self-observation and work on myself-awareness, I learned about spiritual practices that could help me distance myself from my psyche. They will work for you, too, but you must commit yourself to the inner work of freedom.
The Daily Practice of Self-Examination
The first step for me was embracing a practice taught by Ramana Maharshi. According to Singer, this great Hindu sage used to say that, to attain inner freedom, one must continuously and sincerely ask the following line of questions:
· Who am I?
· Who sees when I see?
· Who hears when I hear?
· Who knows that I am aware?
· Who am I?
Have you ever asked yourself those questions? I certainly hadn’t! Ramana Maharshi further instructed that diving into these queries was more important than reading books and learning mantras. Michael Singer wrote further,
“The answer to ‘Who are you?’ is ‘I am the one who sees.’ From back in there somehow, I look out, and I am aware of events, thoughts, and emotions that pass before me.”
Through these questions, I practice self-awareness by observing yet not engaging in my Roommate’s chatter. Yes, he is still there, but I strive to every day to separate my words and my actions while imbuing both with increased power. Some days are better than others. Some days I fail brilliantly! But for me, this journey is worth it.
Because of this daily practice, I am more present to my family, my clients, my friends and to this overall human experience. I smiled when over the Christmas break one of my kids said “Dad, you’re not as uptight as you used to be”.
As I said at the beginning, reading self-help books is only the start. You know about the awareness, consciousness, and an intuitive sense of existence inside you. You know that you’re in there. A true spiritual being lives there. But what are you doing to connect with what’s inside you? What are you actually putting into practice to bring yourself to new life?
Are you ready to become more self-aware so you can be more present to those you engage with every day – your family, friends, and co-workers? Let’s talk!