One of my all-time favorite quotes is from Michael Singer.
A truth I have been teaching for years, he boils it down into a candid sentence — a sentence which means more now than ever before.
“You are not the voice of the mind; you are just the one that hears it.”
I’ll repeat that.
You are not the voice of the mind. You are just the one that hears it.
When that fully sinks in, it’s perhaps one of the most liberating, empowering truths to embrace. It changes lives. But at first, for many, myself included, it can kick up confusion, and resistance: if it’s not me, then who is it? What do I have, little minions, running around in my head?
Yes. In a matter of speaking. You do.
It’s your mother, father, society, friends, an old teacher/boss, or the little obstinate and fearful child inside you, wanting attention.
Right now, it’s also likely the news, social media, the funny-not-so-funny because it stirs up anxiety-memes. But it’s not YOU.
YOU are so much more than that voice. The truth is, we have quite a few voices. They are characters, minions, gremlins, mind-monkeys — whatever you choose to call them — living in our heads; they often compel us into anxious states and actions which we later wish we could reverse.
As you read this, I’ m curious, what’s the internal dialogue, right now? Is it a monologue? A party between two or more? Perhaps one of them is hovering over your shoulder, shaking an admonishing finger, yelling, “this is ridiculous!” Maybe a minion is in the recesses of the mind, pretending to read the newspaper, but peers over the edges, sliding in cutting commentary.
In the past, that voice has held you back from things you’ve wanted to “protect you,” saving you from looking “ridiculous.” For others, there is a rebellious teenager or insurgent influence who thrives on immediate gratification, undermining what we actually want.
Right now, there is likely a cacophony of voices: one aching for certainty, another for immediate gratification, and yet another, doing it’s best to protect. That last one? For many, it has gone off the deep end, freaking out about all the “what ifs,” paralyzing the mind. These voices want to protect you, but don’t quite go about it in an empowering and truthful way. Those voices crave control. Of anything. But what we don’t realize is that the only thing to control, is their power — the power we give to the voices.
How do we manage that power?
First: Notice it. Noticing it is more than half the journey. You might take it a step further and get curious about it: What’s the pitch and tone of the voice? What does it’s face look like? You’ll be surprised by what you discover.
Second, you acknowledge it. You might think ignoring it is the solution, but it’s not. It will only get louder like a child you ignore until it’s screaming, kicking, and throwing a fit so loudly you can’t hear anything else.
Third, you figure out what it wants. Underneath the noise, what is the desire, and that’s where the kernel of truth lies.
Finally, you choose. You choose how you want to respond.
It’s a muscle: it gets stronger, every time you use it.
In the words of The Dhammapada,
“Your worst enemy cannot harm you
As much as your own thoughts, unguarded.
But once Mastered,
No one can help you as much”
And as Elizabeth Gilbert advises, “you need to learn how to select your thoughts, just the same way you select your clothes every day. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life…, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control.”
The voices will never go away, but you can choose to hear them, recognize them, and using Elizabeth Gilbert’s analogy, you can select another pair of pants. Though you might be accustomed to grabbing the old pair, I promise, the new pants will fit far better.
So instead of succumbing to the fearmongering voices, because that’s all you are hearing, how might you use your thoughts to help you? What do you want to hear and think instead? What energy or intention do you want to bring into the moment or day?
And then shift the dialogue accordingly.
Say it, feel into it, and with time it will calm your nervous system, and those thoughts and voices will be as valid as the old ones once felt.
Remember, you are not the voice of the mind. You are just the one that hears it.