You know that voice in your head? The one that chatters incessantly about everything that's going on in your life, worries about what might one day happen in your life, overanalyzes your every move and oh, sometimes if you're lucky, wakes you up at 3 o'clock in the morning with a few problems you really need to worry about. Today we're going to talk about that.
And for those of you that are reading or listening to this thinking 'I don't have a voice in my head', yah you do. Whoever you heard say that just now is the very voice I'm talking about.
We all have that voice and while it serves a very essential purpose by allowing us to process and understand the world around us, when it's left to run wild, it causes problems. By problems, I mean it has the potential to make us feel really awful about who we are and what we do.
I've read a lot of books over the years that fall into the category of self-help, spirituality and yoga. If I had to recommend just one to you today, it would be The Voice of Knowledge by Don Miguel Ruiz. Yoga made me realize that what was happening inside my head was almost always negative. It taught me, through movement, breath and pushing myself out of my comfort zone, that there is a direct connection between what I think and how I feel. This book takes that lesson a little further in a really simple and powerful way. If you're looking for a good read that will deepen the mental side of your practice and give you tools for more peace in your day-to-day life - I know I'm always looking for more of those - Don Miguel is your guy.
Until I started practicing yoga, there was no distinction me and the voice in my head. It's me after all, isn't it? It sure sounds like me? You're probably thinking the same thing right now. The voice that's commenting on what you're reading here sounds like you, so it must be you, right?
But what if it's not?
What if you stopped taking everything it says as the truth?
What if you questioned it from time to time?
These are some of the big questions that Ruiz's work will have you asking. Here's an excerpt from one of my favourite parts of this book - which comes in audio as well for the multi-taskers out there.
"From the storytellers around us, we learned how to create our own story. By exploring the story that we create, I discovered that the story has a voice. You can call it 'thinking' if you want. I call it "the voice of knowledge" because it's telling you everything you know. It's always trying to make sense out of everything. That voice is always there. It never stops. It's not even real, but you hear it. You can say, "Well, it's me, I'm the one who is talking." But if you are the voice that is talking, then who is listening?
The voice of knowledge can also be called the liar who lives in your head. The liar speaks in your language, but your spirit, the truth, has no language. You just know truth; you feel it. The voice of your spirit tries to come out, but the voice of the liar is stronger and louder and it hooks your attention almost all of the time. You hear the voice, and what is it telling you? 'Look at you. Who do you think you are? You will never make it. You aren't smart enough. Why should I try? Nobody understands me. How can I be happy when millions of people are dying of starvation? The voice is usually lying because it's the voice of what you have learned, and you have learned so many lies, mainly about yourself"
The two most life-changing, important things that I learned from reading his book were explained in that excerpt.
1. The voice in your head isn't 'you'.
2. The voice lies - a lot!
Have you ever noticed how critical you are of the way you look? When you stand in front of the mirror before you hop in the shower are you flooded with positive thoughts about the shape of your body? If you are - I want to spend more time with you, you could teach me a thing or two. I'm going to guess most of you aren't. You're probably all too familiar with the voice immediately commenting in a negative and in a lot of cases, untrue, way. I can't tell you how many friends I've heard over the years say something horribly mean about the way they look. When I hear it come out of their mouth I'm shocked that they could possibly see themselves that way. But then it all makes sense because I realize I do it too. The voice can be cruel, it can be harsh and it can be so unbelievably far from the truth of how the world actually sees you.
Have you ever heard that voice pipe up when you're chasing a goal or dream? When you're going after something you really want to accomplish but aren't quite sure it's within your reach? The voice in your head doubts your every move. It's the one that tells you you aren't good enough, you'll never succeed and questions just who you think you are to even be trying. Anyone who has ever accomplished anything knows this voice and has had the awareness to recognize that it's lying. You are good enough. You can succeed. You should be trying. The key to success isn't just having complete confidence, it's knowing how to believe in yourself and push past the doubt that the voice fills your mind with.
The power of the message in The Voice of Knowledge is that whatever it is we've told ourselves about ourselves is just a story. We don't have to believe it. So instead of taking everything that voice says as the truth, I want you to start the powerful - and sometimes difficult - practice of separating yourself from it. Step back and be the observer of what's happening in your mind instead of being so controlled by it. Stop automatically believing everything the voice says.
So the next time you hear that voice pipe up with a bold statement about who you are, what you look like, what you can't do, I want you to pause and step back.
Ah there's that voice again.
What's it saying to me today?
Then ask yourself: is it true?
I'm willing to bet that most of the time, the answer will be no.
Remember, the voice lies (a lot) and nobody likes a liar.
Stop giving it so much power.