Today is the last installment of the series–the spirit/soul reboot–and the post most likely to scare people away. Try to hang in there. I’ll try not to get too airy fairy on you.
Reenergizing your spirit (or soul or spirituality or inner being, whatever you want to call it) can be as simple as seeking out a few moments of stillness.
My life is loud, mostly due to my two teenaged sons. Living with an African Grey parrot and a dog with a chronic cough (better than the seizures he suffered from until recently) turns the volume up even higher. The decibel level rose yet again when our Aussie exchange student joined the party for a few months over the holidays.
Until a couple of years ago, the noise in my house was matched by noise just as loud and chaotic inside my head — you know, the stream of incessant thought that keeps you spinning your wheels without getting anywhere?
Does any of this internal dialogue sound familiar to you?
- “I should have done X instead of Y.”
- “I’m so embarrassed by X or Y.”
- “When will I ever have time to do X or Y?”
- “I can’t believe they did X or Y to me.”
- “When will my kids grow up enough to do X or Y?”
- (Or even more frequently) “When will my kids grow up enough to STOP doing X or Y?”
I could stuff earplugs in my ears, but that would only shut out the kid noise. I would still be trapped in the same prison cell with the crazy-making voice inside my head.
It wasn’t until Eckhart Tolle’s work (A New Earth and The Power of Now, among other books) helped me recognize that the domineering internal voice was ego, and not my true “self” (or spirit, or soul, or inner being), that I was able to switch off the brain blather. What a relief to learn that the bully wasn’t “me.”
The other revelation was that ego is what keeps us focused on the past and the future, making us miss out on what’s happening right in front of our noses. If you look closely at the internal dialogue above, all of it has to do either with something that happened in the past or that might happen in the future. Since we can only take action in the present moment, our attention should be focused on the here and now.
How to Hear Your Soul-Self Think
This is where I might lose some of you. I’ll just put it out there. I believe there’s a higher intelligence that connects all of us, and is within all of us. I don’t feel it (or hear it) by looking outward, I feel it (and hear it) by looking inward.
I know I’m turning off both my atheist friends and some of my traditionally religious friends. I won’t be offended if you grab your hat and leave.
My guess is, though, that regardless of where you lie on the spirituality spectrum, you still experience a sense of what I’m talking about when you’re in the midst of nature.
Whether we’re walking in a forest, hiking a mountain trail, or watching a sunrise, most of us find that our heads clear, the smallest details come into focus, we catch the scent of wild flowers, and notice the variety of bird calls in the distance.
That level of conscious alertness only comes when we’ve quieted our minds. The stillness awakens us. We feel at peace, fully present and connected with our truest self.
And as Eckhart Tolle writes in Stillness Speaks, “Stillness is where creativity and solutions to problems are found.”
How to Snatch A Little Stillness Each Day
It’s easy to access that sense of inner stillness when you’re surrounded by nature. But what about in the midst of our chaotic everyday lives? Here are a few strategies that have worked for me:
1. Learn to enjoy your own company. Schedule some time for yourself. Go for a walk (solo), or prepare a beautiful meal for yourself. Focus your attention fully on the present moment, resisting the temptation to fall into thinking about the past or future.
2. Turn off the TV, especially if you just have it on “in the background.”
3. Turn off the car radio from time to time. I’m an NPR freak, but news overload is one of my major sources of head clutter. Newsflash: more “knowledge” doesn’t equal more wisdom.
4. Track how much time you’re spending on emails, texting, Facebook or other social media. Use a timer to set boundaries for yourself.
5. Meditate. As I’ve written in recent posts, all you need is 10 minutes a day, preferably in the morning. I’m amazed at how my daily practice has helped me access stillness not only during the meditation session, but throughout the rest of the day as well.
6. Take a few mindful breaths periodically, giving your full attention to both your in-breath and out-breath. This is especially helpful to combat obsessive thinking brain blather.
7. Exercise. Yoga, Pilates, tai chi, etc. are obvious choices, but even higher intensity cardio exercise makes you focus fully on the present moment.
“Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson