The Power of Listening (chapter 12)

After Ed walked out on me I was so distraught. I hated being alone with myself. It was excruciatingly difficult to be alone. I just felt off. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin.

At that point in time, simply being alone was just about the worst experience I could have. And yet something in me knew I needed to be alone with myself.

Being quiet and alone made me feel worthless. Being without distraction allowed me to face myself, my inner talk. In that space I was able to hear the chatter in my mind that told me everything I had ever done wrong.

Being alone held a mirror to my empty heart. Being alone showed me that inside I had nothing to give. Being alone I had to face the harsh reality that I was lonely, hopeless and lost.

I wanted to avoid these feelings, but something in me knew the only way was through. So I faced all these feelings and spent time each day alone and quiet.

I had to remember to breathe. Sometimes when I was alone I would cry so hard I would hyperventilate. I would weep. I would sob. I think I cried out 10 lifetimes of sorrow in the span of 4 months.

Breathe. Breathe in. Breathe out. Just breathe.

I may have had nothing to give anyone else, but I could still breath.

And all I had to do to survive was breathe.

I once heard someone say, you don’t have to believe everything you think.

When I was so lost and depressed I believed I was my thoughts. I believed my thoughts gave me worth. My thoughts were my identity.

As I got quiet I began to realize that I didn’t have to believe every thought I had. Not all of my thoughts were accurate. Some of them were flat out wrong.

I began to hold my thoughts more gently. I began to see my thoughts in a new way. I began to see my thoughts as something I could choose.

Eventually I knew my thoughts were something I must choose. I began to realize that if I did not choose my thoughts they would choose me and I would lose my power.

When I let my thoughts choose me, the thoughts that would prevail were rooted in fear. They were based on my roles and responsibilities. My default thoughts were based on what I should do.

I identified with the roles I had in my life. I thought of myself as a mother, sister, daughter, friend, wife and employee. I thought of myself as kind, giving and educated. When I didn’t consciously choose my reactions or my thoughts I would default right into what I was told was right, good or expected of me. I was not listening to my inner voice and I was not authentic or inspired.

If I was not going to listen to outside influences and societal roles nor the expectations of others, what then should I listen to? I wondered.

For me, it was an inner knowing, I think some people call it an inner voice, for others it might be a gut feeling. Some people call it intuition, whatever you call it I think its your heart and your heart always knows the way to healing.

I was able to sense my inner knowing because it showed up differently than my thoughts. I had an inner critic that was judgmental and rude to me, telling me everything I had done wrong. And there was another space, that just felt right and good and peaceful. It was a kind and gentle energy. It had no judgment, just allowance and compassion.

The intuition of my heart provided me answers that I knew were right. I felt an ease about the energy of these thoughts. 

At first I did question my inner knowing. Maybe that is to be expected, I hadn't listened to my heart in a long time, so I didn't really trust the process. I wasn't sure if I was doing it right. As I sat with myself more and more, answers continued to come, along with feelings of ease and allowance. It felt peaceful and I was looking for peace so I continued even when it was challenging.  

As I began to act on the wisdom I received, I began to trust the process more and more. 

The first key I used in connecting with my inner wisdom was to first get quiet enough to hear it.

To get quiet I would limit outside distractions. I would turn off the radio and TV. I would silence my phone and set aside a few minutes to be alone and quite. Sometimes I would set an alarm. 

I got comfortable in a place with little distraction. Most of the time this took place in my car after dropping my child at preschool. I would put my phone away off and just sit and breathe for 5 minutes. Then I'd just breathe. 

Breathe in and breathe out.

I would pay attention to the feeling of the breath in my chest and witness it flow out.

It was simple and it was tough.

My thoughts would often go mad. I would think of all kinds of things I had to do. My mind would wander off thinking about grocery lists, people to call, the last person I spoke to, a birthday gift I needed to purchase. My thoughts would just jump all around. And I let them.

As soon as I would think, “oh I’m thinking about washing the car. Now I’m thinking about doing the laundry. I need to pick up some detergent at the grocery store.” I would consciously bring my thoughts back to my breath. “Breathe in. breathe out.”

“How does it feel to breathe?”

I might spend my whole 5 minutes jumping from thoughts of a shopping list to remembering to breathe, but that is ok. This is how I began to build awareness. It wasn’t always pretty, but I did it anyway. And I called it meditation.

I began to focus on the space in between my thoughts and simply started allowing that space in between to expand. Slowly the thoughts stopped jumping around so much and I could sit a bit longer. 7 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes. 

I used this meditation as one practice to help me quiet my mind and thoughts enough to be able to hear the voice of my soul. Silence is not empty. Silence is full.

Spiritual masters teach that through listening to silence one can gain great wisdom.

I began to build a space within me where I wasn't identifying with my thoughts constantly. It was like I could witness my thoughts. if I could think about at thought, and see it, come and see it go,  it allowed me to realize that I wasn't my thoughts. My thoughts would pop up and disappear like gophers in the game whack-a-mole, except I was noticing that if I didn't try to smack them on the head, they disappeared faster.

I noticed that if I could observe my thoughts, then I was able to identify as the observer and not the thought. If the thought was the gophers I was watching the game and I was the one holding the paddle, then I could choose if I wanted to act on a thought.

Through this inner game of "I'm no longer gonna whack-a-mole", I was able to heighten my awareness of myself. It was incredible to bring awareness to what I really felt, because I hadn't allowed myself to feel in years.