Inner Monologue: Quietude
Last September, I wrote my first inner monologue on Medium. It was titled Inner Monologue: Nebula.
At the time, I was restless and anxious about a lot of things, mostly due to abrupt life changes all happening at once. Uncertainty, stress, giddiness, excitement all swirled in my head on a daily basis. This mix of emotions made me think of my brain as a nebula. Cloudy, murky, unclear. Sometimes I felt like a small sailboat lost at sea, but at the very least I could always see the flickering glow of a lighthouse far away.
Fast forward a few months, and my mind conceded to all the negative emotions, allowing them to fully take over. The cloud brewing in my brain turned into a full-fledged thunderstorm, and suddenly I felt like I had zero direction anymore. No more lighthouse because I wasn’t just lost at sea.
I was stuck.
The mind is a curious place. I’ve been in this situation/state multiple times, and each experience is different although they have similar themes of self-destruction, anguish, and hopelessness. The one common denominator I’ve realized is eventually, I always pull myself out, to the point I believe I’m so above water, I’ll never let myself get dragged under again.
This time was different though. I couldn’t apply the same rescue tactics I had depended on in the past. The life jackets I used to throw at myself — hobbies, travel, friends, exercise, etc.— no longer helped me stay afloat. Instead, they were like mild distractions or small, white buoys, bopping around to serve as temporary navigation marks, but doing little to help me actually survive.
I had to figure out a new place for my mind to live. It no longer belonged in this tumultuous sea, it needed an anchor on land. Here is where I finally discovered quietude. Here is where I discovered The Power of Now.
If my mind used to exist in a boat sailing the foreboding ocean, it has since moved into a peaceful cottage by the sea. There are times the waves still call out to me and crash along my shore, but dipping my toes in the water is as far as I let myself go. What I’ve done to control the raging storm in my head is a mix of meditation, positivity, and spiritual listening. After reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, I let go of my self-destructive and deafening ego, embracing a kinder, gentler individual whom I’ve embraced as my true self.
Although I didn’t necessarily agree with every part of Eckhart Tolle’s enlightening book, here are the messages which stuck with me the most:
First, consciousness is the way out of pain. We tend to latch on to negative feelings like anxiety, stress, and frustration, but we only make ourselves more miserable this way. Many people live with a tormentor in their head who continuously attacks them and drains them of their vital energy. According to Tolle, this is the cause of untold human misery and unhappiness because all pain is simply a result of resistance to things you cannot change.
Second, life is now. There was never a time when your life was not now, nor will there ever be, so it is important to embrace the present. I had difficulty accepting this way of thinking because I like to reflect on the past and plan for the future. What I’ve taken from this, however, is a heightened awareness and emphasis for living in the moment. Because both the past and future are constructed by thoughts, they have the tendency to conjure more pain and prevent people from anchoring themselves in what is actually important and happening in real time.
Finally, there are strategies to make yourself more of an observer than an identifier when it comes to negative perception. You can free yourself from pain by actively acknowledging your thoughts rather than judging them. The mind adds its own narrative to everyday events which we accept as truth. But no matter how lost we get in thoughts of fear, worry, and insecurity, who we are always remains the same….peace, kindness, wisdom, clarity, and love.
After reading these three points and giving myself a chance to absorb them, I felt a burden lift off my shoulders. I let my mind be kinder and gentler to my body and soul for the first time in months. In the past, I’ve been this kind and gentle self when things are going my way — for example, when my job is going well, when I feel good about my body, and when I’m surrounded by friends. But to be able to show kindness to yourself when things are NOT favorable is totally different. It takes more courage and vulnerability. It takes patience.
How I’ve decluttered my mind is in fact very similar to how Marie Kondo, the popular cleaning guru, encourages people to declutter their home. Kondo’s method of organizing consists of gathering together all of one’s belongings, separating them into categories, and keeping only those things that “spark joy”. The most interesting part is before discarding the items that fail to induce joy, she takes a moment to honor them and express gratitude for the purpose they served, no matter how big or small.
When I observe the negative thoughts that tend to infiltrate my brain, I no longer berate myself for thinking this way. Instead, I acknowledge they’ve passed through my stream of consciousness, and I let them go in lieu of ones that are more positive and productive. For instance, a recurring source of stress used to be my relationship with food. Every time I ate a donut or a brownie, I’d immediately feel guilty and frustrated by my lack of self-discipline. However, I’ve learned to change the course of this slippery slope conversation by allowing myself to enjoy my small moment of self indulgence so that I can focus on planning my next healthy meal or kickass workout.
What is more remarkable is after I actively replaced the tone in my head from self-hate to self-love, I naturally began to eat healthier. When I loathed myself the most, I’d devour copious amounts of junk food, almost as a type of self-punishment. But once I changed my mentality into one that honored and cherished my health, I wanted to treat my body with the care it deserved. I wanted to feel good. Other things I started doing for myself were: meditating for 5–10 minutes every morning, taking walks after my lunch break, spending more time in nature, and listening to uplifting podcasts. I can’t even begin to explain what wonders these habits have done to revive my mind and soul.
In a world of constant busyness and go, go go, it is difficult to block out all the noise inside your head. I’m no stranger to stress and anxiety, and I bet most people will agree that what plagues them the most is either regret about their past or anxiety about their future. But Eckhart and Kondo have each shown me a way to treat these types of negative thoughts. You don’t need to block them out; you can simply acknowledge their presence so that you may re-focus on the present and what truly gives you joy.
After all, the past is nothing more than all present moments that have gone by, and the future is just the collection of present moments waiting to arrive. Or as I like to think of it: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.” — Bill Keane