Noise is everywhere. The television, radio, whatever podcasts or music you might have piping through your ear buds. Traffic sounds: cars, rumbling trucks and—depending where you live—honking, sirens. Leaf blowers, snow blowers, jackhammers, coffee grinders, blenders, hair driers. People in the background: arguing, whining, laughing, crying, singing. People in the foreground: talking to you, asking you questions, giving you love, attention, advice, telling you stories, making requests, demands. Maybe you have pets, barking for food, affection, or to be let outside, meowing for your attention.
And that’s just the external noise.
What goes on inside our heads can create even more of a cacophony. Our To Do lists barking their orders—with special addendums highlighting items on yesterday’s (last week’s, or last year’s) list still not done. The self-criticism, on an infinite loop so incessant you may not even hear it, but it’s there: the auditory landscape running you ragged. And how about the internal conflicts? We all have them, on a variety of topics, but sometimes, like the internal criticism, the internal bickering is so constant you may not even recognize it as there anymore.
Internal criticism sometimes slithers in posing as a motivational pep talk:
Today you’re going to get your sorry ass to the gym!
Try to be productive at work for a change!
Then the defense kicks in:
Hey, don’t be so hard on me. I’m a good person who deserves a _________(carton of ice cream, six pack of beer, hours of binge watching my favorite show…)
And the argument is off and running again:
I told you not to eat/drink/watch that. Every single day I tell you not to eat/drink/watch that and you go right ahead and do it anyway.
Well, why did you LET me? Why don’t you lead me to do the RIGHT things for a change?
Because you do whatever the EFF you want no matter what we decide our goals and plans are going to be. You have no will-power whatsoever!
Or maybe your recurring internal critic pipes up every time you interact with other people:
You shouldn’t have said that. You made yourself look like a complete fool. Now everyone is judging you.
Or every time you don’t speak up:
Oh great: you could have finally SHOWN UP but instead you just hid out. Yet again! Letting the world pass you by…
Maybe these inner voices aren’t familiar, maybe they are. Maybe you address yourself as “you” internally, maybe as “I,” maybe you use your name. But whatever your internal chatter sounds like, it’s there. And chances are, if you aren’t aware of it, it’s because you’ve turned up the dial high enough on the external noise to drown it out.
The problem with all this noise is, we miss out on the important internal voice we really want to hear most, our wisdom, our inner guidance. Ghandi once said, “the only tyrant I choose to accept is the still quiet voice within me.” The voice of our internal wisdom is just that: still and quiet. In order to tune into it, we need to be still and quiet, too. This voice is not going to use a megaphone, or a frying pan to slam us in the head to get our attention. It’s too dignified for that, too secure to need to be the center of attention. Our wisdom waits peacefully inside us, quietly chilling out in the stillness, until we slow down, until we stop.
And get still.
This tends to require breathing our way through all the layers of noise and chatter and distraction in order to be able to listen. In order to be able to hear. We have to listen attentively to attune to its style, peacefully to receive its offerings, with curiosity and an open heart to accept the guidance however it arrives. When we do this, we will find our still quiet voice within always to be there. Our wisdom always waiting, with loving open arms to welcome us home.