I used to live inside my head, but now I live beyond it. This move likely saved my life.
You see – I’ve got voices in my head. These voices are so intense, incessant, distracting, loud, rude, judgmental and afraid that at several points in my life I’ve truly, truly understood – deep in my bones – that folks kill themselves to finally get some peace from the voices. Because the voices are that bad. The voices are hell. But yoga and meditation and lots of reading about Eastern philosophy taught me another way to find peace from the voices. We don’t have to wait for heaven to find peace- which is freedom from the voices. Christians need to do a better job of teaching each other about this here and now way instead of just telling folks that things will get better when they die.
Jesus told us over and over that the Kingdom of God is not later or out there – but now and inside of us. He tried to show us how to access His Kingdom by retreating from the voices and into meditation and prayer several times a day, but we don’t concentrate on that part of Jesus’ life much. Instead of learning to meditate to detach – we Christians tend to identify with the voices in our heads and in the world and choose sides– which is likely why people think of us as judgmental. We don’t have to choose sides. We don’t have to be judges. God is the judge and God doesn’t need our help. We should have faith that God’s got the judging thing under control and let go of all of that. If we let go – we would be less tired and more joyful and that would be much more attractive and true to the world than all the yelling.
Even though I know all of that – the voices in my head still go at it all day. They bicker about who sucks and who is awesome and who is good enough to us and who doesn’t treat us right. They endlessly muse about what we want and what we hate and what we plan and they do all they can to revisit and nurse every past grudge we’ve ever had. The only thing they like better than criticizing others is criticizing me. They talk all day about why I’m the worst or the best or why I’m never going to be good enough. One of their favorite things is to try to get me all riled up – they love trying to make me afraid or mad. It’s like living inside of a nasty debate all day, every day. I used to think that my job was deciding which voice in every debate was righter. It was up to me to judge- to decide which voice was the least crazy and then base my life decisions upon whatever that voice said. That’s what I did, all day everyday forever.
But one day in yoga class I was getting frustrated and my teacher looked right at me and said: “Fire the judge and hire the witness.”
Judge not, lest ye be judged. I used to think that scripture was just about not pointing out other people’s flaws. Maybe, but I think it’s also about not deciding between the crazy debating voices in our heads- about not offering them any validity by judging one saner than the other. The truth is that we don’t know who or what is good or bad for us or for others. We suck as judges because we just don’t have all the information. This is why god is the only decent judge- because God is the only one who can see the whole picture.
And so through these realizations I learned that my mind is an eternal boxing match and instead of ducking from punches and protecting my face and choosing sides – I can just step outside of the ring. My job in my life is not to get involved with all of the arguments that happen in my head. BECAUSE NONE OF THE VOICES IN MY HEAD ARE REAL.
I am the witness. I am the one noticing those voices. Sitting somewhere beyond them, smiling patiently, undisturbed, letting them fight it out if they must. Peace is not a bird resting on a still pond- it’s a bird sitting snugly and gently and securely in a nest above a raging waterfall. The waterfall is your mind but you can separate from it, sit in this nesty spot above it, and watch it rage by- knowing you are safe. You can find the nest by taking a deep breath and remembering that you are not in the drama. You are not in the play- you are just in the audience – curious about the plot turns but knowing you don’t have to control the actors and that you’ll make it out of the theatre regardless, eventually.
This seismic life shift is how I “handle” all the criticism and praise that is involved with the work I do. Because after I figured out that I don’t have to decide between the voices in my mind- it followed that I don’t have to decide between the voices in the world. Because the whole world is like one giant mind, right? And the debate and talking points and outrage are incessant and endless and intense and also- just noise. They are NOT REAL. What is real is the love and fear behind the voices and that makes us all the same because we are – each and every one of us – giant balls of fear and love. So I just try to see past the actual words people say to the energy behind the words people say- the fear and love – because when I see that I can always smile in recognition: Namaste. I am fear and love, too.
Last night I stumbled across a site that was hosting many comments “about me” and one said: “when she dies, they should put her face down in the coffin” and the one right below said “she is the most amazing woman on Earth.” I just smiled because don’t these sort of dramatic voices sound familiar? I hear them all day internally. Don’t they sound like the ridiculous things we tell ourselves all day? You suck. You are better than the rest. You’ll never be good enough. These voices- whether they are inside or out- they are the waterfall. Let them rage by but don’t jump in for God’s sake- that’s suicide.
There is only one voice that is real and that is the voice of God. God doesn’t speak to me in words or voices, usually. God presents Godself to me with a deep knowing. I come back to that knowing again and again in yoga or meditation or church or in the middle of a deep breath or at sunset or when my kids are asleep and I brush their soft, soft cheeks with my lips gently. I think this is the place that Jesus refers to as the Kingdom of Heaven – where all is well and that is just understood. Where the debating voices are silenced because I have transcended the waterfall and found myself in the nest – looking lovingly down at my people and myself and the whole brutiful world in all its messy glory.
I love you.
With unbearable compassion,
Author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller LOVE WARRIOR — ORDER HERE
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