“The outer situation of your life and whatever happens there is the surface of the lake. Sometimes calm, sometimes windy and rough, according to the cycles and seasons. Deep down, however, the lake is always undisturbed. You are the whole lake, not just the surface.” – Eckhart Tolle
For most people, the chaos and noise happening around them and within their own minds feels like all there is. They live in a constant state of reactivity, being pushed and pulled by the thoughts and emotions they experience. They’re controlled by a voice in their head that worries about everything that can go wrong, criticizes them for everything they do wrong, and feels guilty or angry about everything that went wrong. This voice interprets every situation instantaneously and we don’t question it, just like we don’t question our breathing. It all happens unconsciously, meaning we are unaware of it. And then we feel and act based on the voice’s interpretation.
The truth is that everyone has a voice in their head, including you. Some people’s voices are nicer than others, but everyone’s voice tends to have the same disfunctions. But the good news—perhaps the best news anyone can ever hear is that this voice is not who you are.
For some of the people taking this course, you already know this well. For others, it may be the first time you have heard it, or the first time you truly understand it. If you’ve ever argued with yourself over something or you’ve ever noticed yourself thinking about something ridiculous or you’ve ever talked to yourself in your own mind, then you’ve experienced that there are two of you. There is the one that does the thinking, feeling, and reacting and there is the one that is aware of the thoughts, emotions, and reactions. You are that awareness. You are the presence that witnesses the voice, but you are not the voice.
Knowing this allows you to observe what your inner voice is doing and thinking. This is called self-observation or self-awareness. As you become more and more aware of what has always been going on unconsciously, beneath the surface of your awareness, you become conscious. You wake up from the dream. And the process for developing this awareness is called mindfulness.
Until you develop self-awareness and mindfulness, you will likely live much of your life on auto pilot, feeling like you have little control over your thoughts, emotions, or life. The truth is that unless you know what you’re thinking, feeling, or doing, you have no way of changing it.
Simply developing this awareness is the key that unlocks all of your power. Power to direct your own inner voice, choose better-feeling emotions, and making better decisions.
Start by listening to the voice in your head as often as you can. Pay particular attention to any thoughts that repeat. Be the observer of what is happening inside of you—both the surface of the lake and the depths. See if you can find and feel the deep calm at the bottom of the lake even when the surface is rough.
As you practice mindfulness and observing your thoughts and reactions, you’ll be able to recognize even more clearly that the presence doing the observing is the true you. When you notice yourself feeling angry, you’ll observe that the angry part and the part observing it are not the same thing. This is important to know because your true self never becomes disrupted and entangled in these surface level dramas. There is a part of you that is at peace, content, safe, and joyful no matter what is going on around you and in your mind. Your higher self is untouchable, un-disruptable. Knowing it is always there means you can seek to find it in any moment.
And, just like when the sun dips below the horizon you know that it still exists, even though you cannot see it, this calm, peaceful presence that is you is always there, even if you cannot see it.
As you begin to pay attention with a sense of curiosity to discover what your inner voice is up to, you’ll begin to notice interesting things it does. You’ll notice when you are behaving in a way that is in alignment with our goals and our values, and when you are not. You’ll notice when you are smiling even though you are actually sad, or when you say you are fine even though you are not. You may notice you are pretending to be mad when you really aren’t, just to manipulate someone else’s behavior. Or, you may notice that you are thinking negative thoughts about yourself, making you feel insecure. You may even notice when we are soothing yourself or feeling relaxed or happy.
The last thing you need to know about cultivating mindfulness before we move on is that the doorway to all awareness is the present moment. Most people’s minds have a strong habit of spending a lot of time thinking about the past or imagining, and usually worrying about, the future. But, the power to observe and redirect your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors is only accessible when you are focused on the present moment. When you’re paying attention to what is going on in this moment, you can notice the mind remembering an experience from the past or worrying about the future. But, if yourself to go with your mind TO these past or future places, you lose your sense of awareness. For this reason, one excellent way to develop mindfulness and self-awareness is to pay attention as often as you can to what is happening RIGHT NOW. Pay attention to each step you take, to the noises going on around you, to your breathing. Once you pull your awareness back into the present moment, it gives you an opportunity to notice what you’re thinking.
It is also important for you to know that the next time you notice yourself experiencing a negative thought or emotion, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed—it means you’ve succeeded! Until you are able to become aware of these negative experiences you have little power over them. So, every time you notice a negative thought, celebrate! Give yourself a high five! Because now you know that this negative thought is NOT who you are. You are the one in charge and you have the power change the content of your inner world.
Natalie Rivera is a firestarter, speaker and entrepreneur. She is passionate about empowering others to GET REAL and live authentically. Aft er a decade of living a life that wasn’t hers and developing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Natalie let go of everything and completely transformed. Through her journey to healing she rediscovered her true self and greater purpose—to inspire others to transform their lives. Natalie “retired” from the rat race at 24, put herself through school as a freelance designer, created a non-profit teen center, and later created Transformation Services, Inc., which offers motivational speaking, curriculum development, life coaching, event management, and publishing. She is also the Publisher of Transformation Magazine. Visit http://www.transformationacademy.com.