There’s a voice in your head — call it the ego, the mind, the editor, resistance, the left brain, monkey mind — whatever you like. It’s constantly chattering away telling you all the things that are wrong with your life and all the things that could go wrong in the future.
But sometimes there is another voice, a feeling or a sense that seems to come from somewhere deeper. You might hear this voice comment on your thoughts from time to time. It might tell your mind to stop being so silly, to relax, to calm down or let go. You might also you get a feeling of inexplicable bliss or an inspirational idea. This voice or sense is often called the subconscious, the creative mind, being, higher self, intuition, the muse, spirit, god, alma or other mind.
The first of these voices, which I will call the monkey mind, relates to the material world, the physical things around us, the book, the chair, the bills, but also worries and fears. Many people live their lives almost entirely listening to this voice that worries, criticises and argues about what should or shouldn’t be. It compares things, deciding whether one person or thing is better or worse than another. It can cause feelings of arrogance, thinking we are better than others, or inadequacy, when it judges others are better than us. This part of the mind is concerned with material success, what others think of us and what we think of others. It can cause arguments and wars, breaking down relationships between people and nations. It is this part of the mind that can lead people to believe that acquiring money and material possessions – even at the expense of others – is the point of life and a measure of success. This voice can stop us from achieving loving relationships, bringing dreams into fruition and experiencing joy and peace.
The second voice, which I will call the higher self, taps into something deeper: creativity, spirituality, love, peace, harmony and joy. Human beings have always know about this deeper more intuitive part of the mind and have tried to connect with it in various ways. People have used rituals, meditation, prayer, creative acts, music, dancing, shamanic journeys, worship, sacrifice, myths, divination, fasting, and hallucinogenic drugs to name but a few.
The problem with being focused on the monkey mind is that it tends to focus on the negative and be alert to possible problems, criticisms, and failures. It is good at pointing out what is wrong with things, but less good at coming up with creative solutions. It is not often open to feeling peace and love and joy, it does not automatically look for beauty and harmony.
So how can we quieten the monkey mind and tune in to the higher self instead?
To start with, it is important to understand that what the monkey mind says is not the ultimate truth. Thoughts come and go. Sometimes they are negative and difficult and that can be because of tiredness, hunger, being overwhelmed or dealing with difficult situations. Sometimes the monkey mind judges based on past experiences that are not appropriate to the current situation. For example, your monkey mind might decide that when people go quiet they are angry, based on an experience from childhood. However in the current situation this might not be the truth at all, someone may have gone quiet because they are thinking, planning a surprise, suffering a toothache – any number of possibilities. The point is, stop listening to the monkey mind as if it is infallible – it isn’t.
Next, you can choose not to listen to the voice. You can just say thank you to the voice in your heads when it offers an opinion and then move your focus away from the thoughts and onto something else. You can choose to pay attention instead to what you are doing, who you are talking to or what is going on around you. You can focus on the sounds that you can hear the things that you can see, the taste of the food you are eating or the sensations of a cool breeze or a warm fire. It is possible to take a break from listening to the voice in your head. Nothing will be lost by ignoring it for a while. It can be like a child demanding constant attention. You don’t have to give it that attention. You have a choice.
Thirdly, you can use techniques and exercises to get in tune with the higher self and open to more loving, peaceful, creative and joyful ways of thinking. There are many ideas for exercises on my blog and they include a range of activities from gardening to massage, and from chakra meditations to researching family histories. They are designed to help you focus on the moment, relax and get into the flow of life and tune into the joyful, loving person you were born to be.