Have you ever noticed that you have a voice in your head?
When we think of hearing voices, our mind typically gravitates toward an image of a psychopath locked in a room in an psych ward, or something.
In reality, what psychotics and schizophrenics experience is just an amplified version of what normal, everyday people experience all the time. There is a voice constantly talking to us in our heads, and most of the time it’s saying pretty random bullsh*t that doesn’t serve us in any way.
This voice is made up of our thoughts—the pictures, voices, and impressions that continuously appear in our minds without any reprieve.
Most of our thoughts are representations of the past that project themselves onto notions of the future, keeping us confined to “psychological time” and disconnecting us from our present experience.
The mind is a machine. What we identify as “me” is usually just a sporadic assortment of neurotic thoughts.
Pretty wild, eh?
Yet, there is something much deeper within us that we can all feel. There’s a depth and aliveness that seems to transcend this thick layer of repetitive thoughts—but where is the source of that feeling exactly?
We can’t really say. Maybe it’s intuition. Maybe it’s our conscience. Maybe it’s just a flaw in our programming that gives us the illusion of free will. Either way, we have the feeling of having a soul—and the voices in our heads barely scratch the surface of that deeper thing.
What I’ve been noticing lately, and something I’ve probably known my whole life on some level, is that there are two distinct voices going on in my head. One of them is what I’ve been describing, the tireless stream of self-talk that keeps us stuck in the cycles of the past.
The other is much more quiet and subtle, and actually doesn’t speak very much at all. We could call it the watcher or the observer. It’s the dimension of consciousness that dwells below the thinking mind and is always aware of what’s happening. It’s our personal voice of reason, and if we listen really closely in moments of need it will tell us exactly what to do—and will be right every time.
Even in my darkest moments in life, particularly my well-documented fight with a chronic illness, this part of me has always been there. The “other voice.”
It’s like there’s the side of me that’s just reacting unconsciously to everything, being thrown around by the whirlwind of circumstance. And then, there’s the side that always knows, that is not afraid or negative, and that has always been with me—comforting and consoling me when nothing else can.
The problem is, we can’t hear the “other voice” most of the time. We’ve confused it with the more shallow and monotonous voice. We identify with our thought stream, rather than with this essential awareness.
This causes us immense pain, because we’re pretending to be something we’re not.
If we all knew that the collective wisdom of human lives was in our hearts and minds at every moment, we probably wouldn’t get caught up in the bullsh*t of modern life: bad relationships, addictive behaviors, poor choices, resentment, and unhappiness.
Most of the problems we face come from being detached from our true nature.
The only question that really matters is: How do we listen to the second voice and stop getting lost in our thoughts?
There are all sorts of things I can prescribe: meditation practices, artistic expression, reading certain books, writing out our thoughts, breathing exercises, listening to classical music in nature, and so on. But these are probably just words and vague, cliché pieces of advice to you. I want to make it more personal.
Whenever I’m feeling out of control, as though my life is something that I’m being dragged through rather than actively participating in, I try to notice and accept the fact that I have a role in my own misfortune. I’ve contributed to feeling this way, to the negative situations in my life, and this simple recognition allows me step up my game in the moment and change the momentum of my day. On top of the practices I engage in to be a more conscious person, this quality of acceptance and “in the moment” responsibility helps me to listen to the deeper voice inside of me.
To give an example: I’ll be stressed about something I have to do and be all hot and bothered about it—and all of a sudden I’ll notice that it is 100 percent me that’s doing this. I’m choosing to be stressed and unhappy. I’ll relax for a few moments, and I’ll hear something inside of me say, “You’re lucky that this insignificant thing is your only problem.” And then I’ll think, oh, yeah…that’s true. I’ll feel much better about what I am doing, as though it’s a privilege just to be here.
The deeper voice always seems to have a better handle on things.
Let’s face it: we share 99 percent of our DNA with chimps, and it’s not that hard to tell. Our thoughts are usually a reflection of the fact that we’re still basically monkeys—nuanced monkeys, that is.
Something really special happens when we listen to the other voice and see beyond our conditioning: we become free. We realize the infinite potential and meaning of every passing moment, and our worlds become much brighter and more vibrant. Life starts to become alive, and we feel like we’re part of that intense aliveness.
There is love. There is beauty. There is a feeling that the universe is supporting us in our journey through life.
And that’s a feeling worth having.