Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Voice

Quote of the month:
And the peace… passeth all understanding.
-Philippians 4:7

Imagine you are a man at a party…. and a very attractive woman approaches you and begins talking. Inside, your mind is racing…. “What was her name?!?! Marge? Margaret? No! NO! That‘s not it! Why can‘t I remember? Marie? Maria? NO! I met her at Whole Foods and here she is again! Looking better than ever! What an idiot I am!” The woman continues to talk, but you are only catching half of what she is saying because you are locked in the fear of not remembering her name! Finally, she mentions someone you both know and POP…. you remember! “Marcella! MARCELLA! Whew! Thank goodness I remember before she figured out how foolish I am!”

In the above paragraph, who is it that is doing all that talking? The voice you hear in your head? Who is it? You would probably say, “Me!” Well, then, I have another question….. who is it, that is doing the listening? Would you say “Me” again?

Have you ever noticed this mental dialogue, the voice in your head, that is going on nearly all the time? Here is another example....

It’s 3 AM…. “I have to remember to buy toothpaste. I can’t sleep! I should try a new toothpaste. I don’t like the one I have now. The dry cleaning should be ready. When I go to the store tomorrow for the toothpaste, I’ll have to get the dry cleaning too. Why can’t I sleep? It’s supposed to rain tomorrow….. We need some rain, so guess that is a good thing……. Hope it‘s not raining when I go out tomorrow for the toothpaste…. and the dry cleaning…..”

Is that you too? Is it you that is talking? What about listening? Are you also the one that is listening? If that is so, then why are you keeping yourself awake at 3 AM? And why won’t that voice just be quiet?

Right now if you are telling yourself, “She’s crazy! I don’t have a voice in my head!” That IS the voice I am talking about, says Michael Singer, in The Untethered Soul. He suggests to try making it say, “Hello!” right now. Can you hear it? “Hello! Hello!” Can you make it say, “Hello!” louder? “HELLO! HELLO!” How about making it whisper? “hello”…. can you “hear” it differently inside your head?

The simple suggestion I am making this month is to become aware that there is a voice talking in your head almost all the time. I have previously referred to the voice, in a slightly different way, as your “mental tape, CD or I-pod.” Singer uses the analogy of having a roommate with you all of the time. Eckhart Tolle describes it as having an inner tour guide, with you. ALL of the time. This tour guide there 24/7. It is narrating life, for you, as it goes by. In either case, if it were a real person, how long do you think you could stand to have them around? Especially at 3 AM!

What I want to suggest in this post is to begin to think of yourself as the OBSERVER of the voice. Yes, the voice is inside your head, in your mind, or a part of the ego or personality…. But since you can also hear the voice, consider the possibility that you can just observe it. You do not have to believe or follow everything it says. Singer suggests the following analogy. Suppose you are looking at three things….. Let’s say a book, a plate and a computer screen. He asks, “Which of those is you?” You would say, “None of them, I am looking at them.” He suggests this is how to see the voice as well. Look at it, but don’t necessarily believe it is all of who you really are.

Where did the voice come from? Let’s start from when you were little. The first people who helped create the voice were your parents, family, close friends. They tell you your name, where you live and teach you to speak English, unless of course you live in China, and then you learn Chinese, or in India, Hindi.

You may go to church and learn about God….. or Allah… As you grow up you go to school and learn how to count and read and write. You also learn things that are important in your culture. The culture contributes to the voice as well… think about what types of things you learned growing up in the culture of the United States.

If you had grown up in Egypt, you would have learned that you always use your right hand to eat, and you always leave some food on your plate.

But, if you grew up in Germany, you would have learned that it is considered polite to finish everything on your plate.

If in Columbia, you would have learned that it is polite to try everything you are given at a meal.

In Senegal, you would have learned that you do not begin eating until the eldest male does.

So if you are a German visiting Egypt, your voice might say something about how rude they are to leave food on their plates. Or an American woman visiting Senegal, your voice may question why everyone is looking at you strangely, when you start eating first.

The role and influence of the media could be an entire post in itself….. Suffice it to say that it plays a large role in how we view things in this country…. What we like, dislike, value, talk about, want to know about…. Who is dating who or if Jon and Kate will get a divorce or not.

I am not saying any of this is “bad”…. I am simply suggesting that the voice you have in your own head is largely shaped by where you were born, if you were born a boy or a girl, who raised you, if you are white or African American, Christian or Muslim, the education you received, if you were raised in the United States of America, South Africa, Europe or South America….. the schools you went to, your religious background, what you watch on TV, read in magazines and listen to on the radio…… and that the voice in your head may very well be quite different from the voice in my head!

My suggestion is that you do have the ability to simply be the observer of the voice… and moreover you do NOT have to believe EVERYTHING the voice says. You can just be aware that the voice is there….be aware where it may have come from…. and then choose if you want to listen to it or not!

To take it just a step further... and maybe we will explore this further in a later post, I’d like to suggest that in the observer position is where peace lies. Some may call this the experience of God, or Jesus or your soul… scientists may say it is a chemical reaction in our complex brains that allows us to sense peace. I will not attempt to answer that… and will leave it to you to decide for yourselves. What is true for me, is that PEACE is a good place to be!

To continue reading next month's post on The Observer, click here.

I would love to hear your feedback as well as any questions you may have or topics you may be interested in for the future. You may comment at the bottom at the blog where it says "comments" or if you prefer, send them to me directly at . All posts will be archived on my blog along with other useful information at: Simply Spirituality or

Until next month....
Here's hoping you keep your spirituality simple!

Photo of the month:
High falls, Grand Portage, MN, August 2009


Anonymous said...

I was wondering how common or easy it is to "stop" the voice in my head - sometimes I feel exhausted from listening to it all day and just desire that peace of silence!

Penelope said...

Thank you for your question!

It is not at all common to stop the voice in your head. It also is not easy. You have taken an important first step, though, in noticing that there is a voice. Many people are so identified with the voice that they do not even realize it is there. They think they are the voice. While it is a part of you, it is not all of who you are. So congratulate yourself on that awareness!

Most of the last year on the blog, I've written about techniques that have worked for me, to "manage" the voice, so to speak. You can find a listing of all of the posts under "How to use this blog" on the top of the right column that appears on every page of Simply Spirituality. Some posts I would suggest, that you may find helpful are -

1. my mini-meditation called "Just for this Moment" may help one slow down and be more present and peaceful, at least for a moment.
2. the first post on Meditation (don't let the word "meditation" concern you, I keep it very simple!),
3. the suggestions towards the end of Meditation 2,
4. Taking stock/Mindfulness also has some simple suggestions to increase mindfulness or awareness.

The post for the coming month will be about the observer position so you may also find that helpful.

If some of the suggestions in these posts appeal to or resonate with you, I would suggest to experiment with them and see what works for you. Try to focus your attention on what you are doing or accomplishing rather than what you are not. Also think of it more as a process, rather than a goal that you either do or do not accomplish..... and allow yourself to be where you are with your individual process. I would also suggest not trying to "force" the voice to be quiet. That will also make you tired. Instead try to observe it... and notice a moment of silence or stillness here and there............ at the end of a sentence........ notice the gap before the next one. <> At the end of a breath, notice a short gap before the next breath. Start by focusing attention there and try to do a little more each day.

Here's hoping you keep your spirituality simple!

Michael said...

Peni, I love this post. I have been going through some of this this week because I've been sick. In the middle of the night the voice has told me all the things I should worry about. I've tried to quiet it down to find peace to sleep.

Penelope said...

Hi Michael -

When we are tired or sick, everything seems so much more challenging! Trust that when you feel better again, you won't struggle as much with it.

Thanks for your comment!

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