Module 3 - Step 3: Inner Silence
I’ve talked a lot about communicating about difficult topics lately. So let’s adjust course just a little bit and talk about something related but separate: inner silence.
You know that everyday chatter in your mind, the train of thoughts (or trains across a dozen interlocking tracks) that chugs along throughout the day?
Sometimes those thoughts are fleeting background noise, and sometimes they’re so loud we can barely hear the world outside of us. But here’s something I want you to try: take all that thinking and turn it off for a sec. Just breathe, like we talked about in the last post.
How are you feeling? Calmer, quieter? Or is thinking about not thinking starting a whole other train of thoughts? For me, it’s often the latter.
For better or for worse, there’s rarely a time I don’t have a bunch of thoughts buzzing around, and oftentimes when I try to quiet my inner chatter it just starts back up again a few moments later.
I’ve been meditating for about two years now, and still quieting my mind is a challenge. So I thought I’d share some of my tips and tricks for hushing my internal thoughts, since I’m guessing at least some of you have the same challenge.
Here’s tip #1: Don’t think about it. Yes, this sounds counterintuitive. But you know how when you really need to get to sleep so you concentrate as hard as you can on falling asleep but that just seems to keep you awake longer? It’s the same principle with quieting your mind and reaching inner silence. One of the best things you can do is set the intention and then forget it.
Most, if not all, meditations will have you focus on your breath and take deep, steady breaths to calm your body. Try that, and see if it works. But if your breath isn’t enough to turn off your inner chatterbox, try doing something relaxing. Listen to calming music (my favorites are melodies from soundtracks), color, knit, carve something out of wood, cook a recipe you know by heart, do your nails, brush your hair, take a shower. The possibilities truly are endless. Try making a list of relaxing things and refer back to that list whenever you want to cultivate your inner silence. Sometimes it’s by doing things with our hands that we can finally get our mind to calm down.
Tip #2: be gentle with yourself. Quieting your inner thoughts is challenging, and I don’t think anyone can do it perfectly every single time. You don’t need to be perfect; all you need to do is give it a few tries. Reaching for inner silence is meant to be an act of self-care, of reconnecting with your deepest self and being blissfully peaceful with yourself. So don’t get discouraged if you struggle a little or keep getting distracted. That’s okay. You can keep trying then or try another time. That’s totally up to you!
Tip #3: make a space. You can make the space either literally, like one of my best friends who has a self-care room upstairs, or more figuratively, like I do since I’m crammed on space. I use candles to set up my space, wherever that may be. For me, lighting a candle in the evening sets me instantly in a calmer mood. The candle as the only warm, flickering light in a dark room relaxes me like little else. (Note: if you try this, make sure you use a flameless candle if you might fall asleep!) Experiment to see which kind of space works for you.
Tip #4: try a meditation buddy. I’ll sometimes do this with one of my besties, the same one who has the self-care room. She gets full credit for introducing me to meditation back when we were in high school. At first, meditating with someone else in the room just led to giggles, but after about fifteen minutes we calmed down and let ourselves get lost in the meditation. Her calm next to me helped me to focus my own mind on meditating rather than the many streams of thoughts poking me. Even better? Try reaching inner silence with your partner. You can use each other’s breathing and heartbeats to center yourselves. Sometimes the silent moments you share with your partner end up as some of the most intimate experiences you can share.
So, why inner silence? What’s so important about finding that quiet place within yourself, past all the thoughts and distractions?
Well, the short answer is for you. See, once we tap into that inner silence, that deep part of ourselves beyond our bustling minds, it becomes something of a safe haven.
Whenever you feel overwhelmed or scared or angry or sad, there will always be that quiet center of yourself waiting for you. I can tell you that the more you access it, the easier it is. This is your own space, all yours, where you can let all the rest fall away and simply exist. There’s an indescribable peace to that.
Having that inner silence also helps you in your relationships – with your romantic partner, with your friends, your family, coworkers, everyone. Carving out that internal space for yourself allows something magical to happen – you open up to the people in your life.
Ever since I’ve cultivated my own inner silence, compassion has come easier, even in the midst of anger. I’ve become gentler, kinder, more thoughtful in what I say and how I say it. Something about getting in touch with my deepest self makes me more attuned to the world around me.
So give it a try. Reach for that inner silence, gently and patiently. Try some of the tips above if you like, or experiment and find other ways that work for you.
The beauty of this program is that you’re not just improving your relationship; you’re improving yourself too.