Centering your voice: the path of mindfulness

Dr. Brendan O'Brien

Presenting your best self to this world has long been a key focus of getting ahead. Being on top of things, not showing any chinks, creating that impervious armour. In themselves, these can all be important attributes to display; however, their primary pursuit in our lives, can and will, distract us from the one first essential step. Being still to yourself.

Stilling the voice within can often allow your true voice to come forward. You can then hear the part of you that show’s a purpose, a strength, a resolve, that decides the path that is most decisive, but also most important and individual for you.

So many times, in our day and in our lives’ we’re presented with incessant choices- should I take this job, should I buy this car, this dress, this house, this share, or should I mix with this person, consider this option, take this business leap, pursue this financial risk...

Indeed, all of these constant distracting calls, present decisions, that may overwhelm and can be the numerous small straws that build to that last crushing one. In any facet of life, these choices can be navigated with greater surety by stilling ourselves, listening and then responding to our own inner voice.

But no doubt, it can be hard to hear, particularly with all the bristling noises running around and through us. All making it really hard to recognise which is the real part of our true selves. I see that learning this true personal voice can be a part of learning the inner wisdom about ourselves. Certainly, we need to learn to encourage this part of ourselves to be heard at all ages. Heard not to others, but to ourselves. Too often the voice of indecision, self-doubt, guilt or shame is the driving voice that gets all the attention. Too much attention…

So, how can we foster the inner voice that guides, calms and directs us in this life? The first call is to start listening. But to do that, you need to first turn down the noise. The noise of distractions, the noise created by others, that speaks to their own needs. Not turn it down all the time- only for short periods. This is not selfish; this is not self-centred but is practising self-investment. Taking the time to create some self-super: an investment in the building of your own self.

That’s why the call for mindfulness and meditation (centredness) resonates particularly at times like those we find ourselves in now. But sometimes these words- mindfulness- don’t really mean anything, they don’t grab our attention or really gain any traction. Even these words can seem nebulous and actually can be jarring, and foreign, irritating because they seemingly are unattainable or idealistic. Even religious. But they are not. We need to see these techniques in centering ourselves just like water- essential for personal growth.

So, how to start? How to separate yourself for a moment, start the process, turn down the “lights” in your head. This is what’s the essential required first step. This can really be practised anywhere, on the bus, in the train, in bed, but early on in your first few starts- it’s best, seated in a quietened room, on a relaxing chair, free from disruptions for a period of time- doesn’t have to be long- initially five minutes is a good start.

We just need to start flexing those mental relaxation muscles. Don’t try to start with a sprint, maybe initially a few days per week, for a few weeks. You’ll find that you start to look forward to that time and want to spend longer being still, so to hear your inner voice. Actually, at the time of being still, what is actually important, is to try and listen, be quiet inside, as you don’t need to discern or decide or do anything specific. Sounds hard to imagine. But just go with it. Just be- for a while. Five minutes doesn’t sound too much.

In the process of being still, what often happens, early on in this skillset, is the mind, floods us with seemingly random , but seemingly crucial details. We see the to-do lists for the day, important meetings ahead, where we need to push or what is troubling us. That’s okay, see all of these thoughts like mist, let them move over and around you. Try not to pay any attention to these supposed crucial thought bites.

Another way is to imagine these thoughts is like waves washing over and past us. Let them go, if they are that important, they’ll be back later on in our day. Savour the nothingness of being still. No tasks to do. No chores to attend to. No needs to fill. Except one- being you and only you.

I’ve always found it paradoxical, that the more quiet you give yourself, the more of yourself you’ll be able to give to others. You’ll also become less hurried, more in tune with random still moments of your day. The yellow glowing sunlight flickering through the afternoon trees, the warm salty ocean breeze dancing over your skin or the delicious taste of a fresh kiwi fruit salad. Music can whisper gentle rhythms to you, more peaceably. In actuality, all of your senses will become more elegantly tuned, the pitch of life becomes more resonant, as you more clearly find your own internal rhythm.

How quickly does this occur? In my experience, this starts straightaway but occurs incrementally over about a month. Gradually building as you become abetter voice listener, learning to welcome the quiet within, celebrating the part of you that gets in touch with what you consider to be the real you. Does this all sound wonderful or weird and fanciful? Of course, it does sound strange, but it shouldn’t. At least until you try it. At times of great stress in our own and our families and societies’ lives, we need to incorporate new skillsets for new paradigms.

We’re all used to the concept of a 14 day free trial. Well here’s the challenge- try to still your mind over 10-14 home sessions, all by yourself - learn to ignore the distractions of random thought-bites, embrace the stillness and tell “me” how you go. Actually, don’t tell me, don’t tell anyone, this is all for you.

Over time, there are other aspects of stillness that you can introduce that will further the process of your-self-discovery. We can explore those down the track…

But I can confidently guarantee, that these aspects of centering your voice (mindfulness)will make a difference in your life, will make a difference in how you feel and will make a difference in who you become. Guaranteed….

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