In the midst of this busy world, I’m assaulted daily – by ads, by social media, by voices I barely even recognize. Trying to get inside people’s heads, to get us to buy things and value things, to think a certain way, there’s literally a whole industry dedicated to this. It’s called marketing.
I’ve found that Creative journaling and other forms of listening can be a great way to get all of these ideas out, to process them – and then leave them at the door.
Think about it.
The mind is a complex place, and it has the power to quickly become like Ouroboros, the mythical snake that eats its own tail.
Existential questions about the meaning of life can hit us at any moment and, before we know it, grow up to become an all-out existential threat. Is there a meaning to life, and does the meaning have cookies?
From the back of a cereal box or a leaf or a spoon, our mind can quickly extrapolate to the near-certainty that none of this world is real, only a gaping void where reality should be. Rather than run in fear from those questions, let’s talk about a little thing called alternatively meditation, self-emptying, centering prayer, and negative theology.
To me, one of the main reasons to acknowledge the voices in my head is not just because they might have important things to tell me. It’s because if I don’t, it’s not like they’re just going to “go away.”
Sometimes, the only way out is through.
I often think that our failure to believe in “magic,” to believe in the “unseen,” is a large part of the reason why we find ourselves so often believing in nightmares and engaging in massive failures to acknowledge shared truths. Because it’s not like those thoughts disappear.
Here’s a technique I learned in the mental hospital for how to silence the voices in my head. (I believe I have been waiting my whole life to write that sentence. Even if no one else reads it, I regret nothing.)
- Sit in a quiet place, with your back straight if possible.
- Picture ten candles in your mind. Each candle represents some thought that has been bothering you. You don’t have to know what each candle represents.
- One at a time, snuff out each candle. Remember, the candle is still there, but it won’t be lit anymore.
- Now, pause and introduce yourself to yourself. Be free to think about what really matters to *you.*
After a moment, even a moment, in this silence, you’ll quickly return to find that you are better able to discern and to decide between the voices. It’s like turning a computer off and on, like the occasional vacation from work, like venting your frustrations to a much-needed friend. We all need to take those breaks, and then we all need to go back to actually living our actual lives.
There are some exceptions. For example, it goes without saying that if you are in a coma, you are excused from all manual labor. At least some of us will pray for you to rejoin us one day soon, hopefully in this life but if not then in the next.
Here’s another possible exception. Let’s say you are a monk living in a monastery where everyone else does all of the work for you while you meditate 24/7, in which case I’m not entirely sure how you’re even reading this, but whatevs.
Very important: we all need to laugh at ourselves sometimes, if we are able. If you are able to laugh – and if you are able to laugh at yourself – then this is a gift. Unwrap and enjoy it often.