Be careful how you are talking
to yourself because you are listening.
Lisa M Hayes
I often find myself deeply in conversation with myself seemingly unaware of what’s transpiring in my mind. At times I’ll be walking down a flight of stairs when I become conscious of two things. The first is that I’m caught in a conversation in my mind, and second that I don’t fully remember walking down the flight of stairs. Of course I have a faint memory of the descent but most of my awareness was focused on the conversation, in effect my awareness was not in the moment.
When I say conversation in my mind I’m not referring to the thinking we all do when we are working out say a logistic problem at work or trying to decided which school is best for our children. What I’m referring to is the mindless (automatic) conversations we have all throughout the day that have a life of their own and generally are judgmental or fantasizing in nature. It’s when you are listening that the amount of thoughts being produced becomes clear.
Examples of mindless thinking may include telling someone how to live their life, explaining to a friend why another friend is wrong or a myriad of subjects being created non-stop within our minds. It’s these conversations we need to become aware of if we hope to fully integrate intimacy with others and embrace the power of dialogue with our team.
Take a short break (10-15 minutes) a few times each day and listen to your thoughts. Be aware while you listen to the continuous stream of thoughts randomly bouncing around or maybe forming conversations in your head. Ask yourself, am I these thoughts I’m listening to? And also ask yourself if you are the one who is aware of your thinking.
It’s not even necessary in the beginning that you answer these questions. What’s important is to ask them each time you sit to watch and listen to your thoughts. The questions are but a device to help sweep away some pretty thick cobwebs.
Trust me I know this little exercise and the questions I’ve asked you to think about may seem way out in left field if you’re new to this. But if we have any hope of slowing down or even stopping the internal dialogue crashing around within our skull it’s important that we grow our self awareness. Our mind is populated with bias, assumptions, judgments and a myriad of mazes and tunnels we are not even aware that we’ve created.
Once you are listening and settle into sitting and listening to your thoughts try adding paying attention to the space that forms between your collection of thoughts. This space will appear as one thought fades and before the next one takes center stage. When you can let your focus rest within these thought spaces the size of the spaces will grow as will your silent awareness of current reality.
Throughout each day our minds generate thousands and thousands of mostly random thoughts. Most of these seemingly random thoughts escape our notice, they pop into our mind and pop out only to repeat themselves over and over and over each day. We want to become aware of these thoughts, become aware so we can move beyond random thinking.
Whoops! I looked up as I was clicking on publish to realize I was caught in a swirl of thoughts having nothing to do with what I’m trying to convey here. I forgot to include what may be the most important tip about how you are listening.
When you take a break from your busy day to learn more about how you are listening, the first and most important thing to remember is to not be judgmental as you watch your thoughts. The thoughts will pour in like a waterfall and our job is to watch but also to be aware of when our judgment side starts yapping loudly about how bad, negative, terrible or even how good our thoughts are. Your thoughts are simply your thoughts and are neither good nor bad, your thoughts are automatically being generated by your brain, you’re not sitting there plotting to do something. I hope 🙂
The more you watch the more random you see your thoughts are. As you go about your day and you notice thoughts remind yourself they are only thoughts, and gently go back to what you were doing. When I see myself trapped in thoughts I simply say to myself or at times out-loud “thinking” and return to what I was doing. At times I have to say “thinking” a few times in a row to break the spell the thoughts are casting on my imagination, but mostly I know I’m just thinking… Nothing more.
We have a growing collection of Image/Quotes about listening on our Listening Creates website, check it out when you get a moment.