When I was a rowdy kid (yes, just ask my 4 brothers), my mother would (often) send me to my room. Being forced to sit alone was the punishment. Now imagine that I registered for a 3-day silent retreat where I’d be locked alone inside my head! I was not supposed to talk, make any noise, no reading, phones or books. Not even eye-contact or physical contact with others. My task was just to sit in complete silence, look inside and observe my own thoughts. Believe me, you would not want to be stuck inside my crazy head alone for 3 days!
So what did I learn? First, I learned it’s really, really hard to sit completely still for 3 days. My back ached, my legs cramped, my butt cheeks were numb and my neck felt like it had been corkscrewed. Humans didn’t evolve from those lizards who rarely ever move. We came from the apes and were designed to swing from the treetops. Sitting still is hard work.
So is quieting your mind. Anyone who has tried meditation knows about what the Buddhists call the “monkey mind”; the endless chatter of thoughts and dialogue that goes round and round inside your head. It’s rumoured that you have between 50,000-70,000 thoughts each day (how in the world are they are able to count that?), but the bad news is that 95% of your thoughts are the same ones you had yesterday and the day before and the day before. The monkey mind chatter just rolls on endlessly. Until you consciously do something to slow it down or alter it.
One of the themes for this retreat was Listening. Not hearing – that’s easy. But really Listening to complete silence. Listening to our own inner dialogue. How often do we ask ourselves questions that we already know the answers to? How much time do we give ourselves to listen patiently for the good answers to slowly appear? So much of our inner dialogue is busy planning, making lists, going over things and just doing, doing, doing. Very little is actually listening.
One of the most important things I learned this weekend was how important it is to give myself more time to really listen internally. Quietly and patiently. The answers will come if only I give them enough time.
Would you like to learn how to use your voice more powerfully? You are invited to join me on a webinar on March 22, 2018 (16:00 CET) to learn about some of the Voice Secrets of Great Communicators.
I look forward to meeting you someday. Until then, remember to: Speak Up and Speak Out! The world needs your Authentic Voice.
Best Regards from Rick Salmon
p.s., As we were leaving, the leader said something that stuck with me. He said “Vulnerability is the essence of listening”. I went home thinking hard about that. Maybe I will write more about this another time.