Growing up in a family where time spent outdoors was a priority, I learned at an early age what is meant to get quiet…really quiet. As a kid it was a major struggle at times, but I did get much better with practice. I learned that sitting perfectly still in the woods, lead to some amazing experiences, such as getting to see deer and other animals up close. (As a funny sidebar… I have had people on a ZOOM video call comment on the fact that I sit still so long without moving that they think my screen froze.) Long days spent on a river or stream fishing didn’t involve tons of talk with my Dad, but instead a comfortable silence in a shared moment of nature’s glory. It also got me listening to the voice(s) in my head on a regular basis. In today’s fast-paced and hyper-connected world, it’s gotten more and more difficult to shut off the noise and hear the silence. You need to get quiet so you can hear the voice(s); this is so you know what software your default operating system is running these days, and reprogram it when needed.
I used to think all the random thoughts and fuzzy noise in my head was like a song on the stereo in another room that you could kind of hear but not really. It was muddled and unclear at first, so to me it was incessant mind chatter that didn’t have a ton of meaning behind it. That is the reason behind my social media handle of Darrin Chatter. But that was before I started to really listen it what was actually coming through on my brain channel. Once I started to hear what my inner dialog was saying to me, I realized that a lot of it was negative, unsure, and flat out paranoid. I had huge amounts of fear as a kid, I was afraid of everything. Some of this is inherited and/or the environment I grew up in. I managed to extrapolate that if this is dangerous, then that, that, and that thing must also be dangerous or avoided. I was a small, very skinny kid and got bullied little at school. The kids I grew up with were all older and bigger than me, and I always noticed this and felt inferior. At school I quickly learned that bigger kids on the playground sometimes hurt smaller kids, through rough play, not realizing the difference between them and us, and of course through the usual childhood rites of passage like fighting and bullying. It was tough back then, but it is worse now, no doubt.
Everything you see, hear and experience affects your self image. As we are aware, most of the fellow human beings you are surrounded by are not the least bit sensitive to this dilemma. Despite suffering from the same conditions, or maybe because they do, they tear down those around them to make themselves stand taller. Ideally, these outside opinions should have little affect on our our self image, but that is just not the case. From an anthropological view, the ability to adapt to group life was critical for survival, and this deeply ingrained program is still part of the operating system. We crave acceptance and instinctively know we have to blend in or risk be ostracized out of the “village” we inhabit. Because of this, our environment and surroundings have a major impact on the self view we have, and we carry this forward, some of us for our entire lives. And as many agree, social media reinforces the insecurities many of us have, and the unquenchable desire that we have to compare ourselves to others. Hence the motivation for the “highlight reel” that people are constantly posting on the FB feed and Instagram stories. #winning is so the opposite…
The reason you need to sit in silence once in a while is to listen to what your mind is rambling on about. You have to be free of distractions to hear this deeper than just surface level. Some of the things you have to listen for are self-limiting beliefs, childhood traumas that the affects of still linger. Do you still think about that time that Sally said you were stupid or Mikey called you a loser, or you struck out in Little League and your team lost? If you do:
Think about how crazy that statement is:
We allow a childhood occurrence or comment to impact our entire lives.
You have to take responsibility for your condition, regardless of your lot in life. You could be from a rich family and have every advantage handed to you, and yet your self esteem may be in worse shape that anyone else we could compare you to. Self exploration is a MUST, and in my opinion one of the most rewarding things you can do. Once you discover the fact that you are a mess you can start taking steps to tidy up that mess. This is one of the reasons meditation has been a part of human culture of so is for this same reason; the purpose isn’t to remove all thoughts that run through your head, but rather learn to observe them from the third person perspective. This is ultimately what helps you gain clarity through meditative practice. I am a fan of some form of therapy for most people, as having a professional guiding you through the thick forest of the tangled mess your inner thoughts are is much easier with an outside perspective leaving a trail of breadcrumbs to follow. Whatever form your method of self exploration takes is fine, the critical part is that you have a method. You need to prioritize correcting your inner voice to push you forward, through adversity and everyday life; teach it to not hold you down or be a weight that you have to drag behind you in everything you do. As one of my favorite sayings goes: LET THAT SHIT GO. That is easier said than done, I understand.
One of the main reasons I love to fly fish is that this is my favorite form of meditative practice. Yes, I love to catch fish and enjoy the outdoors, as I always have. But a three day fishing trip, standing knee deep in a river hyper-focused on my indicator as it drifts over the water facilitates the deepest level of meditation I have ever experienced. I will go for hours completely immersed in what I am doing, no thoughts seem to go through my head. It is the most peaceful and restorative thing I do. Luckily for me I get to do this on occasion and it never fails to clear my head and heal my soul. In most cases, there is a long drive involved to and from the spots we fish, and during the drive I am listening to my inner dialog to take inventory of what my mind is pushing through the system. Nowadays I am a very positive and upbeat person in general, but I still catch myself with thoughts of doubt, fear, insecurity, etc., just like everyone else does. I am by no means immune, but because I actively do this evaluation on a regular basis, I can work to delete the things that are negative or self limiting out of the soundtrack in my head.
If you are unaware of what your mind is rambling on about, you need to take measures to find out. If you are well aware, you may need to fire that bus driver and get a more qualified one in place to drive you down the freeway of life. Every one of us suffers from this condition, as it is truly the Human Condition in a nutshell. If you want out of the mental prison you have been complicit in building over the course of your life, you need to pick up a metaphorical hammer and start chipping away until you see daylight. Recruit help of some kind if you need it, as asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness. Start writing a journal (or a blog!) and read what you write as if someone else wrote it. Evaluate how you would help them, and then follow your own advice. There is only one secret to this…
I wish you luck in your endeavors.