A Column by Relda Hill
Cultivating the Inner Voice
I have been hearing a lot recently about people who hear voices and how disruptive these voices can be. I want to say that I have empathy for these individuals and I validate their daily struggle to deal with this mental health condition. However, there is another voice that exists in each of us that does not get much attention. To be clear, this voice is called the inner voice. This voice is not a pathology; it represents the inner child at the core of our being. I have found in my spiritual practice that this inner voice can lead me through any distress that I may be feeling. In this article I will discuss my struggle to hear my inner voice and how I achieved peace and wholeness by listening to it.
Throughout the last 25 years, I have done a lot of research on spiritual practices. I was raised as a Christian, but when I reached adolescence Christianity no longer worked for me. I do not relate well to a God that deals with black and white rules and who does not have a sense of humor. In addition, since I had poor boundaries in the past I did not know where I began or ended. I was like an open book and anyone could write on the pages of my soul and mind. Moreover, since I was sensitive, I found that people really did not have to say anything to me. I was able to pick up their negative energies and I made the erroneous assumption that the feelings and energies of others were my feelings and energies. Sadly, my authentic self got lost in the struggle to gain my identity as Relda.
As the years passed, I developed a lot of “chatter” in my head. I define “chatter” as white noise. This white noise made it difficult for me to connect to the inner child in me and to my inner voice. For instance, when I was in the throes of a deep depression, my inner voice was my worst critic. I entertained thoughts like “You don’t deserve to live,” which caused me great distress. I felt that I did not deserve to live and I was very judgmental with my Self. This judgmental part of me caused me to act out in self-defeating ways. I nearly lost my life to this harsh inner critic.
One might ask “Why should I seek out the inner voice when it can be my own worst critic?” I believe that it is important to seek out the inner voice even if what I discover is harsh, negative criticism. I know that when I listen to the negativity that is contained within me that I can very slowly begin to change it. When I become aware of what is rotting within me, I am given the opportunity to liberate my soul. In simpler terms, I have a choice. I can either succumb to the negative talk or I can learn to transform it. Transformation occurs for me when I “starve” this negative energy by engaging in some positive activity like exercise, doing artwork, singing, cleaning my apartment or any other kind of positive activity. In my experience, I have found it worth my while to dig up toxic, old tapes so that I can face them and symbolically discard them. Whenever I engage in transformative activities, I am building positive, self-esteem. My salvation is not in medication but in meditation! Let’s be clear, I am not advocating that peers come off their medication, I am stating that meditation can be an instrument that leads to wholeness and healing.
Luckily, I have a persevering spirit and I began to read spiritual books and magazines. In addition, I went on retreats, entered therapy and spoke to many people who had similar struggles. Fortunately, I was able to find the strength to meditate even if it was only for short periods. I learned about techniques that helped me to understand cognitive distortions and how they distorted my world. I also learned that many of my reactions were based on traumas that I had endured during my life.
As my meditation practice grew stronger, I was able to hear my inner voice. This small voice inside of me became calm and periods of upheaval lessened. I discovered through meditation that I am able to get to the bottom of any problem. I was able to reach the “still” part of me. From this serene space, I began to heal. The “internal offender” or the “harsh inner critic” are still a part of my psyche, but they do not run my life. My ability to hear my truth from my inner voice strengthened me. I am not suggesting that I do not need other people in my life; I still choose to work with a therapist. However, I am not as dependent on others as I used to be. Simply put, I have learned to bear my own burdens.
For those brave souls who want to find their inner voice, I can offer a few tips. You can begin this journey by creating a sacred space for yourself in your home. You can decorate the space with pictures of a spiritual leader or decorate your space with meaningful, universal symbols. Some people like to have a jar of water to represent spirit and others use incense to purify the air. Also, you can use flowers or green leaves to represent life and eternity. After this sacred space has been created, you can sit on a chair or sit on the ground. Do only what works for you. There is an abundance of books that will give you more ideas on how to create sacred space. Observe your breath and make sure that it is calm and steady.
As you begin to do the practice diligently you will begin to move past the chatter of the “monkey mind” and find your inner voice. You will begin to get in touch with the part of you that has never been violated. Your inner voice will make itself heard and you will eventually feel calmness and a deep peace. Deep in your soul you will know that you have achieved something special that will be your guide through the rest of your life.