Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ensnared By Inner Noise

Last week I was away for a week of solitude in the wilderness. As I sat on the dock watching the reflection of the full moon on the still dark waters of the lake, I sat in the centre of a deep abiding quiet.

And then I came home. But it wasn't the noise of the city that took me by surprise. It was the inner noise that made me want to get back in the car and head north again. I was dismayed to feel my mental hamsters back in their caged wheels, racing away. While I read and replied to accumulated emails, my mind was simultaneously muttering about what else needed to be done- there were bills to be paid, appointments to be set, laundry to do, phone calls to be made. . .

It wasn’t that the list of things to do was particularly pressing- it was that my inner chatter was continually revving me up. I felt like I was getting further and further behind as the day proceeded.

Finally I asked, “What is going on?” Following my breath, I deliberately switched from cranky to curious. Yes, there were things to be done- when is that not true?- but how had I gotten so scattered so quickly? Just two days earlier I’d been writing and reading at the cabin, feeling productive but not driven, capable of making choices about what to do next.

This wasn’t simply a matter of inner noise matching the speed and volume of the outer world. I had not just lost the quiet- I had lost my sense of choice. The long and banal to-do list had somehow become the tail wagging the dog. How had that happened?

As I sat following my breath, I became aware of what almost felt like a physical hook embedded in the centre of my body, in my gut. When I softened around this hook with genuine curiosity, I discovered endless barbs of mental “shoulds.” I should read and answer every email request today; I should get all household admin stuff done before I returned to the writing I want to do; I should participate more on Facebook and check in with friends and family because I have been away. . . .

And beneath these small nattering shoulds were bigger lies about needing to earn or pay for the blessing of a week away in the wilderness, lies about unworthiness when the truth is that life is a gift to be received and appreciated not paid for, and we are all worthy be virtue of being.

The weight of semi-conscious shoulds can crush us, drive us, rob us of choice and joy. If we are feeling rushed, pushed, overwhelmed or driven- we can pretty much assume that the shoulds are leading the charge within. Just taking a moment to bring them to consciousness allowed me to say,”No thanks,” to turn the computer off and go for a slow walk around the neighbourhood before I headed to bed with a good book.

Free will choice is directly proportional to consciousness. We cannot have real choices unless we bring to awareness the unconscious beliefs and fears that often shape and colour our actions. If we can bring some gentle curiosity to those moment when we feel out of control, when we wonder how it got so noisy and busy in our inner world, we can deepen and broaden our ability to chose how to live this precious life we have been given.

Oriah © 2013


  1. I did just that this morning. I should be getting ready for work, rushing about the house but Instead I went to your website. I found your poem, Invitation wedged in a book from years ago in my office library. I have read that poem over and over for the past few days now. I decided this morning to give myself the luxury of reading your blog and finding out who you are. Thank you for your post, it was inspiring.

  2. I love your honesty. It helps me be a little kinder to myself and actually feel that bit of peacefulness I am always looking for.