Peanut butter I have to remember to get peanut butter why did she wear that today what was she thinking did he pick up the dry cleaning who was that actor in that movie about the dry cleaner why did I wear this today what was I thinking…
Sound familiar? That’s because it is. All day (and many nights) our minds constantly barrage us with a litany of useless, mindless and often harmful thoughts and chatter. The Little Nag, as I call her, never, ever, ever shuts up. She (or he) makes you crazy with judgments, arguments, memories and useless facts. It’s like having your ornery old Aunt Gladys in your head all the time.
When I first learned this concept it was life altering. “You mean, other people have The Little Nag in their heads too? I’m not the only one? I’m not completely crazy?” No, you’re not crazy, the world is.
And here’s another life changing lesson: the ceaselessly critical voice in your head is not who you are. You are not the voice. The voice is your ego. And your ego is a jerk.
Freud and Einstein and Echart Tolle and all great teachers of the past and present will tell you that the ego is the basis of all your pain. The ego wants to control you, and it makes itself stronger by being a bully, a victim, a know-it-all, a negative Nancy. The ego works very hard to keep you in it’s power, and that is keeping you anxious, depressed, stressed out and miserable.
The good news is you can send your jerk ego to the back of the bus. You can’t kick it off the bus, but you can relegate it to the back, where it’s harder to hear The Little Nag and all of her judging and boasting. You are driving the bus, not your ego, and you have the power to put The Little Nag in her place.
“Well how the hell are you supposed to do that?” you ask?
Mindfulness; one word, one simple concept, one life changing practice.
Mindfulness is all about being present, fully being in the present moment with all of your senses and consciousness. For years we have been wandering around lost within our own heads, letting our ego rule our lives. And we didn’t even know it!
The endless internal chatter about peanut butter and dry cleaning and co-workers has been accepted as entirely normal, and we have been driving ourselves mad with the judgmental voice of Aunt Gladys without ever knowing that we could just ignore her. Mindfulness offers us an opportunity to break out of the mindless wandering and judgments of our ego and live in the present moment. Rather than following and getting caught up in the endless stream of crap in your head, you focus your energy on being right here, right now.
Live life in the present moment, where it is actually happening, and watch your stress and depression shrink to the back of the bus.
Try this: take a conscious breath – feel the air flowing into your lungs, making them expand, stretching your diaphragm. Hold that breath for just a moment. Now let it out. Feel the air coming out of your lungs, your chest falling, your shoulders relaxing. There, you just had a mindful moment. You just temporarily stopped the flow of chatter in your mind and got your ego in check. You just opened the door to inner peace.
Now don’t get excited and think “Dang, this is easy! I can shut that Little Nag right up!” Nope, not gonna happen. That Little Nag is feisty and not about to let you off so quickly. Mindfulness is simple, but not easy. The thoughts will continue, the chatter will go on, but now you can choose not to follow it. You can let the thoughts just float by without being carried away with them.
You do this by staying focused on the present moment, focused on your breathing, focused on your living self in this exact minute. This takes patience, practice and a little discipline, but it will come. I promise. And I’ll keep giving you tips and tools to help you along the way. In the meantime, just keep driving your bus, baby!