After listening to John O’Donohue’s The Inner Landscape recently, I’ve been thinking on the concept of “a world inside yourself.” Though O’Donohue’s take is richer than this — his concept is of a whole universe of being inside yourself — I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to the notion of the inner voice.
Actually, it’s more accurate to say I keep coming back to it. “Listening for guidance” has come up in various contexts in my life, and come through in various explorations — from spiritual practices to meditation to coming to know God. I’ve always felt like if I just listen hard enough, I’ll hear guidance from something. And where I always come back around to is that there’s a voice inside me worth listening to, too.
Somehow, though, in day-to-day life, I forget that. I don’t listen to my inner knowing. I’ve struggled to make a practice of it.
I’ve struggled to make a practice of anything that requires I get quiet. Even when I put on noise-canceling headphones so I can focus, I’m listening to something — usually instrumental music or a white noise track, but sometimes I’m just listening to the quiet.
I’ve always had sensitive hearing. Sensitive in that I can hear a pin drop in an auditorium, but also that I often get overwhelmed by sound. Specific sounds, like a dog barking or a hard wind blowing, set my anxiety skyrocketing. Being in a room with many people talking at once is brain-melting — I’ve had to learn how to completely tune out everyone else except the person I’m trying to have a conversation with. Do you remember the gorilla on the basketball court? A whole herd of gorillas could walk by me, beating their chests, and I wouldn’t notice when I’m focused on tuning out the world to listen to one thing.
But to hear your inner voice, you need to get quiet. You need to pay attention not to what’s going on around you, but to what’s going on within you.
That’s hard to do.
Meditation asks you to tune out. Reflection asks you to turn on. I wonder if there’s a middle ground that would be more useful to hearing your inner voice clearly.