As I was getting undressed for bed one night, I found myself in a moment of awakening. I noticed that I was having an argument with none other than myself. I was debating over what I should wear, which book I should read, when I should turn off my light and berating myself for getting lost on social media in the midst of it all.
It was a remarkable ‘aha’ moment because I realized that I do this all the time, with all things in my life. I’m in a constant state of negation. I’m either negotiating with the side of me that’s agreeable and easy to please or navigating the lonely, sad, tired, frustrated, and agitated parts of myself.
I negotiate with myself over what to cook and why, what to watch, when to workout, who to make plans with, how much time should a project take, when I should give my daughter my undivided attention, how I make excuses for others instead of having a conversation, and on and on. It never stops.
I suspect I’m not alone in this behaviour and that we’re all doing it, endlessly.
If you’re worrying about what other people are doing, how they’re living their lives, and the choices they’re making, it’s stealing energy from you. If you’re gossiping and speaking about people in a way that minimizes them, making fun of others or negatively judging them, you’re depleting your precious energetic resources. When I do those things, I feel more tired, less happy, and generally depleted.
The thing is, it’s the arguing with ourselves and our thoughts that’s depleting. It eats up our energy and wisdom, consumes our very essence, and erodes our peace. Once I noticed I was doing it, I began to pay attention. I began to notice the anxiety it produced in my own body and how exhausting it was. It ate up my creativity and patience and made less room in my life for the things I love.
When we allow ourselves to observe and not judge we get to explore the intricacies of our mind. This is known as a mindful practice.
If you practice you’re able to explore where your energy is being robbed. A practice of non judgment it allows you to practice self-compassion, which slows the self-criticism. In other words, you can make different choices without taxing your nervous system further.
It’s normal to do this, especially if you grew up in an environment in which you consistently had to navigate your choices to prevent outbursts from others. As adults we have to make important decisions about living situations, partners, kids, work, food, free time, and care of others – we’re in a constant state of negotiation. Ugh.
We need to find ways to reduce stress without escaping our lives.
Now my practice is that when I notice my mind in debate I ask myself what am I worried about and which parts of myself need to be heard. Whether it’s the pleasing part, the caretaking part, the part that wants less decisions or responsibilities, or the part that’s trying to take care of herself. We have endless parts that want a say, and if we pay attention (or with the help of counsel) we’re able to soothe ourselves by understanding what is actually needed. We can take care of ourselves instead of arguing with ourselves.
We all have many different parts of us, and this isn’t a psychosis, it doesn’t mean we have multiple personality disorder. We simply need to nurture the many parts of ourselves to tend to the whole.
The act of noticing what you’re doing will help settle you down and give you space from your mind. Starting with that is simple, and you don’t have to overprocess what you notice.
Since recognizing this I’ve felt more peace and less mind fog. It’s created space and I feel calmer and less agitated. But I still notice that when I’m not paying attention, my habit is to go back there. I imagine most of us want to feel less overwhelmed and more spacious; this is a simple practice that can have a profound impact on your life.
Another side benefit is that when you’re not arguing internally, external conflicts naturally subside. When you attend to the parts of you that need attention, you’ll not be easily triggered by other people’s conflicts. Seems like a win-win, at least to me!
Here is one of my favorite Sanskrit prayers: Loka Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu May all beings everywhere be happy and free, may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and freedom of all.