Perhaps the most challenging listening that we attempt in this life is learning to listen to ourselves. We know our inner voice well in childhood, but often lose touch with it as the opinions of others dominate our life in adolescence. It is tragic really, how we are trained to not listen to ourselves, to believe that other people know what we want to become or do with our lives more than ourselves. Listening for this inner voice is sometimes referred to as listening to our instinct or to our heart. It may be all those things, but even more importantly, it is the voice of what is genuine in us.
Steve Jobs once said, ‘your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other people’s opinions drown out you own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.’ The chief dreamer of Apple products has clearly lived by his own advice and yet why is it so hard for so many of us to listen for and believe what is in us?
In part, our cultural love affair with the mind and all that is knowledge based is to blame. We trust experts of all kinds about our health, our professional choices and even our relationships. Our culture is driven by a colossal marketing/media machine which fills our life experience with noise, all designed to look like instructions for a better life. Many of us never experience silence on a daily basis. In fact a recent study just found that the recent increase in internet social networks has diminished not only time with ourselves but time with our family by over 30%.
Learning to listen to ourselves requires many of the same skills as learning to listen to others. In the same way that we give up our own agenda to hear what is beneath the words someone is sharing, we put aside the incessant thinking that dominates our days. This is particularly true when it comes to knowing the truth of our relationships. It is easy to be confused or distracted by feelings of discomfort that are inevitable while in a loving relationship. The intensity that accompanies the sexual dynamics of relationships is often given more weight than it deserves. Often sexuality is a reflection of the deeper listening and connecting that may not be going on in a relationship. And this listening has to start inside.
The skill of inner listening is the only true guide available to any of us. Without it, we can easily fall into a life which does not feel like our own and spend our lives in relationships that don’t meet our needs. Creating the time and space to listen to ourselves is the first step. Even if only for ten minutes a day, sitting with ourselves, in relative quiet can be startling. Getting a glimpse of dreams unanswered or grievances unaired, may be temporarily disquieting. But following those thoughts and trusting them is a sure route to transforming your life into one of your own making.