One of the most important things we can do to create change in our lives, at midlife and beyond, is to learn to listen to our hearts. I paid lip service to this idea for years. I thought I was listening to myself, but I came to realize that I had so many complex messages running around in my head that I couldn’t even begin to hear my heart’s directives. Most of the noise going on inside of me didn’t even originate from me. Little by little, day by day, through discipline and effort I was able to untangle the mess that lived inside of me and cluttered my decision making process and generally wreaked havoc with my life. Your head and heart may not be disconnected the way mine was, but if you’re struggling to make decisions, yearning to follow your heart’s desire but don’t know what that is, or live under a cloud of unhappiness, you can not only change, but find all the answers you need right inside of you.
STEP 1: Tune in to you.
Begin by slowing down, even if only for five or ten minutes a day. Create space in your day to do absolutely nothing. Use this time to relax and tune in to what’s going on inside of you. Pay attention to what thoughts go through your mind, what feelings you are feeling and where in your body you feel them. Don’t try to solve any problems or make any decisions, just notice and name what you are experiencing and let it go. Do this every day if you can or at least several times a week. When the fifteen minutes are up you may want to write down your observations.
Step 2: Identify the voices in your head.
By the time we reach 40, 50 or 60 years of age, we have such an assortment of voices in our heads we may have lost touch with which one is actually our own. We may think we are doing what we “want” to do, but we may actually be following the dictates of the culture, our parents, our friends, our spouse, and even our children. From little day to day decisions, to major, life changing decisions, do you know who is in charge of your life? Do you know who is actually making your decisions and what is behind them? As you continue a practice of tuning in, you will begin to recognize certain patterns of thought. Some you will be able to identify as clearly your own, others will likely be messages you heard from your parents and significant others. When you recognize a thought that is not your own, make a note of it. Later ask yourself, “is this something I believe?” or “is it just something I think I’m supposed to believe?” This time around, you get to choose which values and beliefs you will hold on to and which you will eliminate.
Step 3: Listen for your inner voice.
As you begin to eliminate the thoughts that are tied to beliefs that are not your own, your true inner voice will become stronger. The more often you are able to say, “yes, that is my true voice. That is a message from my inner most self,” the stronger you will become anchored in the real you.
© Dorothy Sander 2013
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