This past week while watching our sons play soccer, a few other mothers and I were discussing our summer travel plans.
A trip to Italy. Travel to San Francisco. A vacation on Long Island. And so on and so forth.
I shared how one of my plans was to attend a yearly retreat with my parents.
“A retreat? You mean like a silent retreat?” one of the mothers asked me.
“Well, parts will be silent, yes. But not all of it,” I replied.
“I could never do that!” she exclaimed. “To sit and just be with my own thoughts. That would drive me insane!”
We laughed because obviously a retreat was not her idea of a ‘hot tourist destination.’ ?
More is less and less is more
Later that day, I pondered why something I look forward to every year would not be something enjoyable by all. What is it that holds us back from being still and being with ourselves? It would seem this would be the most natural thing to do. Yet I know that my fellow ‘soccer mom’ is not alone in feeling that being quiet with oneself can seem to be the most unnatural thing to do!
At Coaching for Inner Peace, the number one question that many of my clients struggle with is how to be quiet and connect to that small, still voice within. Many of the clients I work with are facing complex, chronic emotional and physical health issues that occupy a majority of their attention. Often, they are researching their problems in the library or on the internet. Or they are meeting with other health care providers to gain more information on how to better handle their problem. This would seem to be the most logical thing to do. The more I know, the more I study, the more I research, the better informed I am and the more I can take care of myself or my child or significant other. The more I think about my problem and weigh all the pros and cons, the more likely I can make an informed, responsible decision. That seems pretty logical, right?
In the arena of emotional and physical healing, I have come to discover that ‘more’ is less, and less actually can be more. More information that also is not integrated with our deep, intuitive knowing can actually cause us more stress. It is like going to a buffet and eating everything that is offered because you just want to try ‘one bite’ of everything. More is certainly not better in this situation! After a while, this approach can be a great recipe to come home with an upset stomach. ?
Learning to listen during pediatric residency
During my pediatric residency in NYC, I often was assigned to work in the emergency room. I recall doing a ton of history and physical exams with many children and adolescents and their families. I would often end up taking longer and asking a lot of questions. My senior resident would pull me aside.
“Seema, you don’t need to write so much. Why ask about developmental history or even family history?” And she would go on to explain why I didn’t need to spend that extra time.
My resident was not just a very good pediatrician but also a good friend. I knew she was there to help me but no matter how much I tried to be faster- I still would end up taking longer. Today, I realize that even then my mind was being trained to listen deeply. Of course, there were the externals of each case: duration and nature of the illness, medications, surgeries, allergies, and so on and so forth. Yet while I was listening to the parents, I was also tapping into that intuitive sense that all great clinicians somehow always seem to have. And doing that deeper listening required more time. It was necessary to slow down and ask those extra questions.
As you can imagine, an ER can be a very busy setting. Children crying. Parents and families talking. Phones ringing. Voices of other doctors and nurses. Yet somehow that experience helped me train my mind to block out the external noise. Even if a child was screaming and crying, I learned eventually how to listen only for the heart sounds to determine if there was a murmur, or listen only to the lungs and diagnose a possible pneumonia. In the outer world of the ER, there could be a lot of activity and noise. But when I was with the family and examining the child in front of me, all the external noises would recede. In that moment of time, it was just myself and this child before me- right here, right now. I was not trying to make anything happen because it was important to do the listening first. The treatment plan would emerge organically. Even then, I was combining the external data with my inner ‘gestalt’ sense of the child. This was my way to ‘marry’ the left logical, linear brain with the right, intuitive, nonlinear brain.
Our minds are like the ocean
When we spend time in stillness with ourselves, it is like being on the ocean. On the surface, there can be great turbulence with waves moving back and forth in all directions. When we first sit with ourselves, it feels unsteady and unsafe as we meet up with our thoughts and allow ourselves to feel our emotions- our fears, worries, regrets, anger, frustration and so on and so forth. If we are going through a separation or grief or other loss, we meet the pain of longing for something that no longer exists. This is inherently uncomfortable and it takes great patience, and persistence to move through this surface pain and discomfort.
I think that my ‘soccer mom’ friend shies away from sitting with herself because she believes that there is nothing more beyond this superficial, overwhelming and at times painful chatter. But what if we just waited and allowed for even a moment where we touched something deeper within us? What if we needed to go through this superficial turbulence to connect to the deep reservoir of peace, love and tranquility within- the same that exists at the bottom of the ocean?
Your own experience is your best teacher
I often give an example that all the reading about different recipes for a chocolate cake cannot make up for the actual experience of tasting the cake. ?So, the best way to connect with your Inner Wisdom is to have your own experience. You cannot ‘get’ this experience from anyone. Nor can I give this to my clients. Yet I do feel my purpose is to offer as many tools as I can to help facilitate this connection. So, below you will find some tools that may support your journey.
Here is a guided meditation to help connect with your Inner Wisdom.
If you feel inspired to listen to a YouTube video that I created a few years ago, where I share more about connecting to intuition, please click here.
Finally, here is a beautiful song from my friend Sean Mulcahy that speaks to the power of healing that comes from connecting to the place of Love and Inner Wisdom within us all.
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