Can you hear that?
Listen past the noises of the house;
The furnace turning on,
The fridge motor kicking in,
The soft sighs of the dog getting comfortable on her bed.
Listen to the thoughts inside your head.
What are they saying?
What tone are they talking in?
Clear past the loud thoughts.
Listen to the hushed ones.
Breath deep and push past the thoughts that are upfront.
It’s the quiet ones in the back I want you to hear.
Many years ago when I was seeing a therapist to help me through my divorce, this was one of her favorite ways to get me to quiet my mind. I hated it. I hated having to sit there with my eyes closed, concentrating on stilling my mind. I hated having to fight past those obnoxious thoughts that were speaking the loudest. Those ones were easy to deal with. Those ones didn’t hold any value to them. They were just the white noise in my brain that kept the quiet ones hidden and hushed. Thoughts such as what to make for dinner. Or if I should vacuum. Or what would happen if I just didn’t do the laundry today. All the things I could see in front of me when my eyes were open.
But closing my eyes was more difficult for me. It was like my brain went to a different place. When I shut out the visual stimulations of my world, my brain reacted differently. It took on what looked like a freeway in rush hour traffic. Thoughts running every which way. Scattered. No direction really. Just running rampant through my brain.
Count to 10 as you take a breath in.
Count to 10 as you exhale.
I can still hear her coaching me along. Forcing me to slow down. Forcing me to hear those thoughts in my mind that didn’t speak as loudly. I would take a deep breath in; counting in my mind as I listened to her counting out loud. Then new loud thoughts would creep in. This is stupid. I know how to breathe. I don’t need a lesson on this. I’ve been doing this for years! All on my own. But there I sat, listening to her count. Slowing that traffic in my head to a crawl. Slower and slower my brain would work as my breathing got deeper and deeper.
That was when those voices that were shut out for so long would begin to appear. Timid at first. Like a child that has been placed in time out. First a glance around to see if anyone was paying attention. Then a little braver; wiggling in their spot to see if they were allowed to come out. Next, they would stand up. Pretend to stretch. Still watching to see if they would be noticed. Creeping their way slowly from their hiding spot that they had been so comfortable in. Yet wanting to be noticed.
Once my therapist had me in that exact spot, that deep breathing, very aware of my subconscious thoughts, that is when we would begin. “Don’t open your eyes,” I would be told. “Don’t lose your breathing pattern. Hold onto whatever thought is peeking around the corner to see if you are paying attention. Look over at it. Make eye contact. Allow it to feel safe enough to venture out further. Treat that thought like a small child needing you. Reaching out to you but from a safe distance. But reaching out none the less. What would you tell a small child that was frightened? How would you make that child feel safe? What facial and body expressions would you show that scared child?”
My answer was always the same. I would soften my expression. I would encourage that child to come closer, not with words, but with open arms. A soft smile. I would allow that child to curl up in my lap. Stroke her hair. Hold her close. Breathe in her scent. Deeply. I would allow that child to lean her entire body onto mine. To feel the safety of my heart beating. Slow and steady. And I would hold that child till the world didn’t seem so scary to her.
Then do that with those thoughts you have kept locked away in the far recesses of your mind my therapist would tell me.
Then the tears would come.
Slowly building up in my eyes.
That tightness in my throat.
My breath wanting to quicken.
My body going into fight or flight mode.
Because by allowing those thoughts to curl up in my lap meant I had to deal with them. I had to allow them to come out. I had to open my heart to them. I had to let them just be. No judgement on how they formed or why they were there. No opinion on how to fix them. No words on why they were so silly to begin with. I just had to let them be. I had to allow them to feel safe enough to surface.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5…
Slow it down.
6, 7, 8, 9, 10
That exercise was repeated many times. Then, when I felt ready, I tried it at home. By myself. Sometimes the thought would not come out. Sometimes it came running. But I learned to allow it to just happen. And that was the lesson. To just allow it to happen with no coaxing. No words. Patiently wait for that small quiet thought to come to me and just be felt.
I had forgotten about this over the last few months. Till this morning when a friend told me to just close my eyes and let the thoughts happen. My breathing has slowed. My mind has cleared a path. My quiet thoughts peeking out from their hiding place.
Now, I will just sit with them.
Author: Debbie Serafinchon