When I first draft the post about my recent and ongoing experience with anxiety, I had written my longest post ever. I just had so much to share. My thoughts and feelings would fly off into different areas. There was so much crossover. It was possibly my greatest moment of clarity and understanding of my experience with anxiety to date. And so I decided to break it into smaller posts. In this post, I continue my learning and growth through the observations I made around my inner voice.
Learning to Grow
My first lesson in this experience was humbling. From the idea that I would have learned all I needed to know about my anxiety by now – to then realising that the human reality is constant change, learning and growing. I thought I had changed. But it was always the same crippling and crumbling outcome with my anxiety. If the situation was similar, and the outcome was the same, then I hadn’t truly looked inwards enough to make the changes in myself. But thankfully, my yoga journey had begun and I had started to pave the way for the inner work I needed to do to create this internal shift.
Through my yoga practice and teacher training, I had experienced a deep knowing and understanding of myself. Especially through the Kundalini Yoga sadhana. One of the reasons Kundalini scares me is how it gave me a glimpse into my own power. It’s mind-blowingly transformational. (I can’t recommend it highly enough!). But my regular Hatha Yoga practice was maintaining a slow and steady exploration of my deepest self. And this is when I took time to listen to that inner voice. It was loud and clear. But that was about to change.
When Anxiety Silences Your Inner Voice
I was so used to listening to my deepest self that I’m ashamed to say I witnessed it slowly being silenced and didn’t do anything to save it. Corporate life began to consume me, burying my inner guidance at the same time. I sacrificed the things that nurtured me for the long hours and deadlines, keeping customers happy and delivering what I said I would deliver. The skipped breakfasts became skipped practice became “I don’t have time to meditate”. That was the first sign I needed to stop and reflect. My inner voice was screaming out to me, buried under late nights and trying to eat a salad in the 10 minutes I had for lunch.
Somehow I had allowed my deepest and most truthful self to be buried under a whole lot of shit that didn’t really matter. But the anxiety creeping in made me think that it did matter. And this is where I failed to see the opportunity to adapt and manage the anxiety by doing the inner work and listening to my inner voice. I had allowed the anxious mind to become the new normal. It was deafening.
Falling Apart to Be Put Back Together
Officially broken. I wanted to turn inwards and to hear my inner voice speaking clearly to me, but it was barely there. I couldn’t believe I let things run so wild that I had lost my way back to myself. It was in my darkest moment that I began to salvage my practice that had shipwrecked on the reef of anxiety disguised under the rough seas of a stressful work environment. There was a pivotal moment when I asked; how much worse could it get? And if I managed to practice yoga asana for even 15 minutes, it would surely only get better.
Returning to practice was hit and miss. It still isn’t great. But after a little while, I heard a resigned and exhausted voice inside me tell me to stop caring so much about my work, to stop giving a f@$k! It was a voice that sounded defeated, a voice that was fed up and that had settled for second place.
But this message was important. It would help me to begin to put myself back together and restructure the way I live and work with these feelings of anxiety. And with this message came the opportunity to invite my inner voice to the table. The opportunity to do the inner work and start making those changes from within.
Two Practices to Amplify Your Inner Voice
Part of putting myself back together was showing up on my mat for practice no matter what. The days I practised were better than the days I didn’t. And it was noticeable. So that I could listen to my voice and guidance again, I had to create the right environment within. The body needed to feel free and the mind needed to be still. And I would make time to listen.
Having a non-negotiable time and place that you spend in silence, just listening, is potentially life-changing. It might be the only practice you need. And it doesn’t have to be morning yoga, evening meditation or an hour long. It could be that 5-10 minutes while you’re waiting for the bus in the morning. You could make it part of your morning walk or study break.
All it needs to be is a commitment to yourself that you will take a moment to find stillness and silence so that you can just listen. For best results, morning non-negotiables allow your inner voice to be heard most clearly. As the evening poses challenges from other things that clutter the mind.
Sketch, Scribble, Write – Journaling is Your Best Sidekick
Much like the non-negotiable practice, spending time with pen and paper consistently helps to give voice to your deepest self. Even when you don’t feel like there is anything coming up for you. Building the practice and being consistent is essential to holding space for your inner voice.
Start with a blank page and use these prompts to get you going;
- What is true in this moment?
- What does my heart feel today?
- Is there anything I feel I need to let go of?
- What makes me feel most alive?
My personal favourite is the Practice You Journal from Elena Brower.
“Practice You is a map to your highest self; a field guide of your own creation. The pages of this Journal are full of potent prompts and inviting spaces, awaiting your contemplations and discoveries.”
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson