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Setting Those Voices In Our Head Straight.

Someone I care about very much has tinnitus. He was helping build a house for Habitats of Humanity, and while using a power drill, his ear went POP.

Ever since that day (it’s been many years now) he has a ringing in his head that just won’t stop. Nor will it ever.

I cannot imagine what this must be like to live with. I see his face scrunch with discomfort eating in a restaurant that’s too loud, how he suffers to stay a part of the dinner conversation.

He’s spent years trying to find a remedy, from white noise from sound boxes to trying a new hobby to keep his mind off things to researching and seeing experts to try and get some sort of relief.

I wish I could just crawl into his ear and whisper sweet things, telling him it’ll all be allright and he’s loved.

One day, he excitedly called me to tell me he met with someone, a specialist in tinnitus who had some advice.

She told him to give this noise in his eardrum a name and to talk to him. To tell him he hears him but to take a back seat, ‘cause he’s the driver now.

I couldn’t help but think how that same advice applies to the chattering, critical voices in our head and the importance of taking our power back like that.

To say, Dude, I hear ya’ but we’re gonna’ be doing SOMETHING ELSE now.

I’m grateful you have so much to say to me because your challenging me to grow, but right now I’m choosing PEACE instead.

It’s like when I’m meditating and the monkey mind pulls my attention everywhere but the focus of the meditation.

The goal is to stay focused on the object (ex. my breath, a mantra, a visualization, my heart center, whatever—there are many ways to meditate) and not waiver to create an enduring sense of calm.

But of course, my mind still drifts. So when it does, I can say firmly, Hey [insert name here], let’s bring ourselves back HERE. And then, make it happen.

It reminds me of housebreaking a puppy. Training experts have proven that scolding and yelling NO! Bad Boy! causes negative consequences. It’s just like how the negative reinforcement of punishment can harm a kid.

If you have or had a puppy, you know it takes months to train them and loads of patience.

There’s this one way to train where you take their paw and hit it on a bell hanging from the door before taking them outside to do their business. Then when they learn it, they signal you to go.

Every time you catch yourself caught in the noises in your head and lovingly re-focus—it’s like a puppy’s paw hitting a bell.

That returning then becomes the practice. And the more we return, the more the dude in our ear goes into the background.

Meditation’s purpose is learning how to create sustained attention. But we don’t have to meditate to learn how to do this (although it does help). We can do it all the time whenever and wherever we are IF we remember.

The more attention we cultivate, the less those mind buggers get to rule us.

It may be a painful ringing we might never be able to be free from but with time, we can learn to lesson its blow by turning down the knob “just so.”

Then, we can give that voice a name and whisper to it, Hey, little fucker, I’M the one running this show.

Wishing you some peace and quiet!

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Lynn Newman