Hearing Voices

The place god calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
–Frederick Buchner

Your Creative Life and the Voice in Your Head
You are creative, even if you don’t think so. But if you tell yourself you aren’t creative, you make it true because once you believe it, you will make others believe it, too. It’s the repetition of the idea that makes it so. Our brain can’t distinguish between what we visualize and what we experience. Ever rehearsed a phone call over and over, and then think you’ve already made it? Our brain believes what we’ve rehearsed.

Cover of The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

Cover of The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

What do we do with this great ability? If you don’t recognize how powerful it is, you ignore it, frequently sabotaging yourself. All of us have the inner critic who chatters along all the time. “You can’t do that.” “Office politics are ruining your life.” “I never get what I want.” So we turn on music or the TV to push the voice out of hearing range. What we don’t do is change what the voice says. So we create a constant noise in our life to cover our own negative self-talk. And that noise won’t let in new ideas, life-changing thoughts or the silence that nourishes our souls.

Be Careful What you Rehearse into Existence
A dozen years ago, while on vacation, I read Paul Coelho’s The Alchemist. It’s a simple story, beautifully written, about changing your life. I loved the story. Something in it seemed real and true. But the instant I admitted to myself I loved the book, the negative voice in my head said, “What a lot of New Age nonsense! You can’t change your life by thinking yourself into a better position. How can you advance if your boss doesn’t like you? She made that cruel remark during the last staff meeting”

That made me think of the ways my colleagues could sabotage me while I was gone. For the rest of my vacation, I replayed this scenario. I arrived home stressed and worried, and discovered that our office space had been reconfigured. I was moved out of my window office into the cube farm.

I wasn’t surprised. I’d been rehearsing it for a week. I took The Alchemist andvisualize flipped it open at random, page 20.

“. . . at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and [believe] our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”

The book flipped to page 24.
“The Soul of the World is nourished by people’s happiness. . . . To realize one’s Personal Legend is a person’s only real obligation. All things are one. And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

I sighed. I couldn’t control the office moving. The book was part of vacation—and like vacation, it was over. I threw the book out.

Visualizations Show You the Truth
A few years later, I learned about visualization in a course on leadership. The person guiding the visualization told us to imagine ourselves as leaders five years in the future. I had been sent to this course by my corporation, so I took a deep breath and tried to imagine what my role was in this company. Instead, I saw myself standing at an art fair. It was a sunny, cool day, and I was talking to other artists. We were all laughing. I felt a great sense of peace. When the visualization was over, negative self-talk filled my head. “ What about health insurance? Don’t be irresponsible.” “You sure like those selfish thoughts, don’t you?” “You’d better get your act together.”

Meditation Brings More than Calm
I hated those thoughts. I decided to learn meditation. The basics were simple. Once it got quiet, I recognized the negative chatter in my head belonged to the inner critic. It to reminded me of my shortcomings, that the dryer just quit and clothes need folding, that I was not doing anything and a lot needed doing.

I kept putting aside the chatter; eventually it grew quiet. In the quiet, I began to feel comforted. It took a few months, but once my brain was quiet, the silence opened the door to peace, and after that, good ideas.

Stay tuned for tomorrow, when I take another look at The Alchemist and get serious about the inner critic.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer who has an inner critic. Unfortunately, the inner critic has a large extended family that travels.