Yesterday was rough. To put it simply, I was in a funk. Lambasted by a combination of existential angst and exhaustion, I spent most of the day going through the motions of survival - eating, changing diapers, paying bills - finally collapsing into a pile of tears around 8:00 pm.
After thirty minutes of letting myself just sink into the couch and breathe, some clarity finally started to kick in.
The utter relief and sense of groundedness that accompanied this much longed for moment of lucidity, leads me to believe that I had simply gotten still and mindful enough to hear the voice of my inner teacher. She’d been reaching out to me all day, trying to provide her insight and wisdom, but I couldn’t make out her message over the static confusion of my internal chaos.
It was like a badly tuned radio, turned up too high, whose DJ was ardently intent on destroying my nervous system.
But the still, small voice got through - somehow, thankfully.
“You’re doing it again”, she whispered.
“Huh?” I responded.
“You’re doing that thing again where the moment you really start to feel and experience all those things you so deeply long for - belonging, a sense of security, stability - you flit around and do your best to muck it up.”
Dumbfounded, the static screeched to a halt and I found myself in silence, grappling with the wisdom message that had finally gotten through.
Parker Palmer sometimes refers to the inner teacher as “the soul” and describes this invisible part of us as:
A wild animal - tough, resilient, savvy, self-sufficient, and yet exceedingly shy. If we want to see a wild animal, the last thing we should do is go crashing through the woods, shouting for the creature to come out. But if we are willing to walk quietly into the woods and sit silently for an hour or two at the base of a tree, the creature we are waiting for may well emerge, and out of the corner of an eye we will catch a glimpse of the precious wildness we seek.
I’m quite certain that had I not gotten still - which, let’s be honest, only occurred due to pure exhaustion - the internal turmoil would have continued to escalate until I was an even messier heap of stress and tears. If we don’t acknowledge the subtle cues of the inner teacher, our self - the combination of our mind, body, and nervous system - tends to ratchet up the stress until we can’t help but pay attention.
What’s happening in your body/mind right now? Is your inner teacher trying to get your attention? What message are you needing to tune into?
If you are feeling pummeled by internal chaos maybe it’s time to slip away into the quiet for a while so you have the space to hear your wisdom speak her truth.
And how do we go about doing that? Slipping away into quiet isn’t easy these days and, if we are able to make it happen, it can feel scary since it’s so abnormal for most of us.
Here are a few tips that I’ve learned along the way:
Remind yourself that you don’t have to do anything “fancy” to practice mindfulness. You could just sit down and stare at the wall for a while, allowing yourself to take a break from screens and just be still.
It doesn’t have to last all day. No need to go on an eight hour retreat (though that could be wonderful)... set a timer for three minutes and give yourself the gift of doing nothing but breathing for those three minutes.
A lot of stuff will probably come up - thoughts, emotions, achy muscles. That’s okay. All that stuff was happening already, you are just allowing space for it all to be noticed and acknowledged so that it can pass on by which will allow you to hear the messages that have been drowning beneath all that bustle.
Counting the exhale is pretty close to magic. Breathe in, breathe out and count the out breath. Do that for awhile and then you’ll be able to sink a little deeper into that place where your inner teacher resides.
Sometimes it can be difficult to sort through our inner chaos alone, let us know if you’d like some support on the journey. Give us a call, we’d love to walk alongside you.
Jenni Kay Long, RYT, LCSW, ADS, is a holistic psychotherapist who integrates relational counseling with auricular acupuncture, trauma-sensitive yoga, and mindfulness. As a PMDD survivor, she is passionate about women's reproductive wellness and specializes in working with issues such as PMS/PMDD, perinatal and postpartum struggles, anxiety and panic disorders, and complex trauma.She is a clinical suicidologist, a certified domestic violence advocate, and is certified in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Jenni Kay received her Master's degree for clinical social work from Bryn Mawr College, her Classical Yoga Teacher certification from YogaLife Institute, and her AcuWellness certification from the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association. In her free time, she loves hiking in the mountains, writing, and creating modern embroidery projects.