There are two worlds.
The outer world of actions and events. And the inner world of thoughts and feelings. Most of us are focused on how to make our life better by doing something in the outer world. Rarely do we pay attention to our inner world. Even if we do, then it is mostly when the inner world becomes painful and unbearable.
We live in a culture of doing.
We are pushed from a young age to achieve something and become somebody. Doers and achievers are celebrated and rewarded. No one ever tells us to notice our thoughts and feelings. There is no curriculum in schools that enhances self-awareness. Since we are so out-worldly focused we are often disconnected from our inner world. We pay a price for this disconnection through anxiety, addiction and depression.
Why does society not give equal importance to inner awareness, as it does to outer achievements? And what can we do to enhance self-awareness? Here are my thoughts.
We generally believe that human well-being is a function of acquisition. Living a good life means having a good financial income, a house, a family, enough savings to pay the EMIs and take care of children’s education. It is a cookie cutter approach. It is assumed that whoever follows this path is likely to reach the elusive pot of happiness.
Our education is geared to produce well shaped human blocks that fit well into the economic machinery. After all, the primary need of human beings is food, shelter and clothing. Armed with our educational degrees we seek our rightful place as working members of a productive society. One would believe having achieved this we would be content and live happily after. But that rarely happens. Why is that?
We forget to check in.
We are so lost and driven in our outer pursuits that we never bother to check what we are feeling or thinking. Any thoughts and feelings, which are contrary to the mainstream narrative of achievement and living a cookie cutter life are quickly brushed aside. We don’t have the time, nor are we given the time to express our authentic thoughts and feelings. Quite often we are so conditioned by how others want us to be, that we do not even know what we truly think and feel?
I started paying attention to my inner world in my thirties. I had lived for more than three decades quite unaware what was happening inside me. I was so busy following the socially approved way of living my life that it never occurred to ever ask myself — What am I feeling? What am I thinking? I mostly thought what I was supposed to think. I mostly felt what I was supposed to feel.
My first meeting with a counsellor made me realize that there is something called ‘expressing myself freely’. It was such a liberating experience! Just to speak whatever came to my mind without editing or censoring myself. And to have someone listen to what I had to say in a non-judgmental manner. It was my first experience of full self-expression.
Once I got a taste of it I wanted more of it. Like a small child that has been deprived of the freedom to be himself, I wanted to express my inner world without inhibition. It made me feel authentic. It made me feel real. It got me in touch with myself. I tried different modalities for self-expression such as art, body movement, talk therapy etc. But there was one approach that really struck a chord in my heart, which I practice till today.
It was Stream of Consciousness Writing (SOC).
While the name may sound complex, it is the easiest and simplest thing to do. Anyone can practice it. It requires no cost investment. And unlike counselling there is no dependence on another person.
Stream of consciousness writing means to simply write whatever comes into your mind. Which means you do not think what to write, how to write or how much to write. Just write. Without bothering about spelling mistakes, grammatical errors or legibility. Simply write whatever pops into your mind in the moment. It is literally like dumping your brain onto paper. Or on phone or laptop if you are using a digital medium.
I hear the birds chirping right now. And the train horn too. I am writing a sample of the stream of consciousness writing for this article now. I wonder what will emerge. I hope nothing emerges in the moment that is too personal or embarrassing. I can now feel my breath and the movement of my body. I think I have written enough to give an example of this kind of writing.
What I have written above is an example of stream of consciousness writing. It is a form of catharsis. One simply allows herself the freedom to express fully. And if you get stuck in the beginning, even writing “I do not know what to write…I do not know what to write…” is a legitimate form of SOC writing. In fact, there is nothing legitimate or illegitimate about it. Whatever you write is an expression of your inner world.
Ideally one must make a practice of SOC writing. It can be done in the morning or at night. One can allot a separate journal for it. It is a form of journaling, except one does not think and write. One writes his thoughts as they happen. Like transcribing what is happening in your mind, in the moment it is happening. SOC writing can be done for a predetermined allotted time, say 5 or 10 minutes or it can be done until the time you feel you have expressed yourself fully.
“What is the benefit of doing this?” you ask.
The proof of the pudding is in eating it. Why not do it and share if you find any benefits in the comments section. Personally, SOC writing helps me to realize what is happening in my inner world, which I would not know if I did not write about it. It helps me to feel lighter. Particularly when I am experiencing disturbing emotions. It creates greater awareness of the Matrix of my mind. And helps me to identify what software program is currently operating.
SOC writing is like having a personal counsellor at your beck and call twenty four seven. And you don’t even have to pay her. Isn’t that a luxury worth availing?