A few years ago, I attended several leadership workshops designed to support breakthroughs for participants in how they relate to themselves, other people, and their lives. Through meaningful inquiry, I created important shifts in my life.

When I first walked into the room of these workshops, I did not know almost every human being has a chattering voice inside their head, which comments on just about everything.

I learned I had pretenses, like an actress willing to play a role while behind the curtains of her heart there lurked other characters attempting to hide.

For homework, I asked myself, “What am I pretending?”

Then I observed sometimes I acted kind towards others when inside I actually felt resentful, burdened, and jealous. In other situations, I acted like a psycho freak from hell, while simultaneously hiding a loving, compassionate, ashamed, hurting me.

Today we’d call this Imposter Syndrome.

I learned about Already Always Listening-how humans listen to others through a filter. One of mine happens to be “I did something wrong. I’m in trouble. It’s all about me!”

Your version might be “I’m being verbally attacked! They’re judging me! I will defend myself!”

The filter fills up with a stream of judgments or limiting beliefs. You might not realize undistinguished judgments scurry about the inside of you during interactions with people in your life.

Rather than being quiet in your mind and fully present to another human being, you notice how busy and maybe loud the voice becomes even as you work to listen to another person. Like watching an athletic event, there’s incessant color commentary running in your mind which can distract you from paying attention and absorbing what’s actually being shared by the other individual.

Today many people might call this Unconscious Bias.

I also found out about how attached humans are to being right and making others wrong-you and I judge things right and wrong and complain. We often criticize ourselves, too, and many people call this part of themselves the Inner Critic.

Yet, being right weaved with complaints robs us of feeling joy, affinity, love, and deep connection with ourselves and other people. Being right and making ourselves or others wrong creates a gulf of pain inside the self and with other human beings even as most people desire meaningful connection, wholeness, and love.

In these seminars, I received much encouragement to discover and observe these internal mechanisms, to interrupt them by noticing their existence, and experience the emotional costs, of how exhausting it is to pretend, filter, and criticize. Gaining a richer understanding of my humanity, I began to experience the rewards of self-discovery and awareness which created openings for living life powerfully, for creating a life I loved, for possibilities, and for transformation.

I realized I gave my mind an impossible task of problem solver for life situations which remind me I’m not enough and too big for my britches; anxious and too joyful, ashamed, alone, betrayed, elated, tranquil…too something. I now realize I rarely pretend, filter, or criticize. I notice this part of my humanity as softer, fuzzier hues in the background or completely absent on most days. They are with me. They are not who I am, for I am the silent witness.

By engaging in the practices of your silent witness, you can get better at standing behind the waterfall of internal words and watching them flow into a rushing river. Some spray of thought drops may land on you, but they aren’t you. You can begin or continue to observe this poorly constructed mental house of cards and inauthenticity which do not ever protect you from grief and anguish when lovable, beautiful people and/or adorable pets leave this world. The chattering voice inside your head cannot buffer the heart from experiencing recent news of beloved friends, family, and strangers, who simultaneously endure difficulties and continue to show compassion in countless ways.

Limiting beliefs, incessant internal criticism, and pretending fail to stem the craving for certainty or build a brick-and-mortar building of control in an impermanent world.

May many breaths of simplicity enter your life as you turn toward an experience of gratitude for living surrounded by the natural world of trees, gentle rain, the sight of birds, rabbits, turtles, and maybe the warmth of a beloved ones’ hand holding yours as together you listen to soul-nourishing music or eat a delicious meal. May you savor these experiences of living as if for the first time. May you sink deeper into your very own quiet place of compassion within yourself and for all of life, for the suffering, for the immense love, for this precious day of being wrapped in wonder for our aching world. May you come to know a silence inside which thrives below, beyond understandings, misunderstandings, and distractions. For in the stillness lives an infinite love, an abundance of yet to be expressed dreams, a creative womb of ideas, a joyous, silent witness willing to move with the flow of the Universe.


The founder of Cherish Your World, Laura Staley passionately supports people thriving by guiding them to a holistic transformation of space, heart, and life. Laura is the published author of four books including Live Inspired which reveals the brave and deep work of self-discovery and her new book of short writings and poetry Abundant Heart: Thoughts on Healing, Loving, and Living Free where with her characteristic grace and candor, Laura shares thoughtful-sometimes comical reflections on healing, loving and living free as inspirational pathways for experiencing a soul-centered, fulfilled life.