“Wild” Cheryl Strayed and Using Your Own Inner Silence

“Wild Cheryl Strayed and Using Your Own Inner Silence” written by Guest Contributor.

“People don’t like to think, if one thinks, one must reach conclusions. Conclusions are not always pleasant.”
― Helen Keller

“Wild” Cheryl Strayed

I received the book “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed from my sister for Christmas.  I devoured it in two days. It’s a fascinating story about Cheryl who at 22 thought she’d lost everything.

Her mother’s death at 45 scattered her family and then she went through a divorce. With no experience or training, she decided to hike ALONE more than a thousand miles on the Pacific Crest Trail across California to Oregon and in the process healed her wounds.

The story is also a top rated movie in the theaters right now. I couldn’t wait to see it this weekend after reading the book.

Fascinated About the Story in “Wild” the Book

I think one of the things that I found the most fascinating about the book is that she did it alone.

Most people who hike that kind of distance do it in pairs or in groups.  The most obvious risks with walking on deserted trails alone as a young woman would be physical harm by animals or people or falling without someone to call for help, but I think possibly even scarier than that for many people is the idea of being alone for that length of time with your own thoughts.

No cell phone, TV, computer or iPod  for distraction.

Study About Being Alone with Your Own Thoughts

In a study by Timothy Wilson, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, in 11 experiments found that most people say it is hard to be alone with themselves in a room for just 6 to 15 minutes. Let alone days.

And Some people would rather undergo electric shocks than sit alone!

In fact, 67 percent of men and 25 percent of women would choose to shock themselves at least once while trying to spend time alone with their own thoughts.

In one experiment, the researchers asked students to sit in an empty room without any distractions.  They said they found it much less enjoyable to spend time alone thinking than participating in an activity such as watching TV. In other words, we really can’t shut ourselves off.

“People prefer doing anything to thinking, even if it’s something painful like an electric shock!

The Challenges of Being Alone like in Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Here are a few reasons why people don’t want to be alone:

  1. It can be painful. Thinking causes people to think thoughts that they would rather keep hidden… truths about themselves.  Everyone has natural inclinations to negative thoughts. It’s easier to allow distractions to get in the way of actually dealing with the thoughts.
  2. It’s unfamiliar. Because our culture does not value thinking, it takes on the air of something sinister or mysterious. Thinking on its own, as an everyday practice rather than simply an academic exercise to be gotten over with, seems entirely foreign, and when something is unfamiliar to people, they often do not know where or how to start, just as most people, if suddenly put in the pilot seat of the space shuttle, wouldn’t know what to do.
  3. It’s a waste of time. There are sayings which have been over-emphasized by modern society along the lines of “What good is thought without action?” or “What good is knowledge if you can’t use it?” Our tendency can be to barrel into activity without taking the time to think about how it feels. It can be easier to be on auto pilot

Wild Cheryl Strayed - Wild the Book

Be At Peace with Your Own Thoughts

Whether it’s fear of being alone with anxious or depressive thoughts or it’s unfamiliar, or you fear it’s not useful, the benefits of even short periods of time alone with your own mind can include:

1. Stress Reduction.

Nothing reduces stress more than the quieting of the mind.  When the mind is quiet, the stress response is shut off in the body and calmness and relaxation are amplified.  If you want to lower your stress, strengthen your immune system, and build resistance to illness and stress related diseases, then practice the quieting of your mind for 5 minutes twice everyday.

2. Improve Concentration and Mental Clarity.

Regular practice in slowing and quieting the thinking mind leads to enhanced concentration, improved critical thinking, and effective problem-solving.

3. Enhanced Creativity.

Creativity flows from the heart to the mind.  Too much thinking stifles creativity.  The most creative individuals know how to shut off the thinking mind, so deeper creative energies are free to flow.

4. Freedom from Unhealthy Habits and Self-Destructive Patterns.

Our thinking mind produces over 60,000 thoughts a day and 85% of them are the same thoughts we had yesterday.  Feelings and behavior are driven off of thought.  This means well over 80% of what we feel and do everyday is preprogrammed by habitual ways of thinking.  Without the ability to quiet the mind and step outside the thinking mind, you are a prisoner to your habits and patterns.  By learning to quiet the mind, you place yourself back in control; your habits and patterns serve you, rather than you being a slave to them.  The freedom of choice is restored.

5. More Inner Peace.

Learning to quiet the mind leads naturally to greater, more profound levels of inner peace.- Hidden Treasure

You Don’t Have to Be Alone Like in “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed

You don’t need to go to the extremes of a 92 day hike for 1,100 miles to quiet your mind and connect with your inner guidance.

You can take the fear out of it by staring slow and practice being alone in smaller doses with short periods of meditation for just 5- 15 minutes a day focusing on your breathing.

 

Reference: Wild Cheryl Stayed

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