The narrator in your head doesn’t like to shut up.

It thrives on constantly voicing its opinions and judgments about whatever is happening. For me, it has taken becoming still to become aware of its incessant activity.

Maybe you’re different and you’ve found equanimity and balance through a growing awareness of yourself and the internal dialog and have been able to staunch the narrator’s constant stream of blah blah blah. If so, I’m envious. If not, then know you’re in good company with the vast majority of the human race.

Moving to Italy invites the narrator in your head to have a field day.

As does any significant life change, no matter how desired or loathed.

When I moved to Italy over five years ago, I had the storyline all locked and loaded. It was just a matter of it all happening according to my tidy little plans, right? I’d seen plenty of inspiring movies, read tons of colorful books. The scripts were plentiful.

Then life happened and I kept trying to get the script back to MY script and my timing. How dare things manifest differently!

I now know that I had to go through a painful awakening to this vastly frustrating dialog with myself to understand its utter futility­­­­—its congested knot of thoughts and judgments that relentlessly scan my surroundings and create stories. So much of it is fiction, even though I tend to convince myself of the infallibility my interpretations and judgments. Isn’t it crazy that we so readily ascribe truth to a thought, a storyline, simply because it appears in our heads? Talk about a throttle running on high and leaving no room for things to show up that don’t fit in with conditioned ideas about life.

Living in Italy is wonderful, but you can count on the unexpected. If you’re fixated on a personal storyline, well, you might struggle.

Let my experience be a cautionary tale.

Fortunately, my wrestling match with my personal narrator eventually brought me to burnout and to crying “Uncle!” That’s just how it happens sometimes (sorry, folks, most of us aren’t gifted with cloud-parting revelations). We exhaust ourselves repeatedly going down old, unproductive roads. The same brain and thinking that created the dilemma, the well-worn rut of neural firings, just can’t solve the problem it created. The day I learned I couldn’t think my way out of dysfunctional thinking was truly the beginning of my liberation.

I remember my first months of living in Italy. I was residing solely in Umbria. I’d be taking picturesque walks through the surrounding hills, surely high on tranquility? Right? Not so fast. I was silently yet furiously analyzing and explaining everything around me, what happened yesterday and what should happen tomorrow. I couldn’t just be without labels and striving to hold onto my experiences. My personal narratives were swooping in like a flock of hungry and aggressive seagulls, metaphorically pecking me to death. I was too wrapped up in myself, in my story, to be truly present.

Awareness is the key.

It’s so easy to swing into action and believe you have to do something, to go to the wrestling mat when you realize something is amiss in your life. My crying “Uncle” moment led me to the power of simple awareness. Instead of fighting or trying to purge unwanted inner commentary, I started just letting it be while going about my life. Sure, it was (and is) irritating when it elevates its volume to get my attention, but, more and more, the storyteller just runs out of steam. I deprive it of the very food it needs to keep going—a battle.

As I write this post, I am back at our home in the hills of Umbria for a few days of meditative yardwork and housecleaning. My companions are feral cats, frogs, crickets, and the sound of the wind snaking through the leaves of the trees. I am invited into spaces devoid of internal chatter. Ahh. Those spaces are like finding a mountain spring of the cleanest, most invigorating waters. Life takes on a vibrant flavor. The stagnation of old conditioning starts falling away.

Living life without a constant story feels incredibly liberating.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” – Henry David Thoreau

Let your Italy life unfold. Don’t let the narrator in your head sideswipe an unfiltered experience of life.

Bigger, better things await us in the vast unknown. I’m convinced of it. When I’ve been able to do my best with the things that do require thoughtful planning and work (plenty of logistics to manage) and then embrace a silent mind instead of being locked into doing and analyzing, some pretty damn wonderful things have shown up. It’s like The Universe patiently waits in the wings with a bag of gifts. When I create the space, when the internal dialog abates, The Universe steps in and says “Okay, let’s play. Let’s see what happens. I can show you things you weren’t able to conceive in your pre-packaged stories!”

Don’t let your mind tell you that you will cease to exist without an ongoing narrative.

I believe Descartes led us down a road of mistaken identity when he wrote, “I think, therefore I am.”

We are not our thoughts.

I’m convinced that it’s a big lie that we must define and locate ourselves in a glued-together, non-stop stream of thinking. I believe our bigger selves reside in the unspoken places of our beings.

I stand in gratitude for what life is teaching me. I easily could be mired in regret for having been at the mercy of my internal narrator for so much of my life. But, I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth. I’m grateful to the path, no matter how frustrating it has been at times, for helping to wake me up. And my life in Italy continues to deliver bountiful experiences, and way better than I had imagined.