We quickly realise as much as we want it to stop it just seems to keep going. We try frantically to find ways to quieten the mind but none of it seems to make the slightest bit of difference. We'll typically at this point turn to all kinds of external means to find some peace and we'll drown it out with social activities, making ourselves busy, through entertainment media like TV, radio, music, x-box or even alcohol and drugs. These only serves as a means of distracting us from the noise. As soon as we remove the distraction the noise and inner chatter is back as loud as ever. Actually over time doing these distraction techniques just make the inner chatter worse by perpetuating the cycle. So how do we stop it? Well really the secret is not to stop it, I'll explain more as we go.
If we are lucky, in our search for a solution, we may eventually stumble across meditation. The common problem is people try it and think that meditation is about stopping the thoughts. It's a very common misconception and unfortunately leads a lot of people to try it and then walk away thinking it didn't yield any results. This is why I'm writing this article, to help bring some understanding to what is happening here. People often read a few blogs, a website or two, a book maybe or chat to someone about the basics of meditation and then sit down to try meditation only find it doesn't work. Or so they think!
In talking to people about meditation I find lots of people have tried it. This is really heartening to see. You can see they too are seeking some peace and along the way have tried meditation as a means of finding this peace. One of the main recurring themes I hear is that people say "Oh I tried meditation but it didn't work" or "I couldn't do it". My immediate response is usually "This is like water saying, I just don't know how to be wet". It's impossible for meditation not to work!! It has to work because it is by it's very fabric the nature of all things, including ourselves, our minds and consciousness. I'll explain this below as we go.
What is Meditation About?
So we have to be very clear, meditation is not about stopping thoughts. We cannot approach meditation with another "want", but often this is exactly what we do. "I want to do meditation to find some peace" or "I want to do meditation to be happy" or "I want to do meditation to stop this inner chatter in my mind". Again however this is the same cycle we just stated above. In doing so we've just approached meditation in the same way we've approached everything else in our lives, and in trying it like this we continue to perpetuate the cycle of inner chatter. So of course we walk away thinking "Well that stinks, it doesn't work". Meditation is not about getting what you want, meditation is about letting go. As you do this thoughts stop by themselves!
Ajahn Chah's has a little book of quotes called No Ajahn Chah: Reflections in which he says:
Remember you don’t meditate to "get" anything, but to get "rid" of things. We do it not with desire but with letting go. If you "want" anything, you won’t find it.By this he doesn't mean to get rid of something we don't want or we remove something that we want to get away from. He's not saying to get rid of the inner chatter or noise.
I'll explain exactly how that works in Part 2 and then in Part 3 what we can do to quieten the inner chatter, the common trap and how to apply this. Check back tomorrow for Part 2.