Sunday, October 31, 2010

Quietening the Inner Chatter

Nice descriptive pointers taken from

Quietening the Inner Chatter - Part 1

The inner chatter in our minds is something we are all familiar with.  While we may have good and sometimes bad experiences in our lives that may move us to ponder life's deeper meanings or to seek out answers it is this inner chatter, more-so out of it's insistent and consistent barrage on our minds, that we are finally driven to seek out someway to quieten it down.  It gets so unrelenting and so persistent that once we have decided that we have had enough of it and we want to quieten it down, there doesn't appear to be any way to stop it.  We can't even go to sleep because the mind just keeps going and going!!  It's like torture "Okay, I'm over this noise in my head now.  I think you should stop now.  Okay, stop.  No no, I mean stop .... now!  Shhh!  I really mean it.  Come on now, stop!!! STOP!!!"

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.


It is important to take a step back and ask ourselves first "What has lead me to have this mind and all this inner chatter?" and to really evaluate what is going on.  It is through wanting, conceptualising, grasping, categorising, judging, pushing away, and thinking about everything we experience in life that our minds become busy.  In our day to day we have a thought arise about every thing little, every teeny tiny thing and what we thinkabout it, how we feel about it, what it means to us and how we can get more of it orget away from it. Through this there is a perpetuating cycle of mind busyness which over times results in a momentum all of it's own. It's like a freight train that's been gathering more carriages along its journey.  The heavier it gets the harder it is to stop.  After a while it has so much momentum that even when the train driver sticks on the brakes the train will just keeping on skidding and take a long time to come to a stop!!!  Our minds are just like this.  We stick on the brakes expecting it to stop and, "Holy crap! It's still going!"

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.

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