Next up in the Everyday Awareness series is a versatile little exercise to help you tame the runaway dialogue in your head.
One of the things that people get really hung up on when they learn to meditate, is trying to figure out what to do with their thoughts.
There’s this popular idea that meditation is all about not thinking.
And people get really discouraged when they can’t make their thoughts stop flowing.
It is possible to stop that internal dialogue…
But that’s really not what it’s about.
All those old spiritual traditions aren’t trying to get you to stop your thoughts. They’re trying to get you above them.
To realize that you are not your thoughts.
And to keep you from being swept away in the current.
(It’s easy to be swept away by a river when you’re in the river.)
A good place to begin is to realize the difference between the root of a thought—and the internal dialogue that chatters away inside your head…
That familiar verbal stream is not the sole nature of thought…
It’s just a low-level regurgitation.
It’s like a parrot, slowly repeating the thoughts you’ve already had.
For example, while working on a problem you may have a sudden insight and say in your mind, “Aha! I know what to do! First, I’ll hit the store. And then I’ll…” and so on, reciting all details of your plan.
But all of that dialogue was unnecessary…
The thought was complete at Aha! (That’s why you said it.)
So for this exercise, the idea is not to stop thinking—but to notice yourself repeating the thoughts that have already happened…
The Root of a Thought
Start by relaxing and taking a few deep breaths.
Pay attention to how your breath feels as it passes in and out.
And to all the movement and sounds going on in the world around you.
Pay attention to the thoughts running through your head.
It doesn’t matter what they’re about… Just pay attention.
Change your voice…
Whisper your thoughts for a while.
Then scream them in your mind.
The feeling you are looking for is the sense that you are listening to your thoughts, rather than speaking them.
Like listening to a radio show where your own mind is the host.
After you settle in to that feeling, notice the sentence that you’re in the middle of thinking… and ask yourself if you know what you are about to say next?
Like listening to a favorite movie that you already know by heart…
Do you know how the sentence that you’re thinking ends?
If you do, then why are you saying it?
Who do you think you’re talking to?
Sing a song if you have to…
Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday …
Do you know what’s coming next? Even before you sing it?
You do, right?
Well, if you already know what comes next, then the thought has already happened…
The verbal stream is just an echo.
Keep thinking, and keep asking…
How quickly can you know what comes next?
Seven words in? Three?
Try to notice where the thought begins.
Before the dialogue starts, you’ll find the thought itself…
The root of the thought.
It’s the knowing and the impulse that kicks the dialogue into motion.
And a single root can be responsible for many sentences worth of repetitious speech.
Once you feel the root of the thought, then you can work on stopping the dialogue.
If you realize what’s coming next, try to cut the stream off in mid-sentence.
Like holding your hand up to shush a relentless babbler…
As you do, new words will quickly replace the old:
I did it! I stopped talking in my head! I just told myself to stop talking and the talking just stopped…
But you already knew that…
You felt the monologue end.
There’s no need to narrate.
Stop that one too…
As you do, try to realize that YOU are not the narrator.
Up next: a quick and easy way to get out of your head—and back into your body…
If you liked this post, please consider sharing, along with a brief comment of what you thought… It doesn’t sound like much. But these small gestures make a tremendous impact on building our community, and helping other wayward rebels find a perspective that they can resonate with.
And if it spoke to you, why not Join the Tribe? It's free.. And this is just one tiny piece of more than two decades of impassioned work...... And YOU probably belong here with the rest of us!!
In any case, thanks so much for stopping by! – \m/ – Z
About Zach Herbert
I teach people to do cool things with their consciousness, and break their brains with beautiful ideas.
Professional heretic. Unlikely mystic. Host to rebels, misfits and independent thinkers.
Find out more here. And follow me on Facebook at: