Over the Christmas break I was hiking in the mountains in New Zealand. As I was walking along, appreciating the beautiful scenery…. there was a dialogue, as usual, commenting on everything I saw and how I was feeling
Up until that day on the mountain I had always believed this voice was me, like I was the ‘thinker’. But then a funny thing happened – I thought to myself ‘wow that’s a really nice flower’. Then I heard a voice say ‘yes it is nice isn’t it.’ Well this kind of shocked me and I was like ‘where did that come from?’
It was then, for the first time, that I started to realise I wasn’t actually ‘the voice’ and this was incredibly freeing. For most of us the mental busyness arising from an incessant dialogue in our head is very common. However by recognising we are not our thoughts, we can start to distance ourself from them. Then, over time we’ll find they gradually start to reduce and our mind starts to become much more still and calm
As our mind starts to become calmer and more spacious, we’ll be more aware of our ability to focus our attention on what we choose to. This then feeds into our mindfulness training. Mindfulness is a technique we train in not to forget a positive state of mind. Mindfulness training is essential if we wish to keep a happy mind all the time
Gaining some perspective on our busy mind
Although for most people the type of dialogue I described is very normal, never-the-less it can often leave us feeling overwhelmed. Also, at times, like our head is going to explode.
It’s a wonderful thing to be able to have a clear mind, and start to break away from all the mental busyness. After I had that experience in the mountains, I found I started to see this voice or dialogue more objectively, until one day it just stopped altogether.
That’s not to say it doesn’t come back now and again, but for the most part I now enjoy a much clearer mind. It’s like you become aware of how much more spacious the mind truly is.
How then does one function you might ask, I mean don’t you need these thoughts to get things done? Well, er, no you don’t. It’s not like you don’t have thoughts any more, but they’re much more subtle. Rather than taking the form of a dialogue, they tend to manifest as more of a ‘knowing’ that arise from your awareness.
So how do we start to let go of ‘the voice?’
The dialogue in our mind can, at times, be overwhelming and most of the time it’s clear that it’s not serving any beneficial purpose. So who wouldn’t want to get rid of it? If not at the very least start to reduce it and finally regain control of our thoughts?
Of course we can’t force the process. And anyway we should understand that, although beginning to reduce our thoughts does make us feel more peaceful, it’s not the ultimate solution for being happy.
In fact it seems you really only appreciate having a clear mind when you remember what is was like when it was busy. Otherwise, once your mind has been like that for a while, you simply adjust and get used to it being more peaceful
So what can we start doing now to gain some initial experience that we aren’t the voice in our head and start distance ourself from it?
- We can start to notice the difference between choosing to generate thoughts and those that just arise
So distinguishing the thought like “I want to eat that thing” and the thoughts that spontaneously arise after it like “yeah it looks really yummy doesn’t it, go get it….now!’
- By observing them over a period of time we realise we aren’t any of the thoughts
Initially it’s easier to recognise that we aren’t the spontaneous or noisy voice, but over time we’ll also come to understand that none of the dialogue is actually us
- Start to relate to the awareness rather than the voice
When our mind is peaceful we’ll often notice an awareness, ie – we feel more aware and in tune with what’s happening around us. As we come to relate to the awareness it will, more and more, become our natural experience and the mental busyness will start to fade away
As well as learning to let go of conceptual thought, we also want to learn how to increase the positivity within our mental environment. Our mindfulness training involves making a decision to focus on a positive state of mind and then trying not to forget it
One of the best ways to do this is to tie it in with our meditation practice. For example, if we meditate on love in the morning then once we have finished we make a determination not to forget that positive state of mind during the day
Then we use our mindfulness training throughout the day to recall the mind of love. Whenever we notice it isn’t there we immediately bring it to mind. In this way we are training in mindfulness
By learning to let go of mental busyness our mind will become much calmer and more peaceful. If we also train in mindfulness (maintaining positive states of mind), then building on our practice of reducing mental busyness, this training will help us to become much happier over time
The great thing about these practices is we can train in them wherever we are. Maybe you’re in nature, maybe you’re doing your favourite sport… whatever. When the thoughts fall away and you experience an expansive mind, you’ll be tapping into a reservoir of peace and calm. By also generating positive motivations you’ll find it much easier to keep a happy and stable mind all the time
Any break-throughs we might have in learning more about this topic can be really encouraging. There’s so much to discover about ourself and our mind…. it’s truly an exciting adventure!