We’ve all been there: experienced the mind-numbing effects of someone who talks and talks and talks without ever saying anything of importance. So we tune out and think about what we’ll have for lunch. Or worse, we feel mounting panic and the need to escape, but dammit, the person is determined to keep their audience and mindlessly utters one endless run-on sentence, barely stopping for breath.
Blah blah blah…
Wafflers are often completely oblivious to the stupefying effect they have on people. They may wonder at the blank stares or impatience they evoke or feel insulted by the rudeness of people who interrupt them, or they may even notice the scattering of bodies in the opposite direction as they approach, but “mindless” is the keyword here.
This compulsion to babble is often a voicing of the stream of consciousness, that internal dialogue that is always blathering away inside our heads. It is really more a stream of UN-consciousness. We all have it, and for the most part are stuck with it. Much of this self-talk is self-defeating rubbish that chips away relentlessly at our self-confidence, reminding us of our fears and supposed inadequacies.
How it got there, in that sorry state, is irrelevant for our purposes, but most of it is conditioning received from well-meaning parents or family members, teachers or other people of influence. The Ageless Wisdom teaches that we are all born with karmic predispositions and proclivities that are like hangovers from past lives, to be surmounted or mitigated in this incarnation, so that we are eventually liberated from them and can gradually, across time, be more expressive of our higher nature. So you can’t blame it all on your mum!
Many of us go through life believing this chatter IS us. But it’s not. The thing to know is that with a little effort you can learn to monitor the self-talk and recognise it for what it is; from that point, you can change the self-talk to be supportive of you in your endeavours.
The method I will be describing is simple, no frills, but not easy. But so worth it. SILENCE…
A mental kick in the pants
The practice of silence is like a superpower, as it will have a knock-on effect that will touch all areas of your life like you waved a magic wand. In practice though, it’s more like a mental kick in the pants, knocking your mind into shape. And a mind in shape is powerful, with a capacity to uplift you on all levels, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
Silence is essentially the path to living mindfully, that will liberate you from the thralldom of your inner critic, nag and tyrant, and turn you into the master of your own mind. And when you master your mind, you also become capable of controlling your emotions and transforming your relationships. Not to be sniffed at!
My own healing process – finding inner peace
When I quit drinking in 2004, I had to rebuild a life that did not contain my best friend/worst enemy, wine. It was strange, as I was simultaneously bereft and liberated. I discovered, not surprisingly I suppose, that my mind was a mess, and that I was filled with shame and self-hatred. I felt an overwhelming need for solace and soothing.
I was dabbling with meditation, and using visualisation and affirmations, but it wasn’t until a year or so later, when I went on a weekend silent retreat at a Buddhist centre, that my healing process really took off and I began to experience well-being and inner peace.
How silence transforms
- In the absence of outward verbal chatter you become aware of the internal dialogue, which is a revealing, and often shocking indicator of the subconscious beliefs and conditioning that form the basis of your operation in the world. This awareness is the key to change.
- Recognition of the internal dialogue provides a distance in which you realise you are NOT your thoughts. You are watching your thoughts as they pass by. You are the one who is watching. This is the magic moment!
- Here, as the Observer, you become free to choose your thoughts. You discard the crap that was your operating system in the past and decide to consciously nourish the thoughts that support your well-being. In the Ageless Wisdom, this is known as the cultivation of the stance of the Observer and is an indispensable practice in the development of detachment, discrimination and discernment, all of which lead to spiritual growth and effective and useful service in the world.
- Recognition that you can consciously choose what you think takes you off autopilot and frees you from reactionary emotional responses that may have been your conditioned pattern for decades. This alone is like a breath of fresh air in your established relationships. You know those arguments that rehash every argument you ever had, that can so easily descend into nastiness and the repetition of programmed behaviours (ranting, crying, hurling a vase)? Well, now you can make a choice, a conscious choice, of which words and behaviour you will bring to the situation, and thus calmly arrive at a solution based on higher ideals and what you are actually trying to achieve.
- This upgrade in communication can shock and disarm your interlocutor, as they wonder where the you they know went! But trust me, they will thank you for it, although they may not be able to put their finger on what has changed. You have created a space for new energy to enter, and have liberated both of you from the knee-jerk reactions that may have fuelled your communication (or lack thereof!) for ages. You are free to make a measured choice that serves the good of you both.
- You grow up! I was probably in my forties before I embraced adulthood. Sad but true! This practice was the beginning of taking responsibility for myself and what I brought to the world through my thoughts, words and deeds. The Ageless Wisdom teaches that spiritual growth is really the taking on of ever higher levels of responsibility. While this may sound like a bummer to an already overworked or overwhelmed human, it is indicative of expansion, of increasing your sphere of influence and of pushing your boundaries to a higher order of operation in the world.
- You become more mentally polarised, which is a prerequisite to greater soul contact and that other kind of responsibility, which is really response-ability, or responsiveness to impulses from the soul. This means that your focus of consciousness is lifted from the emotional body to the mental body, where true thinking takes place and new ideas can be contacted.
- The still small voice of the soul cannot be heard through the noise of emotional baggage, unconscious responses, and preconceived ideas. Upliftment depends on an open mind and freeing ourselves of those blockages or hindrances to higher expression.
- It brings more meaning and significance into daily life, as you become capable of calmly assessing what circumstances demand of you in order to reach harmonious conclusions, and to understand the deeper need someone is expressing through their words and actions (which may not be as considered as yours).
- People will listen up and take you seriously when you speak, as they know you are not in the habit of speaking unless you actually have something of value to say.
- Your capacity for silence and the clarity of mind it fosters is like a gift to all those around you, who will be grateful for your capacity to listen with patience, and that you are not an exhausting mindless babbler like many people they meet. You energise others with your presence rather than drain them.
- The clarity and focus of mind you gain imbues your life with the direction, intention and purpose to consciously create a life you love.
What To Do
It’s very simple. Don’t talk for a whole day. Choose a day when you don’t have to go to work or have appointments that necessitate speech. Explain to your family what you’re doing, and wear a sign on your person if necessary saying, “I’m being quiet”, to remind them.
Stay away from your phone, computer, tablet, and TV.
Aim to spend some time alone, reading or going for a walk. Potter around, do some gardening, make a meal. Try to be fully present in what you are doing. For example, if you are having a meal, do not read or watch TV, but pay attention to your food, its flavour, aroma and texture, the act of chewing and swallowing.
If you go for a walk, allow yourself to notice your surroundings, the sights, sounds and smells in the landscape, the beauty of nature. Be aware of the sensations in your body as you stride along, the feel of the ground under your feet and the breeze on your skin.
At some point, you will probably notice that your mind has become preoccupied with an issue that has nothing to do with your walk. An inner rant laying blame on someone, or a problem that is vexing you has surfaced and hijacked your mind! Have a little chuckle, take note of their content, and refocus on the present moment of where you are and what you are doing.
In Coming To Our Senses, Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn writes,
“If we can imagine our thoughts and emotions as a ceaseless river that is flowing endlessly, whether we are meditating or not, whether we are observing it or not, it can be helpful at times to think of the practice as an invitation to sit by the bank and listen to its endless bubbles, gurgles, and eddies, its voices, images, and stories, rather than be caught up in them and carried downstream by the river. We can sit on the bank of our own mindstream, and by listening, come to know that stream and what it consists of in ways we never could if we are perpetually caught up in it. This is a direct and effective way to investigate the nature of the mind using your own mind as both the tool and the object of the investigation.”
Throughout the day, be aware of the thoughts that are arising in your mind. Try not to judge yourself over the nature of your thoughts, as it is highly likely that some of them will be unwholesome and unedifying. Just observe, note, and let them go.
It may sound an over-simplification, but this is the key to happiness. So much of our emotional and mental energy is spent agonising over the past or fearing the future. When you are focused in the present moment you liberate yourself from that unhealthy preoccupation which does not serve you, and you can focus your energies on the only place where they can have an impact: here and now. Where opportunities can be recognised and potential realised.
Jon Kabat-Zinn goes on to say,
“We are usually very attached to many if not most of our thoughts and feelings, whatever they are, and simply relate to their content unquestioningly, as if it were the truth, hardly ever recognizing that thoughts and feelings are actually discrete events within the field of awareness, tiny and fleeting occurrences that are usually at least somewhat if not highly inaccurate and unreliable. Our thoughts may have a degree of relevance and accuracy at times, but often they are at least somewhat distorted by our self-serving and self-cherishing inclinations, such as our ambitions, our aversions, and our overriding tendency to ignore or be deluded by both our ambition and our aversions.”
In the silence we can recognise the self-deception and the motivations that drive our action in the world. In that awareness we are free to choose more wisely.
The Sound of Silence
The practice of silence can be challenging, as we are not used to being alone with our thoughts. There are so many distractions vying for attention. But it gets easier and easier, and you begin to incorporate the practice into your daily life without the need to take a whole day out. You stop yourself from making a comment that might be hurtful to someone. You hear a critical thought in your mind, and say, “Oh, there’s Mum again!” In the midst of an important discussion, you disrupt an old pattern when it rears its ugly head, and create a new precedent where you stay calm and focused on acting with wisdom, kindness and integrity.
Gandhi said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
Silence is the transformative superpower that sets you en route to this happiness. The mastery of the mind it fosters will permeate all areas of your life with its harmonising influence, empowering you to create a congruent, fulfilling and peaceful life.
Even better, your mindfulness is the means of not only your own liberation from the negative patterns of the past, but also the liberation of others. They too will be freed when you disconnect the current that has charged your relations.
It is a gift you radiate into the world, uplifting all of your interactions with fresh positive energy and good vibes.
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Coming To Our Senses, Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn
What To Say When You Talk To Yourself by Shad Helmstetter
Crucial Conversations, Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler
You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay