Most lives are spent waiting. Waiting for dreams to manifest, for trouble to end, and for life to be happy. Golden Zen reflects on the brillance of the NOW and the winks we receive from our Source to remind us we possess it all. Golden Zen is practical and mystical, instructive and reflective. You are my invited guest.

Stop Thinking

Stop Thinking (Guest Post by Simon O.)

Simon O from  Secret of Life, greeted me with welcome arms my very first day in blogging.  He encouraged me, helped me with my questions and has supported me ever since.  I think his actions, more than his excellent posts show that Simon has some idea of what the secret to life is really about. Based in England – he is geographically a long way from me in Vancouver BC, and yet I feel he is a part of my community.

I wanted to begin hosting guest posts and promoting the perspectives and insights of others.  Who better to have the first guest post at Goldenzen, than the guy who had the first comments to make?  I encourage you to visit  Secret of Life  and check out some of the well written and researched posts.

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Eckhart Tolle  was asked how we could gauge our spiritual development. His reply was an interesting one:

by the extent to which we have learned to stop thinking.

Not so long ago, this answer would have horrified me. If I had to stop thinking, that was it. I wouldn’t have wanted any part of spiritual development, thank you very much. I valued my brain and wanted to keep using it.

But of course, Eckhart Tolle wasn’t really suggesting that we should stop thinking entirely. Our brain is a useful tool. There are times when we need to use it. What he was talking about was stopping all the *unnecessary* thinking we do: the endless ‘mind chatter’ which is the unbidden soundtrack to our lives.

A good way to explain this is to think of computers. There are times when we need to ask our computer to do something for us: like download a file, for instance, or save some photos onto a DVD. So we make the necessary clicks of the mouse and the computer starts working away. The light on the box flashes on and off and there’s a strange sort of grinding noise which I’ve never understood. I assume that this is the cogs of the microprocessor turning round or something like that, though I don’t claim to have a deep understanding of technical matters. Anyway, a short while later, the light stops flashing, the grinding goes quiet, and the task is complete. All is well and good.

If our computer isn’t working too well, however, it sometimes starts flashing and grinding away for no apparent reason. It’s clearly working away at something or other, but nothing that *we’ve* asked it do do. The flashing and grinding seem to go on for ever, and all the things we try to do on the computer are slowed right down. It’s this sort of unnecessary background activity that our brains get up to all the time. This is the ‘mind chatter’ we’d be better off without. There’s nothing useful about it. It just gets in the way of our lives.

What is Mind Chatter?

This mind chatter is usually all about regrets of the past, fears for the future, and unnecessary judgements about things which – as Harmony would put if – are ‘none of our business‘. This is not about using our brains in any meaningful way. It’s unnecessary noise which gets in the way of us experiencing the joy of the present moment. It means that we’re stuck in our heads instead of living our lives.

But how do we lose this mental chatter? How can we lose this unhelpful habit of constant unnecessary thought?

Harmony touched on this in an earlier post, Help – I Want To Lose My Mind!  in which she encouraged us to observe our thoughts. This is a very powerful practice. It helps us to understand that we are *not* our thoughts. It is the first step to taking back control of our minds, instead of being controlled *by* them. Our mind is supposed to be our tool, not our master…

Here are a few other tips you could also try:

Focus on your breathing. This gives your mind something to occupy itself, instead of the constant ‘yammer, yammer’ of the internal chatter.

Focus on your heart centre. This can shift us away from being in our heads all the time, so it can help to quieten the mind. After all, we are not just our heads. Other parts of the body are also available.

Go out into the garden – or into nature. These are good places to focus your attention in the present moment, because there’s a lot going on to distract the mind from all that thinking: the smell of the flowers, the feel of the breeze on your face, the song of the birds…

Set an alarm (e.g. on your computer) to go off every hour and remind you to come out of your head and connect with the present moment. A good way to make this connection is to focus on any one of your senses. This might be the feel of your hands on the desk or the sounds in the room.

Perhaps you also have some tips that might help us to kick this terrible habit of thinking? Please share them with us if you do!

Here’s one more before I go. This is another idea which comes from Eckhart Tolle. Imagine you are a cat, waiting outside a mousehole. Now ask yourself this question:

“I wonder what my next thought will be….”

Simon O.

P.S. From Harmony:  I think this photo is extraordinary in portraying mind chatter.  In fact, the artist, who creates marketing materials, logos, illustrations and such can be found at Dianne Johnson

As for Simon’s blog, here are a few of the posts I have enjoyed lately:

Earth Doomed – (not quite as scarry as it sounds!)

Global Financial Crises – A Blueprint for Transformation

How Does it Feel to Win a Million

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Comments on: "Stop Thinking" (18)

  1. Quite an insightful post.
    “Peace is not achieved by controlling nations, but mastering our thoughts.”
    It is, however, easier said than done.But do we have a choice???
    “Logicians have but ill defined
    As rational the human mind.
    Logic, they say, belongs to man,
    But let them prove it if they can.”
    Thanks for sharing.God bless.

  2. Hi Simon and Harmony,

    Firstly, I would like to say to Harmony that the choice of Simon to guest post is an excellent one. I have read many of his posts which are outstanding.

    Secondly, I would like to say congratulations to Simon on another well done post that begs us to think a little deeper about “Not thinking,” and to realize that the mind is a servant for the Soul.

    Sure it’s wonderful to get lost in the mind and see all the tricks it can do, but it can also get to be too much and we need to send it on a holiday.

    My main technique for what I call “de-braining,” is meditation and opening up the senses, breathing, hearing, seeing and feeling the sensors inside respond to blissful nothingness. I never have mind clutter because I am constantly cleaning it. 😀

  3. goldenzen said:

    ^/> Surjit – Always good to have you here and enjoy your comments.

    ^/> Alexys – BLISSFUL NOTHINGNESS…now there is the name for an upcoming blog post!!!!! Just the words are full of lifting energy. THANKS

  4. The analogy to a computer is great. Our productivity would be vastly improved if we could train our minds to focus on the task at hand instead of wondering off every two seconds to think about things in the past or in the future. It helps me to think of my mind as a car which I have to keep on the central lane driving forward. If I become distracted it’s as if my mind changed lanes. If I completely start to think about something else it’s as if I suddenly turned left or right and wandered off down a completely different road. When I realize I’ve gotten off the central lane I have to bring my mind back.

  5. Hi Simon and Harmony,

    Great post, the computer analogy is brilliant!

    I have difficulty with Eckhart’s suggestion of being like the cat waiting at the mousehole. For me, that is a thinking process that takes me out of “beingness.” The moment I say to myself, “I wonder what…” I’m in thinking mode.

    My best practice for being present and to get out of my thinking mode is body consciousness. Feeling my feet on the ground; seeing parts of my body in my peripheral vision. This last practice gives me a feeling of perspective and in difficult relationships it is easier for me to stay emotionally centered.

    Thank you for a well written post!
    Cheers,
    Miruh

  6. Mental discipline is always within reach. Like many things, to become more effective, training is helpful in practices such as meditation. Whenever you describe something as a “challenge,” you are preparing your mind to expect experiences that are more difficult than they have to be. Watch what happens to your life as you consciously and deliberately integrate different tones of words into your practical usage. Stop choosing to think or use words that discourage or postpone the discoveries of all that you can do. Expect the possible. Expect that things will be easy, fulfilling and within your grasp. Then, you realize they are.

  7. Hi Harmony and Simon. I enjoyed this guest post — very thought provoking – ha ha! Ok, so we’ve come full circle now.

    I understand that when our minds are chattering we are unconscious. It’s like those times when you’ve driven home and pull into the driveway only to realize you don’t remember actually driving home.

  8. Very good post. Turning off the monkey mind is a good thing to do; too bad it’s so hard!

  9. goldenzen said:

    ^/> Marelisa – I saw a couple min of Oprah’s interview with Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. According to her, losing our mind, and losing touch with our lives,, can be euphoria. 🙂

    ^/> Miruh, thank you for your unique perspective.

    ^/> Liara, “Stop choosing to think or use words that discourage or postpone the discoveries of all that you can do. ” I can really work on that one myself. Thanks!

    ^/> Davina, good point…or like the reasons (fears) that flog your thinking throughout the day that keep you going to bed with the same task waiting for you tomorrow.

    ^/> Beth – specially late at night! 🙂

  10. Thanks again for giving me the opportunity to write for your blog, Harmony – and for your wonderful presentation of the post! Thanks too to Alexys and the others for their kind words. I’ve enjoyed reading all the comments. Just to pick up on Miruh’s point: I agree with what you say about the cat scenario being – ironically – a ‘thinking’ process. Eckhart is using the mind here to befuddle itself and switch itself off. It seems to me that he does the same thing in some of his talks. But if you are already in a state of ‘being’, then I can see that the cat technique may indeed be going backwards!

    I prefer to use the connecting with the senses/being in the body approaches which Alexys and Miruh mention, but they don’t work for everyone, which is why the mind-befuddling sort of techniques can also be helpful.

    I really connect with your quote from Jill Bolte Taylor, Harmony. Occasionally, such as for a few moments yesterday, I have brief periods when I connect with that state of bliss she describes. It is like cutting through the curtain of thought and seeing the natural state of joy which lies behind it. The way through changes subtly every time. Yesterday it was simply letting go of my focus on the end result of what I was doing. Suddenly, I was simply doing what I was doing in that moment, without any story attached, without any weight. There was simply delight in being.

    This is the problem with thought really. It constructs its own virtual world, which stops us seeing the real one. Which, I guess, is another computer analogy…!

  11. What a lovely post Simon! (and Harmony!)

    Was that my teeth you could hear grinding? (just kidding) – your tips about focusing on our breathing, senses and our heart centre, and going into a garden, are excellent.

  12. Hi Harmony and Simon – What a great post. I know there are times when my mind is racing a mile a minute, or else I’m analyzing something. These are great tips to bring me back into the present moment. The timer would work great for me.

  13. Hi Harmony, it’s great that the first guest post you do is on someone who has supported you with the very first comment on this site.

    I’d agree with getting rid of the mind chatter. It is useless and adds unnecessary clutter. A crowded mind can therefore think clearly. Decisions made will be largely unwise.

  14. goldenzen said:

    ROBIN
    BARBARA
    EVELYN

    Thank you for your comments and taking the time to read about not thinking…hmmmmm a bit of a paradox there eh? 🙂

    Having participated in an interesting discussion at Writer Dad’s the other day, I can certainly see that we all make quite an effort to leave comments on smaller sites. We do it because it means something to us, and I am grateful, very grateful for the thought and contribution of my readers.

    SIMON
    Thank you for reminding us of bliss and the momentary trips we can make there, if we allow ourselves to BE without thought. You are a friend and I very much appreciate your gift to GOLDENZEN.

  15. I have a question…

    All of the techniques you mentioned are meant to stop the unnecessary chatter and focus your mind whenever one desires a solution. So I was wondering if this technique also works – can you literally just stop thinking or try to silence the mind for 5 minutes?

    And then, say one is successfull for this period, and extends it to 10 minutes. On and on this would go until the person would have gained total control over his/her mind so that he/she does not have to think the entire day, except when a problem arises. Thus, with no background chatter, that person is in the present moment completely, and all of the wonderful benefits this has (that I don’t know). Would this also work? It sounds pretty much like meditation to me, but extended to my whole life.

    I think I just need some kind of validation because I don’t want to lose all of my time on a practise that doesn’t work. I try listening or being aware of my thoughts, but instead of stopping they just go ON AND ON and I watch them. But I want to *stop* thinking, and I think its just like a habit, if you practise it enough, it will stop.

    Hopefully I will be able to resolve my problems a lot more easily than I can these days (which I think is mostly my brain sabotaging myself). SO yeah 🙂

  16. Well then again Eckhart did say that one can chart his/her spiritual development to the degree that that person has stopped thinking, and since he did awaken, I’ll trust him.

    So ok, I’ll stop thinking. yay!

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