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.
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….”
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!)