What do You Think?
Thoughts Become You… if You are not Careful
Frank is quite miserable for last few weeks. He lost his job that is bad enough, but he landed up into another peculiar problem. He is simply unable to shut up his mental chatter that has been spinning only around one theme – he was fired in a totally unfair and hurtful manner.
He is unable to shake off what happened a while ago. Though he badly wants to, but the talking machine in his head does not allow him to. He knows fairly well that visiting a psychiatrist would surely earn him some disorder label – English alphabets do that very well! But being a self righteous man he wants to solve his own problem, though he does not know how.
He might be an extreme example of an issue we all face — an out of control mental car that follows no traffic rule and takes you everywhere you don't intend to go.
The uninvited mental bully can often possess you like a ghost forcing headaches, insomnia, severe restlessness, stress and anxiety and many other types of health trouble; it can even sap you of self-confidence and turn you into a nervous wreck. You become a helpless victim and it follows you wherever you go, like a shadow. If it lasts longer you can easily get buried under depression.
Thoughts and feelings have amazing power. They suck your attention right in and you have no power to stop it. Without control, you’re merely a physical puppet trapped in a mental hurricane — like a proverbial “leaf in the wind”.
So, how do you protect yourselves from the hurricanes in the mind? Simple: you look for a safe shelter.
The shelter that can protect you against the mental turmoil is also inside you – it is the rarely noticed mental space without thoughts. Your protection lies in the gaps between thoughts. The space between your thoughts is where you have power and freedom – advanced meditators know how powerful a prolonged state of thoughtlessness can be. The longer this gap is the more power and relief you have. The mental turmoil is nothing but an over-speeding thought-train that eats away this gap and saps you of power.
So, the solution comes down to finding the tool that would help you slow the speed of the spinning mind. What you call being peaceful or relaxed is nothing but absence of uncontrolled negative thought train in the mind. The fewer thoughts cross your mind the more peaceful you feel. In other words, your peace of mind and sense of well-being directly depends upon the room between two thoughts – more room means more peace, more power and more freedom. Enjoying this state of peace and tranquility is the aim of all spiritual practices.
You don’t have to be at the mercy of events of life. It is fully possible to train the mind so that it remains rooted in the “safe territory.” Even with good training and cultivation of mind unpleasant incidences of life will still be unpleasant but they won’t be able to throw you out of balance. So, ideally you need to learn to find this “safe mental space” and grow roots there.
You are certainly a dignified human being who deserves a private and quiet space away from the senseless noise of the mental broadcast. You must claim your right.
But before you go for that, consider this question first…
Thoughts that Fuel Mental Chatter
Egoistic thoughts and strong opinions make you vulnerable to mental chatter.
- I must not be ever wronged.
- Nothing and no one should ever hurt me.
- I am always right.
- People must always appreciate me.
- I must always be the center of attraction.
Attitudes that Reduce Mental Chatter
- Acceptance (of people and reality)
- Gratitude (for what you have)
Deepak Chopra Quotes
♥ “If you want to reach a state of bliss, then go beyond your ego and the internal dialogue. Make a decision to relinquish the need to control, the need to be approved, and the need to judge. Those are the three things the ego is doing all the time. ”
♥ “Holding on to anything is like holding on to your breath. You will suffocate. The only way to get anything in the physical universe is by letting go of it. Let go & it will be yours forever.”
♥ “Even when you think you have your life all mapped out, things happen that shape your destiny in ways you might never have imagined. ”
What Makes Thoughts so Powerful?
Frank is hurting badly because he strongly believes that he was treated badly – rather humiliatingly. This belief gives strength to what he thinks and the thoughts, in turn, reinforce what he believes. A vicious cycle, indeed. A cycle of self inflicted pain.
Just imagine what would happen if Frank had learned to believe that unpredictable things do happen in life; in fact, life is full of surprises, both good and bad. It is not always fair. That’s what life is.
Would he now still feel that much hurt? No.
Now imagine the scenario if Frank has many things as important as his job; for instance, his family, friends, even his spiritual practices. In fact, there can be many things people value. Having such a balanced perspective of life means not putting all the eggs in one basket – here the job.
With so many things to count upon, would frank still feel hurt that much? Most probably, No.
Why? Because hurtful thoughts would not find so strong support from what he believes now. He might still roll in negative thoughts but the intensity would not be so strong.
So the first thing is to fix the belief system and attitude towards life. The way in which we experience and interpret the world obviously depends very much indeed on the kind of ideas that fill our minds. If they are mainly small, weak, superficial, and incoherent, life will appear insipid, uninteresting, petty, and chaotic
Do you have a correct and balanced perspective of life? How pragmatically you know yourself and your abilities? How do you view yourself? Do you deal with people honestly or through a polished sham persona?
Such questions will constantly challenge your belief system and keep it healthy. When the health of your belief system is good, thoughts can never overwhelm you. If they do occasionally, it will be momentary because the belief system is strong enough to withstand the onslaught of irrational thoughts. They will never be supported by strong enough emotions to throw you into mental turmoil.
There is yet another way to summarize this section: Never get too attached to anything regardless of the reasons – because things do and can change without notice.
Now the logical question is: how to take care of the mental chatter and correct the belief system and the attitudes arising out of it. If you are aiming for a long term and sustained benefits, the practice of mindfulness is the clear answer. Like most sciences of mind, it is also originates from the East but is becoming fast popular in the Western societies for the simple reason: it is simple, universal and effective.
Cultivating mindfulness can correct perhaps all types of imbalances that exist inside you. Sustained regular practice will change everything over time – the way you relate with your thoughts, feelings and emotions, your attitude towards life, people, and everything around you.
Conceptually, the practice is very simple and involves efforts to sustain alertness and stay nonjudgmental. You practice remaining dispassionate and unattached to everything happening inside you, towards your thoughts and whatever you feel moment to moment sustaining the conscious presence of mind. You try becoming an observer without any conscious effort to think or analyze. In fact, the mind will habitually begin to think; it is your job to catch it doing that resume being attentive. You give up all efforts except to stay attentive, moment from moment and to catch the mind thinking.
With persistent practice you will begin to have a clear comprehension of the reality unfolding moment by moment. In fact, this is nothing but Vipassana (Insight) meditation. Vipassana is an ancient word from the Pali language spoken by the Buddha 2500 years ago, implying ‘seeing’ or ‘observing’ things in a special way – the way of mindfulness. It nurtures greater awareness, clarity, and acceptance of present-moment reality and wakes us to the reality that our lives unfold only in moments. In fact, with some training one can even become skillful enough to note the arrival of a thought, its stay on the mental screen and its departure very clearly.
Although mindfulness is basically not designed for stress relief, but freedom from stress comes automatically because it bring about changes in your attitudes and the way you look at everything, including yourself. So it attacks the root cause of stress, unlike most other techniques that merely teach you to relax. Yes, the correct way to counter stress is to go to its root and do something; merely learning to relax is learning to live with the problem (stress)!
The central theme of mindfulness practice is the development and maintenance of clear comprehension of reality moment by moment.
It means if you are drinking water, you are really drinking it with complete presence of mental alertness. If you are washing dishes you are only doing dishes, with total awareness of every act of the cleaning process. It might appear silly at the first glance – why put so much stress on trivial things? But that’s precisely the point.
You get firmly established in the present moment, conscious of your presence, and conscious of your thoughts and actions. There’s no way you can be tossed around aimlessly like a leaf here and there in the air.
The act of choice-less observation turns you from a doer to a bystander – who does not get involved. This creates a distance between you and what goes on inside you. Your identification with the thinking process weakens. This allows you more tolerance towards what you considered unpleasant thoughts. It also allows you more freedom and space to shape your response.
There is another reality of mindful awareness – thinking and mental attentiveness can’t exist simultaneously. If your alertness is sharp enough, thoughts can’t lurk around. You will appreciate this profound statement only if you practice mindfulness sincerely and diligently.
Hence, the very act of watchfulness reduces the number of thoughts that cross your mind. Now the space between thoughts becomes perceptible, showing you where to ground yourself firmly. With practice this spot become bigger giving you more freedom, more control and more power. If you are established here, the mental chatter cannot pick up much speed. Living in this space you find true peace of mind; stray away and expect to see your mind blown in pieces. Now you will not react but respond, to everything happening in or around you. Now you also know the difference between a firm and infirm mind!
Who says you can’t control the mental dialog!
How to Learn Mindfulness
Speaking from personal experience, a simple and (cost free) way to learn mindfulness meditation is to learn Vipassana Meditation. For systematic training and ideal atmosphere, you can join a 10-day Vipassana meditation camp. These camps are free and held all over the world.
Mindfulness meditation is easy to understand and anyone can learn and practice it, regardless of religion, faith, race or nationality. It will work on you whether you are theist or atheist. It is a universal science like physics, chemistry or quantum mechanics. It has the potential to transform you from inside provided you PRACTICE it sincerely!!! Regular practice is the key to fruitful results.
Don’t be surprised to hear that this beautiful technique is also being used in a lot of prisons all over the world to put sanity into the most insane brains. You might like to explore – Meditation in Prisons and watch the films mentioned there. Do expect some positive shocks!
Mindfulness will surely change the way you relate to yourself and your surroundings. You have nothing to lose except mental rigidity, narrow viewpoint and mental defilements that are at the roots of all your pains, conflicts and troubles! In fact, there is no other technique that can substitute for mindfulness.
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- 4 Basic Ways of Mindfulness
There are 4 broad areas in which mindfulness can be established, all within. These are the physical phenomena, bodily sensations, mind and mental phenomena laid down by the Buddha 2500 years ago.
Goodpal (author) on March 12, 2015:
Let the mind wonder. Just detach from it!! Don't pay attention to useless flickering of mind. The 'only' effort you do is to keep checking that you are in the 'present' moment.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 12, 2015:
I have to admit that often my mind wanders to where it should not be - negative thoughts. Then, it just keeps spiralling until my mood really gets drab. I do mindfulness once in a while but I need to be more consistent.
Goodpal (author) on December 09, 2013:
Thank Eric. If only the mind is controlled everything is achieved. But in reality it is easy to describe the mind as a "monkey mind" it is altogether a different reality to do something about it.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on December 08, 2013:
Wonderful hub! "monkey mind" is a problem. And a "herd of charging stallions" is a problem up there.
Thank you for being you!
meloncauli from UK on December 03, 2012:
Good article! I found mindfulness meditation as I recovered from panic disorder, which is awash with mind chatter. I found it good as a breathing space, it helped to correct my hyperventilation and eventually, as I recovered, it helped to make me a more accepting, tolerant and peaceful person. I still practice it today.
Goodpal (author) on May 14, 2011:
Yes, you rightly said - "negative inner voice can be a devil and very hard to shut up". But it is our own creation.
The negative mental chatter is what precipitates stress and anxieties that ultimately can create problems like high blood pressure. So, if we are careful to what's going on in the mind, we can avoid a lot pain and discomfort.
Having a polluted mind inside is worse than the pollution outside. Meditations and prayers are designed to preserve the inner eco-balance. It is another story that we forget this fact and chase happiness in the outside material world where it does not exist!
Thanks Dolores, for your comment.
Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on May 14, 2011:
Oh, that negative inner voice can be a devil and very hard to shut up. Thanks for the tips on how to deal with our own inner demons.
Goodpal (author) on February 03, 2011:
Isolation or escape from people is helpful for intensive meditation practice. Mind does get silenced doing that, but practice of mindfulness in general does not demand that. The trick is to apply mindfulness in real life situations and that involves staying with unpleasant people and situations also without reacting to them. One has to resolve interpersonal issues at social level; mental strength resulting from the practice surely helps doing that.
bheem on January 17, 2011:
i attained a state of absense of mind chatter by means of social isolation. But i feel it made a child who had to learn again the basic social behaviour and attitude.It was hard to come back again.
I wsih people follow other methods to attain it,.