Something For You to Bear in Mind Even if You Are Not Ready to Explore Right Now
I received dozens of comments – mostly laudatory – after my last post on Mental Chatter is Fake News. It is here.
One of my former students wrote: “Great article Professor and I agree with the general premise but I always struggle between leveraging the mental chatter topre build a preemptive defense mechanism v/s the fake news aspect that leads to constant stress. If we stop listening to mental chatter completely, we will always end up being reactive and that might also lead to potential problems. Nature might have given us, as humans, mental chatter to take care of things before disaster strikes. Would we not risk not being strategic and stop planning ahead if we stop listening to the mental chatter completely. On the other hand, the constant “fake news” in the head is very stressful – I agree. How do we balance between the two?”
What he was saying is that sometimes our mental chatter might – just might – be indicating that there is something going on to which we should pay attention.
And he is right!
But he is right at Level ONE. And I will tell you what you can do at this level.
What happens at Level 1:
In this level you are going around doing your thing and there is this thing called ‘mental chatter’ that grabs you by the throat and drags you to places you don’t want to go. It creates all kinds of problems in your life and much of the time it excites and inflames and incites you with information that is flat out false.
In this level you watch your mental chatter and become an observer. This creates distance between you and your mental chatter and then your mental chatter can no longer take you to dark places.
Remember, mental chatter just is. It is neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’. Your problems arise because you identify with your mental chatter and become your mental chatter.
So, in response to my student’s query, the answer is simple.
Not necessarily easy, but simple.
Remain a witness and do not let your emotions take over. Examine what your mental chatter tells you and take it under advisement. It is simply a notification like the warning light that comes on in your car when you run low on gas.
If you treat your mental chatter in this way and studiously avoid ‘believing’ it and getting emotionally wrought by its message, you are just fine.
As I said, it is not easy but it can be done.
You just need to practice it diligently.
What happens at level 2:
This is the level at which it gets really interesting and what I say now may not make sense to you.
If this is the case, just ignore the rest of this post.
There is a duality in level 1. There is ‘you’ and you are the ‘observer’ of this mental chatter that is going on.
But this separate existence of ‘you’ is itself fake news!
What you consider as ‘me’ and are immersed in, is a body-mind-intellect (BMI) that is fictitious. It arises from thought and is insubstantial. It is like a dream.
You are NOT the BMI complex. You are pure awareness contemplating it. And that is what you have always been and that is beyond space and time.
The Indian sage Ramana Maharshi would frequently direct questions put to him back to this level.
A visitor would ask him what to do because he was anxious/fearful/sad and the sage would ask him to contemplate who is anxious/fearful/sad.
This is the most direct path to ‘enlightenment’, ‘realization’, ‘moksha’ or whatever you choose to call it.
And is really the only thing that matters.