I’ve been listening to a lot of mental chatter this week. When I notice an increase in the noise in my head, it is usually a sign of stress. When I experience stress, my mind creates a story. When I listen to the story over and over and feel the emotion of it, I become more stressed, and then everything is blown way out of proportion. Many years ago, the chatter would take me over and I would become depressed, but I’ve learned to recognize it for what it is and can take immediate action to relieve it. I’ve learned to observe the chatter and the stories as if I were watching a movie. I’ve even learned to laugh at my mind’s ability to trick me into believing its version of the truth. It never gives up trying and I won’t either.
While reading the other day, I came across this excerpt from the book, A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle. I’d like to share this with you because it really helped me to see how these mind-made stories complicate our lives and put us in a place of dis-ease.
THE DUCK WITH THE HUMAN MIND
In The Power of Now, I mentioned my observation that after two ducks get into a fight, which never lasts long, they will separate and float off in opposite directions. Then each duck will flap its wings vigorously a few times, thus releasing the surplus energy that built up during the fight. After they flap their wings, they float on peacefully, as if nothing had ever happened.
If the duck had a human mind, it would keep the fight alive by thinking, by story-making. This would probably be the duck’s story: “I don’t believe what he just did. He came to within five inches of me. He thinks he owns this pond. He has no consideration for my private space. I’ll never trust him again. Next time he’ll try something else just to annoy me. I’m sure he’s plotting something already. But I’m not going to stand for this. I’ll teach him a lesson he won’t forget.” And on and on the mind spins its tales, still thinking and talking about it days, months, or years later. As far as the body is concerned, the fight is still continuing, and the energy it generates in response to all those thoughts is emotion, which in turn generates more thinking. This becomes the emotional thinking of the ego. You can see how problematic the duck’s life would become if it had a human mind. But this is how most humans live all the time. No situation or event is ever really finished. The mind and the mind-made “me and my story” keep it going.
(From A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle)
I used to own ducks so this story really painted a picture for me. I enjoyed visualizing a duck having those thoughts and it all seemed pretty ridiculous, but that IS how we think all the time. I hear conversations throughout my day that sound just like that and if I sit quietly, I hear many in my own mind. So, what does this mean? It means that we are all carrying our pasts with us each day and that comes with a cost. We not only carry each memory of the past but the emotions that accompany those memories. Each memory and emotion becomes the definition of “self” and therefore, strengthens your identity, something the ego needs to survive. What I found interesting to read is that we can be a presence in our lives without identifying with our thoughts and emotions. The stories are not actually who we are. We are not our minds.
When I first read that last statement many years ago, I remember feeling blown away. If I was not my mind, then who was I? I started training my self to listen to my thoughts and mental chatter. I never realized how incessant the chatter was. It was constant and on-going throughout each and every day. It caused me to feel more stress. There were stories entwined with other stories which took me on a constant roller coaster of emotions. I felt trapped and unable to move. I felt hopeless. Learning to listen to the chatter as an observer gave me a sense of peace and an ability to better cope with life’s stressors. It gave me a choice.
Sit somewhere quiet and listen to the thoughts that go through your head. You will hear stories, one after another. You will hear yourself interject “logic” into the stories, but beware, that is part of the story. It is a complicated web of deceit and your mind will try to outsmart you. Remember, the ego will do anything to maintain its sense of identity. I also recommend the book Taming Your Gremlin by Rick Carson to help you gain some more insight into the workings of the egoic mind. Once free from the ego, you will notice that you are able to make different choices, ones based on truth not lies. Imagine what you could do with that.
Yours in transformation,