The most common response I get when I ask someone to join me in a meditation class is, “I could never sit still for 20 minutes to meditate. My mind never stops racing!” I completely understand that feeling because I used to feel the same way. Not long ago, before I began on this journey 2bpresent, I would often complain that I just needed a few minutes of peace and quiet. But I realized one day that even sitting in a quiet room did not do the trick because much of that “noise” was in my head, not in the room. Why is it that our minds are constantly racing and what is all that chatter up there? I like to refer to this “chatter” as our inner dialogue. It is that voice you hear over and over again in your head. What is your inner voice saying? Are you planning for the future, organizing your day, worrying about someone or something, judging yourself or someone else, feeling guilty about what you did or did not do, fearing something that might happen, feeling anxious or annoyed? I would guess that these thoughts take up a majority of space in our heads every day.
Now, ask yourself, “What benefit am I getting from all of these thoughts?” Often these thoughts are taking us out of the present moment, and causing us to feel stressed and anxious, but those thoughts are not actually helping us at all. I was sitting in a course recently when the group leader said that she usually wakes up and immediately begins to plan her day, “First, I need to get the kids dressed and ready for school, get myself ready for work, get everyone fed and where they need to go, get my work done, pick everyone up from school, get them dinner, help them with their homework, and then it is off to bed we go. I can’t wait until tonight when the day is done. ” This was all being thought out as she woke up and was getting out of bed. She explained that she was essentially missing out on the opportunity to enjoy her day because she was so busy planning for it to be over. There is nothing wrong with planning, but you can lose sight of your journey through your day, if you are more focused on how to arrive at its end. How often do we all do this – we focus on the goal or the destination in the future so much that we lose the opportunity to enjoy the present moment?
If you become aware of your thoughts, you will find that the majority of those thoughts have to do with some past event or some possible future event (one that may never actually happen at all), not what is happening right now. If we don’t learn to clear those thoughts, we miss the joy of being truly present in the moment.
Another question you may ask yourself is, “Why do we continue to have these thoughts if they are unpleasant and unproductive?” If we see a really bad movie, and we are annoyed that we have wasted our time, we don’t go back to the movie theater and watch it over and over again. Yet, when we have an unpleasant experience (we fight with a friend, get annoyed with someone’s behavior, or miss a business opportunity), we tend to relive that experience over and over again in our heads, each time bringing up the same unpleasant emotions. Why do we do this? I think the answer is twofold.
First, it is habit. We are so used to thinking this way, that we have a hard time just letting go of those thoughts. Second, we get a bit of a rush, a shot of adrenaline from being upset and this can be addicting. I think that in this country many of us are adrenaline addicts. If we are not moving at a rapid pace, worrying, anxious, moving quickly, then we feel we are not really living. But is this frenetic pace really making us happy, or healthy for that matter? How do we feel at the end of the day – fulfilled, happy and peaceful OR exhausted and depleted?
Take some quiet moments to look into your own thoughts. What is going on in your head? Are you ready for a change?