Excessive thinking that comes up as incessant negative chatter is a problem for most. Why? Because it wastes energy. The tremendous energy or infinite potential that can otherwise be used for creative purposes. Therefore, our greatest desire is to get rid of this thinking mind that is continuously running in the background of awareness.
The problem is that the more we try to suppress or avoid it, the stronger it grows. Isn’t it? A lot of this chatter has seeds in the subconscious that sprout when the conscious mind is quiet. They create discomfort, irritation, and restlessness. When we seek help, we are often prescribed meditation as a practice to stop this never-ending flow of inner chatter. And while we feel some relief in meditation, the thinking mind comes back to haunt the moment we get up and go about our usual business.
The idea of avoiding thinking appeals to the mind. Therefore, people get fascinated by teachings, methods, and techniques that tell us how to avoid the thinking mind by diverting attention elsewhere. Our default behaviors are also based on diversion and avoidance. They are part of a defense mechanism that wants to avoid unpleasant sensations and emotions.
Therefore, when troubled, we snack on unhealthy foods, binge-watch television, scroll through endless social-media feeds (doom scroll), grab a drink, engage in sexual activities, show moods, and so on. The mind just wants to cling to something in a bid to feel relieved. Even contemporary wellness practices focus on exchanging one set of thoughts for another. While all of it has benefits, they do not help in the long run. We find ourselves falling back into the same habitual patterns during times of distress.
The fundamental problem is that we are trying to cut off thinking using thinking. We feel that this sense of personal identification or “me” is separate from the thinking. It is like trying to put out fire with fire. The more you try to “do” something to stop thoughts, the more restless your mind becomes.
You may be able to suppress thoughts momentarily, but they come back with a vengeance, often disguised as irritation. While you feel the irritation, you’re unable to access the original thought that you suppressed. Psychotherapy helps to a certain extent, but it is unable to relieve you of the pain in the moment. Even meditation and spirituality can become a method to bypass uncomfortable feelings.
When you recognize that “me” is the continuation of thoughts in horizontal time, you simply stop resisting everything. The sense of personal identification with a name and form as a separate entity is the root of all suffering. The “me” modulates a thought and becomes thinking in linear time. Every ploy to avoid the unpleasant sensations caused by thinking creates more pain. Every rationalization by the mind to block thinking perpetuates more thinking.
When you are totally present to the content of your consciousness, you don’t feel the urge to escape anything. You see it for what it is. So there is no need to label or judge anything. You recognize that thoughts by themselves have no power to influence you. They are inherently a continuation of the illusory “me.” They are simply appearances in consciousness that arise, play, and subsequently vanish. You are neither the thinker nor the thoughts.
You realize that the afflicting inner chatter is simply a happening, happening to no one. When this is recognized, life itself becomes a living meditation. Then we don’t create dialogues in the mind to justify or rationalize what is happening. There is a sense of total acceptance of What-Is – the unaltered and uncertain flow of life. You open up to a spacious presence where nothing has the power to influence you. You become the presence.