Mind chatter is the mind noise that never stops. It is the inner conversation or inner monologue that constantly goes on in the mind.

We are often unaware of this mental noise, because it has become a deeply embedded habit, something we may consider to be just a part of life.

Mind Chatter is like an inner voice that constantly analyzes everything about our lives, surroundings and the people we know. It is a voice in the head that just keeps talking and talking! It starts sometimes before we even open our eyes in the morning making a mental list of what we need to do, and follows us through the day, and is even with us when we close our eyes in bed, wishing something different had been done or said. It happens when we gossip, or think negative thoughts about others.

These thoughts can loop, go round and round, over and over. How lucky we are if this “broken record” thought is a positive one! What a struggle it is if it is a negative thought filled with worry, stress, anger or frustration. How horrible to have that noise chattering away inside our head all day long. We really could do without it!

The first step to quieting this chatter, is to realize it exists! Then we have to sort out if it is our True Self talking, or is it our sub-conscious? Often the cause is fear, in some form: the “what ifs”. This chatter tries to bring some sort of order from the perceived chaos: we have to consider all the options so we will be safer.

When we get wrapped up in this noise, while we are focused on it, listening to it, we are missing out on life going on around us.

We need to stop the Mind Chatter by learning how to stop our unconscious mind’s habit of “running off at the mouth”. Pay attention to what it is saying. If you hear negatives: “I can’t”, “I should, “what will I do?”, stop the dialogue. Make the conscious effort to change your thought process: tell the chatter to “STOP”, say ” I can”,” I am OK”, “I can handle this, I can figure it out”. Take control. We need to repeat this every time the negative chatter gets going, until there is a natural replacement of positive, rather that negative dialogue.

We will always have this mind chatter going on. Our mind loves to be busy. We can, however, change the topic! We have to be careful because when our mind chatters, we listen, and we remember. If our chatter is negative, guess what we remember? Information is continually being recorded and stored for future reference.

Brian Tracey says, “Perhaps the most powerful influence on your attitude and personality is what you say to yourself, and believe. It is not what happens to you, but how you respond internally to what happens to you, that determines your thoughts and feelings and, ultimately, your actions. By controlling your inner dialogue, or “self-talk,” you can begin to assert control over every other dimension of your life.”

Remez Sasson offers these insights on what mind chatter is :

  1. Thoughts that repeat themselves like a tape that keeps playing the same tune.
  2. Reliving negative past situations or visualizing fears over and over again.
  3. Dwelling on the past or fearing the future. This prevents us from enjoying the present. The past is gone, and the future is the product of our present thinking and actions. The only time that exists is now, the present moment.
  4. Compulsive inner monologue that disturbs our peace and makes the mind busy.
  5. Never being here. Always thinking on something else, instead of what we are doing now. If we always think on something else we never enjoy the moment.
  6. Constant analysis of our and other people’s situations, reactions and behavior. Analyzing the past, the future, things we need or want to do, our day, yesterday and the distant past.
  7. Almost all involuntary thinking and daydreaming are some sort of mental noise. This is often a constant background noise, which often intrudes into foreground in the middle of everything we do.

How do we gain control? Through some hard, thoughtful work and patience.

We have to be aware of this noise. Then we have to understand that it is our brain’s attempt to protect us from the unknown by pretending it knows what will happen. First we have to tell that noise, the chatter, to STOP. Then take the negative thoughts and turn them into positive: “I can’t do this…” to, “ I can do this”.

Breathe, count to 10, sing a favorite verse of song…let your mind know you are not interested in the negative chatter. Learn to “see” the chatter, imagine it written on a blackboard and watch as it is erased and the see the board clear and clean and blank……and then keep the board blank, do not let anything else be written.

We can also work to change the chatter, and make it useful and powerful in a positive way. Begin a routine of beginning your day with positive thoughts. Instead of “oh, I HAVE to take a shower”, turn it into “The hot shower will feel good.”  Replace “I have so much to do today”, with “I am going to accomplish a lot today”.

Mid-day, find a few moments and slow down. As thoughts creep in…erase them. Be still. Pat yourself on the back, “I’ve made progress”, “I am handling things well”.

At the end of the day, tell your mind to STOP chattering. When it starts up, divert and recite a poem, sing a song, do a multiplication table! Do not let it get chatting….

Some ideas of how to quiet your mind chatter include this from

Swami Nithya Bhaktananda

  1. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Do not make excuses, “I am busy then.”, “I already have plans.” Make a conscious decision to say the absolute truth, or what you actually mean. The absolute truth doesn’t have to be harsh or hurtful, you can do so compassionately and authentically, but firmly. When you own what you say, no one can reject it, even if they don’t like what they hear; because you are telling the truth and you mean it. Make a conscious commitment to yourself to mean everything that you say, and not to make empty promises that you cannot, will not, do not intend to fulfill. Do not tell someone you will call if you know you won’t. Telling the truth prevents the mind from having something to chatter about!
  2. Don’t say to anyone unless you can say to everyone. “Make a commitment to yourself, that you will not say something to one person, unless you can announce it to the world, to everybody. Make a commitment to stop the spreading of drama and bad energy.”
  3. Don’t say inside, what you cannot say outside. When the chatter starts, especially when the thought is full of negativity like “I am so stupid”, or “I feel like a failure”, say to yourself, or even out loud: “STOP! From today forward, I choose to let this thought go, for it does not uplift me. I am exposing this thought as being false, for you are not real! From today onward, I am free from this thought.”  Whatever thought you are not able to say out aloud to people (anyone), don’t even bother entertaining inside your head. Keep your inner space clean. While you may share your self doubt with others as a means of processing, you would never go around introducing yourself as “stupid” or as a “failure”, so stop your mind chatter from saying it to you.

Don’t let Chatter say it unless it is true, useful or kind. Be conscious of what you say and only say it if any of the following is true:

Is what I’m saying …

  • True to me? An authentic statement from my heart?
  • Useful or helpful to someone or some situation?
  • Kind or compassionate? Such as a compliment, or an offer of help.

Don’t let your spoken words run rampant either. Be conscious of what you say out loud. Your mind chatter will begin to reflect that, and you will not have to battle the mind chatter caused by speaking meaningless, gossipy, hurtful words.

http://thinksimplenow.com/clarity/how-to-quiet-your-mind/

Another interesting site is: http://www.aquietmind.com/2011/09/28/day-1-quiet-mind/

It offers simple, short, day by day suggestions to slow and quiet your mind chatter through attainable steps.

As we change and grow and move towards fulfilling our potential, free from mind chatter that slows us down, we also begin to change those around us. And one by one, the change spreads. You are good, and strong, and kind and of value. Make sure your mind chatter is telling you the same thing, or else tell it to STOP, so that you can GO forward.

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Familiar with The Society Of Friends? The Quakers? They have in their history a beautiful “dance” song called Simple Gifts. You may know it from Copeland’s Appalachian Spring, or from Obama’s inauguration when YoYo Ma and others played Aire and Simple Gifts. The music is breath-taking. The words speak of ideals few us might ever even consider: “to bow and to bend”, “tis a gift to be simple”, “to come down where we ought to be”. Words of humility.

How do these words have the power to influence our potentiality? The words remind us of what is important, no matter the time we live in, our social status or anything else. If we remember we are a part of something bigger, or that there is something bigger than us as an individual, we can be at ease with humility (to bow) , to turn and be able to compromise, to be grateful, to bend and seek simplicity rather than complexity. We can be free from self-importance, wanting, desiring, wishing for…..and find satisfaction with the moment.  We can “come down to where we’re meant to be”, and realize that for most of us, especially if you are reading this, our lives are OK.  “And when you find yourself in a place just right, you will be in the valley of love and delight”: when you look around and start saying “thank-you”, “I am thankful for ….”, “I love you”, “I forgive you”, “I am sorry”, you will be in a place of gratitude. “When true simplicity is gained, to bow and to bend, we will not be ashamed”: Tagore said,

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.”

We don’t always have to be strong, right, domineering, forceful, insistent, in control….

“To turn and to turn will be our delight till by turning and turning we come round right”. Dance. In gratitude, in peace and with peace, with others, by yourself. Dance because you are a part of Something that will work with you to discover your potential. Turn to face the light, the possibilities…when True Simplicity is gained life can change.

Ethic of Reciprocity

April 15, 2012

Definition of “ethic”:

1:  the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation

2a : a set of moral principles : a theory or system of moral values
b:  plural but sing or plural in constr : the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group
c : a guiding philosophy
d : a consciousness of moral importance

Definition of “reciprocity”:

1: the quality or state of being reciprocal : mutual dependence, action, or influence

2: a mutual exchange of privileges; specifically : a recognition by one of two countries or institutions of the validity of licenses or privileges granted by the other

You may know the Ethic of Reciprocity as The Golden Rule: One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.

This concept can be found many disciplines: psychology, philosophy, sociology, religion, and more.  Psychologically it means empathizing with others. Philosophically it requires a person perceiving their neighbor as also “an I” or “self.”  Sociologically, this principle is applicable between individuals, between groups, and between individuals and groups. And of course, it is an integral part of religion.

http://bahaiforums.com/pictures/2248-golden-rule-poster-golden-rule-quoted-different-religions.html

While the religious connection is important and unavoidable, I really am more concerned with how we can live on a daily basis with the basic concept of the Golden Rule in order to live up to our potential.

The Golden Rule requires us to practice empathy:

Definition of EMPATHY: the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this.

It is a proactive directive: As Dr. Frank Crane put it, “The Golden Rule is of no use to you whatsoever unless you realize that it’s your move!”

And for me, that goes hand in hand with Gandhi’s famous quote:

The Golden Rule is beautifully simple. By following the Golden Rule I find there is a tendency to make the people I have interactions with, happier. There is a noticeable side effect in that I feel happier too: treat others as you want to be treated. So simple.

You may find more satisfaction in yourself, a greater belief in yourself, a knowledge that you are a good person and a new trust in yourself. These are huge benefits! And the results are felt immediately!

Start today, even if it is one step at a time.

My father used to always say:”Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.” We call it empathy. Try it with any person: someone you love, someone you are angry at, the person on the street corner, the tired waitress. Really try to understand what it is like to be them, what they are going through, and why they do what they do.
Practice compassion. Feel what they’re going through, learn to want to end their suffering. And when you can, take even a small action to somehow ease their suffering in some way.  So when you put yourself in their shoes, ask yourself how you think they want to be treated. Ask yourself how you would want to be treated if you were in their situation.
Be friendly. We are so conditioned these days to be wary of strangers; “Stranger Danger”. It’s usually safe to say “hello”, or “Thank you”, or add “Have a nice day.”  Who doesn’t like to feel welcome and wanted?
Be helpful. Is this currently a weaknesses in our society? Seems like it sometimes. In general there is a tendency to keep ourselves. It is easy to turn a blind eye when we are deep in concentration on our cell phone, or have our eyes closed listening to our ipod. ” Don’t be blind to the needs and troubles of others. Look to help even before you’re asked.”
Listen to people. We all want to talk, but very few of us want to listen. And yet, we all want to be listened to. So take the time to actually listen to another person, rather than just wait your turn to talk.
Overcome prejudice. We all have our prejudices. But try to see each person as an individual human being, with different backgrounds and needs and dreams. Discover what is the same between “you” and “them”.
Stop criticizing. We all do it. We do it to people we know, people we don’t know…. learn to interact with others in a positive way, without using criticism as a thread for discussion or gossip.

Rise above retaliation. Often our instinct is to strike back when we’re treated badly. This is natural. Resist that urge.  We are trying to remember to treat others well, despite how they treat you. You do not have to suffer in doing this. You can take action in ways that are not retaliatory.

Let the change Gandhi spoke about begin with you. Practice the Ethic of Reciprocity and see first hand how those changes come to life. Live up to your potential of being a kind, compassionate, empathetic person, and see how others begin to see you differently and treat you with a new respect.

Every Day Intention

April 14, 2012

Some days the only intention I have is to get through the day. That doesn’t always seem to be the best or the healthiest way to go about living. Other days, while it may be mired in boring, routine things, I have a plan of action. Other days my only goal is to relax and take the day as it comes. Do any of these really help me live to my fullest on any given day? Do these thoughts and actions serve to boost up and support my potential?

What about beginning each day with focused, purposeful INTENTION?

Definition of INTENTION

1: a determination to act in a certain way : resolve
2: import, significance
3: what one intends to do or bring about

On New Year’s we make “new year resolutions”. How long does that last for you? For me, not so long. Perhaps the old idea of “one step at a time” would work more effectively….the “one day at a time” idea.  There are so many things I do each morning to prepare myself physically, mentally and emotionally for the day. Setting positive intentions for the day could easily and reasonably become part of that routine.

Let’s look at this more closely.

We do have the power to make a choice about how to begin the day. It is important to remember that we do attain personal growth through everyday challenges. When your mind becomes cluttered,  pause and take a few breaths to gain some clarity and move on. Learn to recognize limiting beliefs that hold you back. Make it a goal to use your intuition and emotions in a positive way. Self acceptance goes a long way.

Little, by little, chip away at the old  habits and obstructions in your path, commit to trying something new.

Get a journal, a little notebook, a pad of paper, or use your computer, phone or whatever.

Write down one intention, more if they come to mind. Something positive and realistic.
Recall it throughout the day. Your intention could be as simple as resolving to smile more, to slow down, to say something kind to someone you do not often speak to, to dress more professionally, or to meditate for 5 to 10 minutes.

The next  day, review your intentions.  Was there an intention that didn’t manifest? Let it go for a bit and include it again later. Give thanks for the intentions you brought to fruition, and then start the process all over for this new day.
There is  cumulative power in even the smallest positive actions. You may also begin to notice patterns of behavior or thought that inhibit your confidence. Don’t  try to sweep them under the proverbial mat, befriend them; understand where they’re coming from.

Change requires vision and commitment. Daily intention setting is one step to making small changes every day that add up to big changes. Changes that help us grow and move towards our full potential, and along the way, bring others along with us. As you rise to your potential, others will notice and then you have the opportunity to reach out your hand and guide them on a path that may help them discover their potential too.

Have the intention to care about yourself and live with the knowledge that through one small step each day you can manifest your fullest potential.

Naikan and Synchronicity?

April 13, 2012

I have to admitt, I am chuckling! Obvioulsy today’s post is about Naikan, a method of self-reflection. In preparing to wirte, I was searching for other blogs and sites that mention Naikan. To my suprise, up popped The Huffington Post, and an article written just a few days ago. Back in the late 70’s friends used to mavel at the miracle of synchronicity: “Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance and that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner.”  HuffPo and my brain.

I came upon the idea of Naikan years ago when I was trying to figure myself out. (I am still working on that.)  It sounded and is in many ways, very simple. At first I couldn’t imagine how I would benefit…the second question in the practice actually scared me…did I even DO that to anyone, on a daily basis? I had much to learn.

Naikan is a Japanese word which means “inside looking” or “introspection”, or even “seeing oneself with the mind’s eye”. It is a structured method of self-reflection that helps us to understand ourselves, our relationships and the fundamental nature of human existence. It broadens our view of reality.

Naikan asks, “What is really important in our life?” Not just in this moment alone, but in our life every day.

Naikan asks us to face  our” self-cherishing nature” that desperately wants us to believe that so many other things are important – why someone is giving us a hard time, why does our spouse drive us crazy sometimes,  the mother-in-law’s opinions that make us angry – all of these and so many more,  block us mentally and emotionally, obscuring that which is able to bring a deeper inner happiness.

“Naikan teaches us to hold on to what is really important thus freeing us to be in the present moment and see the beauty of the day.”

Naikan is about asking ourselves three simple questions, every day. Writing your responses to these questions in a journal helps to make a daily routine easier. Set aside a few minutes towards the end of every day, and ask yourself the following questions and see what happens.

What have I received from ________?
What have I given to _________________?
What troubles and difficulties have I caused to __________________?

(fill in the blanks with the name of a specific person, “others”, a particular situation…)

The first question invites us to see the “gift and interconnectedness of life”. This is about being aware of someone giving you a paper clip, as well as the unknown farmer who grew the coffee beans for your coffee.

The second question asks us to reverse our thinking:  “Gifts are about both receiving and giving.” This question asks us to be fully aware of  those things we give others –” not just material things but also time, attention, knowledge and many other non-tangible things. We begin to learn that we can give in so many creative ways.”

The third question is a difficult one. It requires us to confront not what others have done to us to cause us trouble, discomfort, pain, but what WE have done to cause others trouble, discomfort or pain. Naikan teaches us to take responsibility for our lives.

When we really work on this third question in relation to our entire life  we begin to gain personal integrity.  It helps us choose what aspects of life to focus on and respond to…..what is important.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jennifer-hamady/naikan_b_1410778.html

http://www.todoinstitute.com/naikan3.html

Metta: Loving Kindness

April 12, 2012

I  practice this meditation every night before going to bed. Lately I am thinking about trying to do it every morning too. I love that it begins with acknowledging our self, and requires us to put those who cause us sorrow, pain, frustration in a different light: remembering they deserve blessings too….

The meditation is done 4 times with only the name of the person changing each time. It can be very powerful.

The order of the meditation is:

• a respected, beloved person – such as a spiritual teacher;
• a dearly beloved – which could be a close family member or friend;
• a neutral person – somebody you know, but have no special feelings towards, e.g.: a person who serves you in a shop;
• a difficult/hostile person – someone you are currently having difficulty with.

(you could even end by saying the Metta meditation “For all sentient beings”….)

A simple version would be to start with yourself and say:

” May I be happy, may I be joyful, may I be at peace.”

Then replace “I ” with the name of someone you respect….

Continue on with the name of  a person you love, a “neutral person, and the name of someone you struggle with.

There are several variations of this meditation:

May I be free from inner and outer harm and danger. May I be safe and protected.

May I be free of mental suffering or distress.
May I be happy.

May I be free of physical pain and suffering.
May I be healthy and strong.

May I be able to live in this world happily,
peacefully, joyfully, with ease.

Or another still, the one on the prayer flag shown at the beginning of the post .

What is Metta meditation and why do it? from Steven Smith:

“Loving-kindness, or metta, as it in called in the Pali language, is unconditional, inclusive love, a love with wisdom. It has no conditions; it does not depend on whether one “deserves” it or not; it is not restricted to friends and family; it extends out from personal categories to include all living beings. There are no expectations of anything in return. This is the ideal, pure love, which everyone has in potential. We begin with loving ourselves, for unless we have a measure of this unconditional love and acceptance for ourselves, it is difficult to extend it to others. Then we include others who are special to us, and, ultimately, all living things. Gradually, both the visualization and the meditation phrases blend into the actual experience, the feeling of loving kindness.

This is a meditation of care, concern, tenderness, loving kindness, friendship — a feeling of warmth for oneself and others. The practice is the softening of the mind and heart, an opening to deeper and deeper levels of the feeling of kindness, of pure love. Loving kindness is without any desire to possess another. It is not a sentimental feeling of goodwill, not an obligation, but comes from a selfless place. It does not depend on relationships, on how the other person feels about us. The process is first one of softening, breaking down barriers that we feel inwardly toward ourselves, and then those that we feel toward others”    http://www.contemplativemind.org/practices/subnav/kindness.htm

As Steven says, it is all about the “ideal, pure love”, which everyone has in potential. If we are working to live a life to the fullest of our potential, we have to include the practice of  Metta. For ourselves and all sentient beings.

Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way;
On purpose,
in the present moment, and
nonjudgmentally.”

There are some words in the above quote that many of us have a hard time wrapping our heads around: mindfulness, paying attention, present moment, nonjudgmentally. I know I do. Put them in a sentence together and some days it sounds like a foreign language.

Thich Nhat Hanh helps us to understand the importance of practicing mindfulness. So many of us are caught up in worries about the future, regrets about the past, that the present slips past with us hardly acknowledging it let alone living it. “Mindfulness increases concentration and allows to see things more deeply and stop being victims of wrong perception.”

What about those of us who live to wallow in the past and re-live regrets over and over? What about those of us who are drawn into fantasy (wealth, house beautiful, body type, beauty, image, ego, etc)?  What if we just don’t care about mindfulness?

TNH goes further saying if our body is not united with our mind, we are not really “alive”. Our body and our mind have to be truly present, together, in order to reap the experience of Life. Mindfulness helps us become alive. Concentration develops and we learn how to see things more clearly, creating less suffering for ourselves and others.

TNH says that in practicing mindfulness “We will create less suffering for ourselves and for other people. We will begin to taste the joy of living and help others to enjoy their daily lives. We cannot force people to practice mindfulness, but if we practice and become happy, we can inspire others to practice.”

Do we have a responsibility to live up to our own potential happiness and to practice mindfulness, not only for ourselves, but  for others?

Want to start?  “Following Your Breath”, by Thich Nhat Hanh:

Breathing in, I calm my body.

Breathing out, I smile.

Dwelling in the present moment,

I know this is a wonderful moment!

Breathing in, I know I’m breathing in.

Breathing out, I know as the in-breath grows deep,

the out-breath grows slow.

Breathing in makes my calm.

Breathing out brings me ease.

With the in-breath, I smile.

With the out-breath, I release.

Breathing in, there is only the present moment.

Breathing out, it is a wonderful moment.

 

 

The great omission in American life is solitude; not loneliness, for this is an alienation that thrives most in the midst of crowds, but that zone of time and space, free from the outside pressures, which is the incubator of the spirit. ~ Marya Mannes, US author

Scott McIntyre wrote a nice little piece for Goodlife Zen articulating the difference between solitude and loneliness. He makes a statement I personally have thought about often, and believe to be true for many today: we are hesitant to seek out solitude because we are afraid of loneliness. “Aloneness” often brings to mind a lack of belonging.

“Solitude is refreshing, a time of being on your own where you voluntarily retreat from the company of other people.”

By engaging in this time of instant connections, are we loosing the capacity to get in contact with our inner selves?

How does solitude fit into manifesting our own potentiality? If we loose the thread of seeking out solitude as a means of growth and healing, what replaces it?

http://goodlifezen.com/2010/11/10/the-lost-guide-to-finding-yourself-in-solitude/


“Life is a process of becoming. A combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” -Anais Nin

We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
―Marianne Williamson

If we are in fact here to “become”, do we have an obligation not to be comfortable with where we are in life and personal growth, and to strive to grow/change?

If by allowing our own personal light to shine we give permission to others to shine themselves, then doesn’t that add to the responsibility we have to strive towards continuing the process of becoming to benefit others?

Do we have a responsibly to banish fear in ourselves for the the benefit of others as well as ourselves?

Process Theology

April 8, 2012

On Christmas Day, one month and two days before my father died, he gave a Christmas dinner blessing based on an article in one of the Process Studies journals. The article was called You Are`What You Eat. But, it wasn’t about food. It was about the sustenance we receive from other people, other experiences, situations, events. What we experience, absorb, shun, embrace, hear, say…..create the person we are.

Jay McDaniel outlines 8 points central to PT.

Everything is in process…always flowing,all things are inter-connected, all of nature has value and deserves respect, we find happiness in sharing experiences with others: we become whole through reciprocity, the universe is a continuous creativity: all things are expressions, all beings seek harmony, thinking and emotion cannot be separated, every human experience begins with feeling the presence of the world and being affected by it.

The world is constantly in process and everything changes. And so do we.

How do we learn to be pliable in order to flow with being in constant process and change. What do we hold on to, what do we have to let go of in order to hold on?