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Can our mind stop chattering?

She said her work was meaningful. Her organization helps make education more accessible to the economically challenged populations in society. But she said she did not want to work from nine to five everyday, doing the same thing over and over again.

“The whole thing is so mechanical. You sit on a chair and repeat the same thing over and over again, day after day. I wish I could work on a farm for part of the day, waking up to the birds singing and trees swaying in the breeze. But the moment I express this desire to people, they dismiss it as a dream, and say that I have to be serious and think about how I am to meet the demands of society, which include sustaining myself and possibly raising a family. I wish I could break away from it all for a moment to figure out what I must do in life.”

What do you feel you must do?

“That is the problem. I don’t know what I must do. I need some time away from all this hectic work-life to figure it out. Life on a daily basis feels so busy that I have no space to delve into this question in a serious manner.”

Can you not contemplate this question when you are not busy with work?

“I am not sure I can. After a full day of work, I feel so exhausted that all I want to do is to turn my mind off somehow.”

And how do you do such a thing?

“Watching TV, working out, or spending time with friends does it sometimes. But I feel I am in a perpetual state of conflict. My mind is chattering all the time. I feel I am living a life that feels right to my mind because I am doing what I need to do to sustain in this society, but I feel a gaping void, an emptiness, in my heart. To get through the day, I suppress this feeling and the voice in my mind that says I must dive deep into the question of what I must do, but I suppress this voice by telling myself that what I am doing right now is necessary to sustain myself in society. After I am done with my work, I try to get out of my mind, but my mind keeps chattering. To stop this chattering, I try to meditate, go to therapy, exercise, and even experiment with some plant medicines, but there seems to be no end to it. I don’t know what to do about it."

Why do you feel like you have to end the mind’s chatter?

“Because it gets exhausting. I cannot engage deeply in my relationships with other people: I get distracted by my own thoughts and fail to listen properly; when I go out for a walk, I cannot even look at the flowers and the birds without falling back into loops of thoughts, again and again. When I am home again, my mind continues to race, so much so that at times I am up in my bed for hours before I can fall asleep.”

You say you are trying to end this chatter. How do you know this chatter can ever come to an end?

“People claim that it can end. I have read about a state of silence and peace in books, heard stories of people having achieved such a state. So I try to do the things they say can help achieve that state like meditation and yoga.”

But how do you know whether what someone is saying is actually true or not?

“One can never really know, but there seems to be a common agreement that such states are possible for us to achieve if we find the right method.”

But how do we know what is the right method?

“The method that will help us get to that state?”

There are thousands of people out there, claiming they have figured out the method to get you to that state. How do you know which method to pick?

“I guess I have to see what method works for me.”

And what if you don’t find any that work?

“Well, I feel that that is where I am, because no method I have used so far has solved my problem.”

Could it be that we must first understand deeply what the problem is before trying to find a method to solve it?

“That is what I was hoping we could discuss today.”

Let us ask a simple question. What is the problem?

“The problem is that my mind is chattering all the time. I want to end this chatter, and achieve a state of silence.”

The fact is that the mind is chattering. Now what is the problem? Is the problem that the mind is chattering, or that you are trying to end this chatter?

“I am not sure if I understand what you are asking.”

The mind is chattering, right. But by saying that there exists a state of peace and silence, could we be creating an image of a state of mind that we do not know if it actually exists, and hence be in the pursuit of a goal that may just be fiction? Does the pursuit of such a state not seem to be the problem?

“I understand that the chattering is a fact, and that my pursuit for this state and failure to achieve it becomes the problem. But don’t these states actually exist? Are there not people who have achieved them and laid out a path for us to achieve them too?”

What does it mean to achieve a state? Does achieving a state not suggest that such a state of peace or silence is a fixed state that one can grasp? Can one ever grasp a state of being and keep this state? Do we ever remain in a fixed state, be it one of joy or sorrow? Does our experience not suggest that there is a perpetual movement of different states of being? So does it make sense for us to be striving to achieve a particular state?

“So is it wrong to try to achieve that state of silence?”

We are just noticing that we have a tendency to strive for such a state. But we are not saying that such a longing is right or wrong. We are merely pointing at a fact without passing a judgment about it. Now, coming back to the chattering we experience in our minds, do you think we can find out for ourselves if there could ever be an ending to this chattering?

“Yes, I am very interested in inquiring into this.”

Now how do we approach this matter?

“I am not quite sure. All I know is that my mind is chattering all the time, and I do not feel an inner peace or silence.”

Yes, that is exactly where we must start from, from the fact. The fact is that our mind is chattering, all the time, with a brief moment of quietness here and there.

“Yes, and these are the moments we want to hold onto and extend. I try to cultivate these moments by different practices like meditation, walks, sometimes medicinal plants. But they do not last long, and the mind is back to its chattering.”

Yes, we try to escape the chatter in all sorts of ways, yet the chatter continues without fail, and we feel trapped in this cycle of escape and temporal relief, do we not?

“Yes! But there has to be a way out, don’t you feel?”

There may be, or they may not be. We cannot know if it is one way or the other before we have inquired into the matter deeply. So let us find out why it is that we feel trapped. Without understanding why we feel trapped, how could we ever free ourselves from this trap?


Let us go into this very slowly. We see that our mind is chattering, that is a fact, and we try to escape this state, that too is a fact. We try to escape this chatter to bring about a state of silence, but this fixed state of silence or peace is not a fact. It is merely an idea of a state that we have read or heard about. Is that not so?

“But don’t we experience a moment of silence or peace here and there.”

That is true. But you are not satisfied by that. You want more of it, don’t you?


The fact is that the mind is chattering, but the desire for a state of peace creates a conflict between what is, the chatter, and what the mind desires, a state of silence. Is that not so?

“So that means desire is the problem?”

No, we are not saying that desire is the problem, and hence to be blamed. We are merely observing what is the case, what is actually going on within us. We are finding out that desire creates a conflict between what is and what we desire. If we are to judge desire as a problem, then we may desire to suppress desire, which in itself is another desire, a little subtle, but desire nevertheless. By observing desire as it moves in our being, without trying to suppress it, we can begin to understand the whole movement of desire.

We are understanding that by attending to the movement of our mind, the fact that it is chattering, and the fact that it is desiring to escape the chattering, we are learning that the desire to escape the chatter creates a conflict in the mind. Not only does the desire for the other state exhaust our energy, it further exacerbates the chattering because the mind starts chattering about ending the chattering.

“And the chatter continues. I understand that this is indeed what is going on in my mind all the time. But we still haven’t found out if this chatter can come to an end.”

Exactly! But how can we understand anything about this chattering if we are trying to escape it all the time?

“I see. My mind is first chattering, which is exhausting, then it tries to escape it, getting, and fails miserably, getting even more exhausted.”

Similarly, when we are feeling sad or sorrowful, and seek happiness or joy, a conflict arises between the state we are in and the state we are desiring. Trying to move from one state to another wastes the energy of the mind, as a result of which we do not get to understand the state we find ourselves in.

But now that we understand that the desire to escape the chatter continues the chatter, this insight can help the mind stay with what is, the state it is in, which is the chatter, for the mind has understood deeply that desiring to escape the chatter continues the chatter, and so it disengages from trying to end the chatter, hence conserving its energy. As the mind stays with the chatter, it begins to understand the source of the chatter. In other words, the chatter begins to reveal its story.

“I see, but we still do not know if this chatter can come to an end.”

You are right, we don’t. But we are finding out that when we try to escape this chatter, we feel trapped in it, and continue to act more desperately to get out of it. It’s like being in your room, and while the doors may be locked, you may have no problem being inside. But you begin to feel trapped when you try to leave the room.

“Yes, that is exactly what I feel.”

Now, why do you want to leave the room of your mind?

“Because it is so messy and chattering all the time.”

And we try to escape it in the hope that this mess will clear of its own accord?

“I am beginning to see that there may not be an escape from this mess.”

Our mind is quite messy, indeed, in a great state of disorder. But the only way order can arise in it is if we can begin to understand why it is in such a state of disorder in the first place.

“How do I understand this disorder?”

In remaining with what is, the chatter, the mess, the disorder, and observing its movement, completely, without moving away, we begin to understand what the source of this disorder is because our energy is not wasted in escaping and failing, and this energy can begin to have an insight into the disorder, the chatter.

“Isn’t this disorder what we are trying to escape? Why would we want to go into it?”

Because it makes us suffer, and we have tried everything to escape it, but we have not escaped it. It is still alive. If anything, it keeps getting more intense the more we try to escape it. So much so that we are afraid to even go near it. But we clearly see and understand that there is no escape, which gives us the energy to remain with it.

“I agree. I am afraid of this inner disorder.”

Now the question is, can we remain with it, with the chattering, with the disorder?

“What does it mean to remain with it?”

It means that we observe all that is moving within us, the chattering, the desire and effort to escape the chatter, the feeling of being trapped, the effort to escape this trap, and so on. Can we observe the entire movement of our being?

“It feels quite a daunting task.”

It may seem like it but is that not what we are doing at this moment as we speak? Is it daunting what you are seeing in your being right now?

“No, but that is because we are going into this together, and it gets pretty scary when I am by myself.”

But you are facing it yourself right now, and you are seeing that it is not causing you to crawl in fear. It could be that we may feel that remaining with the messiness of our own mind and understanding it may be daunting because we think of it as daunting. But together, we are seeing that our mind often has ideas of how something may feel, which arouses fear in our being. You fear remaining with your inner chatter, the disorder, yet that is exactly what we have been doing in our conversation, and having remained with it, we have come to understand a great many aspects of its movement.

Observing the whole movement of our being is meditation. Meditation is a turning inward of the mind to observe the totality of consciousness, be it a flower or a feeling. We are the wind moving through the branches, as well as the chattering of our minds. Facing the fact of our mind’s chatter is the greatest act of humility, for in this act one drops all ideals of higher states of being and sits with what is, like a child sitting and playing in the dirt. But it is the beginning of an immense inner discovery, for now the mind is faced with a mystery it is directly in contact with, the mystery of its own chattering, to explore which, it does not have to go anywhere, or read anything, or accumulate knowledge. One simply has to observe. The mystery stands right here, right now, and only right now is when it can reveal itself. It doesn't even matter if peace or silence awaits on the other side, for the mystery is too immense to think about what may come next. The only thing that matters is that this mystery is waiting to unravel, and you alone can find out what it has to reveal.


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