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Insight into the mind's chatter

The magnolia tree had all but a few flowers left, glowing white among the green leaves that grew denser as the days stretched longer and the air grew warmer. Just past the boating dock, petals from cherry trees had rained on the grass along the path. Upon a closer look, what seemed to be petals turned out to be delicate little flowers sprouting from the grass in thousands. How nature hides its secrets in plain sight brings such simple delight.

She was a woman in her thirties, a scientist and an artist. She had said there was something she wanted to discuss, so we set out on a walk around the lake as the sun painted the clouds amber red.

“I would like to discuss a problem I have faced all my life. My mind is chattering all the time. I want to end this chatter, and achieve a state of silence.”

You say that your mind is chattering. 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 can become 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?

“Is it wrong then to try to achieve that state of silence?”

We are not saying that such a longing is right or wrong. We are merely finding out what the fact is 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.”

That is exactly where we must start from, from the fact 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. The desire for a state of peace and silence creates a conflict between what is, the chatter, and what the mind desires, a state of silence. Is that not so?

“Yes! Does that mean desire is the problem?”

No, we are not saying that desire is the problem. 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 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, 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.

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, 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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