Day 17 of Wildmind’s 100 Day Meditation Challenge
A common problem people have in a challenge like this is the “inner narrator” who keeps up a running commentary on how your meditation is going. This is particularly a problem when we’re going to be reporting on our practice to others, as we do in Wildmind’s Google+ Community (now defunct, and replaced by a new community website that’s part of Wildmind’s Meditation Initiative).
One thing that I find very effective is saying “It can wait.” This is what I’ve called “The Mantra for the 21st Century.” This statement affirms that the commentary might be useful, but also affirms that the present moment is not the appropriate time for it.
- Spiritual earworms and the Dharma of the Muppets
- Listening as meditation
- A cure for earworms in meditation
- Meditation and mental bandwith
Listening helps. It’s not possible to listen to what’s going on around you 100% and also keep up an inner monologue. So try doing “mindfulness of listening” where you’re paying attention to the 360° of space around you. See if you can get a feeling of your attention stretching in all directions at once — with just a gentle effort, like tugging a sheet from all directions at once in order to flatten out the wrinkles. The sounds around you are not distractions. They’re your object of meditation. Don’t judge them (you can’t fully listen to them and judge them anyway!), but just allow them to be.
Then you treat inner chatter as a mindfulness bell. The chatter only starts when you let this full-on 360° listening slip, so its arrival is a gentle reminder to return to mindful listening.
I find this approach to be very powerful. It can’t really fail, because it’s self-correcting. Thoughts are a reminder to come back to listening. Listening prevents thinking. So you keep oscillating between the two, with no judgement, which isn’t really a problem since the thinking isn’t a “failure” but part of your “mindfulness reminder system.”