Dr. Charles T. Tart, Mindfulness, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology,
Lecture 2, Part 5 of 15 parts. To start class from beginning, click here.
CTT: How about other kinds of difficulties? Yes.
Student: Not a difficulty so much, but a question about what you’re saying. How might one discern the difference between a relatively quiet mind and being unaware of one’s mind-speak?
CTT: Unaware of one’s mind-speak? What would be “unaware of one’s mind-speak?”
Student: Not hearing the words the mind’s saying. When one relaxes a little deeper, then all of the sudden there’s a lot of talk going on, so to speak. And yet at some level it’s possible, in my opinion, to be unaware of the constant conversation.
CTT: That’s a good question, but a very complicated one. I think the way it works, until you get to specialized techniques, is that you try to do this controlled attention practice of keeping in contact with your breath and just being sensorily aware. Otherwise, you notice your mind going on and on and on.
In fact, did anybody have the experience that this practice seemed to make your mind race? (Many hands go up!) Yeah. The traditional answer to that is no, it didn’t make your mind race. You just became aware of how fast it goes all the time.
That’s the condition of most people’s ordinary mind. It is going along lickety-split and we’re used to that. We identify with that cocktail party chatter that goes on all the time. Until we make a special effort to be quiet and pay attention, we don’t notice that anything’s there.
I think it’s quite normal to start becoming more and more aware of this, to get frustrated by it. It used to drive me nuts. I felt, “I’m going to just quiet my mind now,” and 10 minutes later realize I had been thinking like mad the entire time without an instant of quiet in there. But don’t get discouraged by that. You’re seeing the way your mind actually works, and seeing the way it works is the first step in being able to do anything about it.
There are eventually techniques to work more directly with that kind of mind chatter, but I think we’d be kind of jumping ahead of things to talk about them now. Maybe later in the quarter you might bring up that same kind of question.