We tend to unquestioningly assume that the non-stop conversation in our head – our “self-talk” – is our consciousness, our very identity. But this is not even close to being true!
Only about 10% of this self-talk is helpful: real planning (instead of anxious obsessing); doing math & other calculations “in our head”; guiding ourselves along an unfamiliar sequence of steps when doing something new; etc. These are relatively uncommon situations, when we consciously, intentionally use self-talk specifically to help us directly engage with present-moment reality!
If we step back, and really listen to our self-talk, we’ll notice that ~90% of it is spontaneously pouring into our ears (from the unconscious). We do not consciously, intentionally initiate self-talk. AND though we know how boring, repetitive & painfully destructive self-talk can be, we NEVERTHELESS obsessively entertain, encourage, intensify & prolong it! This may be ESPECIALLY so during these Covid weeks of physical isolation!!
Self-talk is mostly our harmful conditioning in words – negative comments we’ve unknowingly internalized from unwise / unkind / traumatized people from the past: “You’re lazy,” “You’ll never amount to anything,” “You’re ugly,” “You’re terrible at public speaking,” etc. Hearing such poison echoing in our heads feels like our life force is being drained-out, stolen. In response, we naturally contract & isolate, harden – the primitive, fear-based “fight, flight, freeze” response – trying to protect ourselves from such trauma.
Clearly, we should question if not ignore self-talk – as we do with irrelevant, intrusive, unhelpful ads (on the internet, radio or TV).
Mercifully, most of us have had at least some helpful conditioning from wise, mature, nurturing people. Helpful conditioning does not tend to re-appear verbally as self-talk. Rather, it’s felt in our heart area as a deep warm silent peaceful abiding reassuring positive energy or life force – a precious gift from those who want us to thrive, to flourish. We naturally expand, soften, seek connection, “open our hearts & minds” to share the wealth we feel, and desire to pay forward the nurturing we’ve received – the evolved, love-based “tend & befriend” response.
This is why meditation instructions tend to guide us to:
• let go of words / thinking,
• allow our center of gravity to descend from the head to the heart area,
• bring curiosity to the direct, felt sense of temperature & size,
• breath into & from the heart area to stabilize awareness here,
• accept whatever we experience non-judgmentally.
It doesn’t matter what, if anything, we feel; cold, tightness, numbness; a tiny nugget of warmth in the heart area; or warmth all throughout our chest, extending well beyond the boundaries of our skin.
Also, each time we notice attention has wandered from our object of meditation (felt sense in the heart area) to self-talk / thinking, we accept this with (literally) endless patience, & without judgment, we seamlessly, patiently, gently, effortlessly, bring awareness back to the feel of the heart area.
We clearly cannot control or change our past conditioning; BUT how wisely & kindly we hold ourselves, in the present moment, is a mindfulness skill we can train, and are entirely capable of continuously developing. We are training to hold ourselves, & then others, in safety & unconditional love. From this arises EVERYTHING of value: our freedom, wisdom, maturity, stability, real authority, true leadership & ability to actually help instead of adding to the world's pain & confusion.