A comment I received on a piece I wrote recently about mental chatter raised a very interesting point about externally vs. internally focused mental chatter. I hadn’t even thought about the two different types. I’d written that particular article to help stop ourselves from passing judgment on others (externally focused mental chatter) and I mentioned how wonderful ‘mental silence’ is. I hadn’t considered though, something that equally attacks our silence – internally focused chatter.
Internally focused chatter is stuff running through your mind like to do lists, organizing and planning something, pondering issues and problems or thinking about future events/happenings. Thinking of your ‘to do’ list is not negative (like passing judgment is), but if your mind is constantly on and crowded with such thoughts, there is no room for that silence we can create and adore.
When Diane (my reader) raised this point I realised I was guilty of having too much of this kind of chatter. My brain seems to boast of its constant ‘on-ness’ and its ability to organize, ponder and think think think (thought its that same trait that makes writing this blog the perfect job for me!). I do meditation of course which does balance this out a bit, so I do manage some peace and quiet in my day! But I realised I needed to create more silence within myself.
I think ‘mindfulness’ is what’s needed to cure internally focused mental chatter. Wikipedia defines mindfulness as “a mental state, characterized by concentrated awareness of one's thoughts, actions or motivations”. It basically means being present in every moment of your day. We can practice mindfulness when doing things like folding the washing and walking up the stairs. Think about this: if we aren’t mindful during these tasks what are our brains doing when we do these things!!?? When you realise how many tasks you do unconsciously it can seem as if your brain a bit of a ‘free agent’ of sorts… running its own agenda! That’s not how it should be! It’s our brain to use and drive!