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Location: McGaheysville, VA, United States

I am happily married to a wonderful, Godly woman. We both love Jesus and worship God. I compose and perform Christian and instrumental music. I am an ordained minister, and my wife and I are founders and pastors of ALM CyberChurch in Second Life (http://almcyberchurch.org).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Silent Mind

When we think of "clearing the mind," it's easy to equate that with opening ourselves up to everything. However, that's not necessarily so. Silencing the mind isn't like putting on a blindfold; it's actually more like taking one off.

Have you ever been listening to someone talk, and suddenly realized you had missed something they said because your inner voice started chattering about something else? We all have. We miss what's going on around us, and even inside us, because we are constantly running at the mental mouth.

It's an addiction. It's a security blanket. Our minds are like a hyper-active child who, no matter what you do, you can't make them stop talking a million miles a minute. Actually, you can silence your mind. But it takes, first of all, the realization of just how blabby you really are.

For the next few days, pay attention to the voice in your head. Listen to just how much you rattle on about the same things over and over and over. Listen to how you make silent verbal comments about everything. For example, some time ago I was taking a walk and was trying to just listen to the sounds of nature around me. I would look at a flower, and my mind would shout, "Hey! What a pretty red flower! It's really lovely! I bet it smells sweet! Blah blah blah blah blah...."

I missed the gentle undertones of half of what I saw, heard, smelled, and felt, because my mind was jabbering on, making stupid comments about the obvious. It's like trying to watch a movie with someone who talks all the way through it... "Hey, that person is taking a drink... I wonder if that's really vodka in that glass, or water... It's probably water, since they'd get drunk otherwise with all the takes they must have had to make during the filming... Hey, look at the lady, she looks familiar... I think she starred in some other movie, what was the name of that movie? Oh, I remember.. It had an interesting plot..." Blah blah blah blah blah.

Realizing what I was doing was a good first step. By the end of that walk, I decided that it was time for me to grow up, and my stage in life of constant mental babble had come to an end. Time to end that chapter in my life and start a new one.

Practice. Practice. Practice. One form of meditation involves counting your breaths: In = 1, Out = 2, In = 3, Out = 4, etc. When you start chattering again ("Yay, I made it to 7!"), then you start all over again. While this method doesn't seem to work very well for me, it works quite well with a lot of people, so I encourage you to try it. With practice, you can learn to shut your mental mouth and see what's really going on around and inside you.

Since I've started having long periods of mental silence, and babbling less the rest of the time (catching worthless chatter and just "closing my mental mouth"), I've found that I can feel emotions I haven't felt in a long time. I can enter into worship more deeply, and feel God's presence more strongly when I do. My mind is more clear. I can focus more easily. I'm much more aware of my surroundings. It's definitely something good!

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