Do you ever stop to listen to your thoughts? If you do, you’ll notice that other than occasional functional, creative or investigative thought, the thinking mind has three full time jobs: It reflects on the past, it projects the future or it comments on the present. Waking up, at least for me, was the instant death of this narrator who would make up stories about what had happened or would happen. Surprisingly, what also died was the more prevalent yet subtle lifelong voice, the one that (minus rare yoga or tantra episodes) had something to say about every arising moment.
My first clue that this real time voice-over had taken a tranquilizer was the time a driver dangerously cut me off in traffic – my pulse raced and I probably gasped or cursed aloud but then no thought followed. Not the angry thought about the asshole or the spiritual by-pass thought about how every thing happens for a reason, even my near death. No, in this case, the habitual commentary simply did not arise.
But it wasn’t until just the other day while watching my partner watch a golf tournament on TV, an epiphany happened: I realized the voice that used to engage a running commentary on the Life of Lori Ann, had not just quieted down, it had all but dissappeared. Just as if someone had pressed the mute button on the remote, the narrator of my moment-to-moment reality was no longer heckling or cheerleading. Instead, a spacious quietude replaced the blow-by-blow from a voice I’d gotten so used to heeding or ignoring, but never used to not-hearing.
After the Golf Game Epiphany, I realized that a big chunk (if not all) suffering arises from the narrator, with its commentary on past, present, future. Of course, this same narrator can often offer glowing commentary, praise in fact, that gives us a temporary sense of well-being: “Gosh, I did a good job on that,” or “I am sure I will succeed tomorrow at the job interview.” These “positive” comments are just as absent these days from my inner world as are the negative ones.
The result: Suffering has ceased here in what has been four months of equanimity and a “peace that passeth all understanding.” This is not to say, anger does not flare (it has once) or that irritation does not arise (like when the puppy nips my heels, or my 12 year old leaves wet towels on the bathroom floor for me to pick up). But emotional reactivity is no longer saturating the foreground of my life and even pain in my body is just that–pain in my body. But until the Golf Game Epiphany, I was not sure where the suffering self had gone to. Just how did I go from forty-something years of feeling the dukkha, the prickly sense of wrongness with reality, to this sublime okayness? I realize now this acceptance of what- is is our natural state, revealed when the narrator shuts up.
This does not mean that should my child die I would not feel immense grief. What it does mean is I would not likely hear an attendant story about that death, the story of “why me,” or how this should not be, or how could a just God allow this. Or if I won the lottery (yippee!) a thrilling jolt of delight would surely happen. But then a story told by the voice-over would not add on some kind of fiction to boost or detract from what is. Boost: “I am not just lucky, I deserve this win.” Downer narrative: “What goes up, must come down. Get ready to lose it all.”
I invite you to spend a day listening to the sports commentator that lives in your head. Listen closely to the non-stop labeling of what-is, which is always one step out of the moment and no more powerful than the hockey announcer shrilly declaring, “He shoots, he scores!” That sports voice on your TV did not have any real power other than to spin what is. If that announcer was biased toward the other team, for instance, the delivery might have been a somber declaration that a goal was conceeded, not won. Either way, the commentary is not the reality.
In this way, the sufferer is not the real you. That voice in your head that is always commenting on what is, or looking back or forward with a narrative of should-haves or will-do’s is just that – a passive voice, but one mistaken as active and causal.
You are not the narrator you think you are. You are the silence.
Awareness is Here! (shhhh!)