Death of the Narrator


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!)

Lori Ann

About Lori Ann Lothian

Lori Ann Lothian writes about love, relationships, enlightenment and yes, sex, at Huffington Post, Good Men Project, Yoganonymous, Origin magazine, Better After 50 and more. She is also a senior editor at the online magazine, The Good Men Project, where she manages a section called Good for the Soul. Lori Ann lives in Vancouver, Canada, with her husband and daughter, where she has learned to transcend the rain and surrender to mega doses of vitamin D. Subscribe to Lori Ann's feed and never miss a post! Tweet her at Twitter
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33 Responses to Death of the Narrator

  1. Wonderfully described. Let me share with you a conversation I had on the insight into oneness… : http://possibilitymagazine.me/2012/05/08/insight-into-oneness/

  2. Brook Bartlett says:

    Joel — I like what you are saying and I totally get it. I am a little unclear because it sounds like there might be an argument or confusion there (?) — I mean, what you are pointing out is obvious and clear and well said, so there’s no conflict. It’s very true that there is no silencing the mind — because to do that would be a function of mind. So we don’t do that, we give in, we learn to be happy, we don’t take ourselves seriously, we re grateful not to have to. That’s it. It’s over. And then one day we actually notice that there is no noise. HUHHHHH??????? But the minute we hold onto that, it’s noise. However, someone writing about it, is not noise. To point out that there is no conflict is not a conflict unless we assign a meaning to it. To experience grattitude for this peace is not meaning anything, it’s spontaneous response, which is different than action re-action. The noise is internal, temporal, or not. Yet in every moment or any moment when we start to say, “I will not tolerate this noise” that is noise again, as you point out. The silence is the lack of seeking to end the noise. What we had noticed, what Lori had remarked upon as the silence, which actually appeared (and was only appearance), from a lack of fight with the noise, was not willed, not sought, not gained. It just appeared that way. Having come to love appearances for what they are and not what they are thought to represent, even this appearance of this space where a secondary voice was, is accepted and cherished. All is perfect, it began with the narrator, as that was the dominant appearance, and continues through the death of the narrator and continues and continues and continues ….. why not just bash all that and get straight to the point? Yes, why not? But on the other hand, why? Why not just slowly back away from the issue and say, “also this is this. Always this. Nothing but this.” Love! Brook

    • Joel says:

      You say: ‘The silence is the lack of seeking to end the noise.’

      I say: ‘What noise?’

      In labeling a mind silent you make a lot of noise. In there being no noise there is not even a mind, so what need of silence?

  3. SimplyBegin1 says:

    Reblogged this on SIMPLY BEGIN and commented:
    Another great post from The Awakened Dreamer!!

  4. SimplyBegin1 says:

    To the Being Formly named Lori Ann:

    1. AS ALWAYS… Profuse thanks for all (apparent) words and messages your FORM composes about the unfolding of Lori-Ann’s Awakening. (Being formerly known as Kate continues to enjoy all the articles posted as a direct pointing to a continual vastness of emptiness that is present.
    2. LMAO with respect to an Arising of Critics????… um, yeah it is extremely comical when the Labeler’s/Intellectualizer’s/ Experience Basher’s (pardon Kate is now labeling the labeler’s, but only in jest… hehe) Step out to expose Unconsciousness in it’s purest and most unadulterated form….

    I have the popcorn and candy and soda pop and am sitting back to watch the drama unveil…
    Yeeeeeehawwwwwww!

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Love your blog, Lori Ann…and very much enjoy the back-and-forth with Joel whose excellent blog I have also checked out. Thank you.

  6. Alexander says:

    “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.”
    Mother Teresa

  7. ghnow says:

    Reblogged this on ghnow.

  8. Brook Bartlett says:

    I had a dream a few months ago that the voice-over was just going on and on and on, a never ending avalanche of very loud comments. In the dream it was really “brutal” — each time I would stop paying attention it would bring up some horrible violent fear or loathsome critique of me, others, anything to be heard. I was wandering through an old dillapitated house and I couldn’t figure out where “she” was hiding — this screaming, insulting, flattering, praising, disappointed, ambitious, complaining hag. I felt like I was looking for a monster in a dark cave. Suddenly I neared a door as the voice got louder and louder, “… you’ll never be anything!!!! Anything!!!! Speaking of which, what about genocide and the fact that you’re fat!!! But you must know that I love you. You are so special to me. You have no idea how brilliant you are. Are you listening to me you stupid ….” I opened the door in terror, ready to face Medusa. The room was very very old, peeling paint and some sort of frescos underneath. Bright sunlight streamed through the dusty windows. It was empty except for rubble and dust motes floating through the air. I looked around for the voice and finally, under a piece of rotten wood I saw an old style tape recorder, like the one from the opening to Mission Impossible. The voice was coming from it. Looping for all eternity. It wasn’t a voice, it was just bits of information stored on a magnetic tapes, sounds, issuing from a machine. I thought to myself, “Now who turned this on?” Suddenly the room was filled with light. There was great peace. The machine was still running, the noise was still there, but the silence received it. xoxo Brook

    • I experienced the rush of heat and tingles in the body that happen sometimes when something really strikes a truth chord. This dream is such a clear message about the whole identity dream, which is nothing more substantial than a looping recording, yet with a volume and insistence. Until you SEE the truth, the silence cannot receive it. Thank you for sharing Brook.

      • Brook Bartlett says:

        you always lead me to these expressions. so strange. i could never blog them myself — at least not where i am now — but having you like this clear mirror of extension of the same experience is so lovely! thank you for your efforts — for being willing to take center stage and form a cyclone around which we all share, fight, see, go blind, remember, forget, and ultimately gain ::: )))

  9. Wayne (Wirs) says:

    Do you see how angry you come off Joel? I was looking over your “journal” and really, we aren’t all that far off in our issues with the modern day psuedo nondual dualists. We differ on the mystical—I see an omnipotent intelligence as the Absolute—and you are, quite frankly angry and uncompassionate, but ultimately we are both talking about Oneness and integrating that with “real” life. Lori Ann is just relating what she is experiencing, and she is quite new to this. I look back at my blog after awakening – http://waynewirs.com/category/transition/?order=ASC -(I was blogging before, during and after awakening) and I see how pompous I was. What a fool! It’s a process, not a destination—and from reading your blog, you know that.

    • Joel says:

      No, Wayne, you may see anger, I don’t. But I do see in you a certain aloof cruelty in that you should call anyone else’s compassion into question. But don’t worry, you’re still as pompous, nothing has changed there.

    • Hello Wayne,

      Thanks for sharing your blog link — I took a peek. Joel and I joke that he is anti-matter to my matter, and we are like a check and balance system: I am the enthusiast, he the tempered cynic, writing from our own particular slice of the cosmic pie. This is not true, of course, that I am naive and he is jaded, it just appears that way in this Leela, game of god. I have a feeling too that you and Joel are like me and Joel…destined to dance together and delight in stepping on each others toes.

      I too am a mystic. Joel is if anything a contemplative. I am glad to have met you–my next piece, which will be an excerpt from an essay for a forthcoming book of essays, is on the uptick in synchronicity since I woke up–well, uptick is mild–deluge is more like it.

      Look forward to reading more of your work,

      Lori Ann

  10. sandeep says:

    lovely. i know u are talking truth..pure truth.
    i too want to stop that narrator and enjoy silence. but can u please solve my one doubt which i have since a long time:
    why should i? i mean we have this mind, this memory. the nature, the evolution has lead us develop this. we have neurons which are capable of storing information and so make us live on past. so its all a part of what is. why should i go against this…my this very property of past. just because i find peace or pleasure there.
    i know. i want to be awakened too. but my rational mind doesn’t allow me to do so.

    • The rational mind, mind in any form, does not wake up. There is at least here, a waking up from from the mind….

      The mind is a servant, a tool, a bodyguard, an idea maker. It’s not to discard the intellect, any more than one would discard feelings. It’s simply to realize that our true nature, who we really are, is not the thinking/feeling mind. That’s all.

      thanks for reading,

      Lori Ann

  11. hingehobu says:

    …and perfect picture!:)

  12. Joel says:

    And I might add that the narrative supply of constant insights into the nature of reality gets a bit tiresome after a while too. Sometimes you just have to cut out the middleman of the ascended master. I quite like the narrator who says ‘I don’t know’ and his twin brother ‘I don’t care’. But that one who says ‘Man, I’ve just like really understood that for the first time’ he can shove off.

    I much prefer the one who says ‘What a nice cat that is. The bumblebees are working hard today. My, look at that flower. Oh, there’s a crocodile in the clouds.’ He’s a lovely one to have hanging around, why kill him?

    • Kate Street says:

      Joel, I’m curious as to why you read this blog? So you can show you “know better”? Why not allow others their own reality? (By the way, these are rhetorical questions, I won’t be coming back looking for your response.)

      Perhaps Lori-Ann’s reality doesn’t resonate with you, but it does with me and I appreciate her “constant insights into the nature of” it.

      • Joel says:

        I was solely talking about finding my own constant insights into the nature of reality tiresome. You misread me. If others enjoy such things, that’s up to them. If comments here are meant to just be about hugging and stuff, just tell me, I don’t mind being ostracised by a much purer white light than I can muster. Although generally I tend to think if something I’ve said bothers someone they should examine it, rather than push it away. But it’s up to you. Some prefer their illusions.

    • The narrator that I like is the one that reminds me I left the damn pot of water boiling on the stove again and forgot all about it. She sounds like this” “Jesus, waht’s that burning metal smell. Dummy, you left the frikken pot and forgot about it again!”

  13. Kate Street says:

    I was JUST commenting this morning on how my inner critic is gone ~ and has been since 11/11. It’s truly, truly freeing to have NO ONE woulda/coulda/shoulda’ing me all the time.

    I love your take on this.

    I wouldn’t say I have a narrator in my head, but I do have a loud Inner Voice that I’m in LOVE with! To me it feels like an Ascended Master walking around in my head pointing out the things-that-are-no-longer-true (the illusion) and giving me Universal Truths. Every day I feel I’m having truths/epiphanies pop into my head and it’s so illuminating. One day I said to this voice, “You ROCK! I LIKE you!” and of course it said back to me “That’s because I’m YOU.”

    To actually LIKE/LOVE/BE IN AWE of the voice in my head now…that is utterly amazing to me.

    • Hi kate

      If you have to have a voice in your head, it’s great to have an epiphany delivering one! I used to “channel” and spent some years as a professional clairvoyant, in which hearing an inner voice with precognitive or universal truth wisdom was not uncommon. Now, that kind of information tends to arise in my dreams, or as a clairsentience (‘knowing” )rather than a clauraudient intelligence. Thank for reading.

      Lori Ann

  14. Wonderful post, thank you. And SO true.
    –Skye

  15. Joel says:

    Who’s doing the narrative about the death of the narrator?

    • The Muse is reporting on the Narrator’s Death–It’s an obit. :-)

      Okay, seriously though. I made some small changes in paragraph one based on your comment Joel. Functional thought (take out garbage now); creative thought (muse-driven thinking); investigative thought (curiousity, discovery thought) is not the same as the narrator, who in essence is the “I” ness of conditionings that filters life through negative and positive commentary–the very commentary that reinforces the sense we are a separate self, and “I.”

      This silence I am experiencing is simply the cessation of the inner critic or fan, who would spin reality rather than experience it.

      hugs

      Lori ANn

      • Joel says:

        Sure, that’s all fair enough, you have the new improved narrator, not the whiny fuckwit. I know. My comment was more that there is always going to be narration. Why pretend otherwise? Sometimes the inner critic has a point. Sometimes the fan is giving praise when no-one else can be bothered. Is there something inherently wrong with this? Take it or leave it. What you’re getting at is that you’re now free to do precisely that, with the result that what you leave will tend to show up less and less. But the idea that suddenly the narrator is dead is fallacious and could lead some to aim for the ludicrous myth of ‘the silent mind’, which of course is just bullshit.

    • Wayne (Wirs) says:

      Actually Joel, what she says matches up exactly with my experiences of the first few months of my awakening over two years ago. There is a profound loss of self-criticism and self-concern simply because the personal self has fallen away.

      This isn’t to say that there are no thoughts or inner-dialog, it is just that they are not centered on the idea of a “me.”

      This is a whole new world for her, don’t beat her up because her experiences aren’t matching what your theory of enlightenment is all about. It turned out to be vastly different from what I thought it would be, but I can assure you, from reading her blog, that she is “over the hump” (having dropped the personal self), but still finding her way (as am I still). When you step through the gate-less gate, it isn’t the end, it is just a new beginning.

      • Joel says:

        If this is regarded as ‘beating someone up’, just having a bloody discussion, what kind of fragile world are you living in? Honestly, I’m sure Lori-Ann doesn’t require you to stand over her like a concerned passerby trying to stop a rabbit run onto the motorway. And since when has ‘consensus’ over anything been of any importance whatsoever? But I’m glad you’re self-satisfied enough with your ‘awakening’ to have got it on the monorail of homogenised reality.

      • I wanted to address the “silent mind” myth…Joel you are right of course, the mind is never entirely mute, unless we are dead, and even then, who knows. I was pointing only to the relative silence of the narrator taking a hiatus (or perhaps retirement) here in my world. I also see that for some people this is a slower and more gradual reduction in volume. One thing is clear–the narrator is noise, and in a signal to noise ratio kind of analogy, the chattering mind is like a rowdy crowd of drunken revellers, shouting so loud they obsure the very music they are dancing too. By the way, check out Brook Bartlett’s comment above, her dream of the tape machine. Evocative and powerful.

      • Joel says:

        A better term than ‘a silent mind’ would be ‘a still mind’. While Buddhism seeks the diminishing and disappearance of movement in nirvana, the Book of Changes (Yijing) holds that stillness is merely a state of polarity that is always completed in movement. A still mind is a reality, since that is a mind that does not want anything and so the concern to get just drops away. When movement comes, it is a flow from stillness with there being no boundary between the two. This can seem like silence as the background of all noise. Of course, what is noise? What is silence? Is there actually any difference? There isn’t. But conventionally a noisy mind is one with concerns clamouring for attention, so a silent mind is one marked by the absence of that. The term has some value, but ultimately that mind has to understand that there is no difference between what is conceptualised as silence and what is conceptualised as noise. It is all just so.

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