mad in pursuit notebook


Brain Chatter

mind chatter

"I have lots of conversation in my head," Pat says. "So am I talking with my soul?"

"That's probably just brain chatter," I say.

Later she comes back with: "I LIKE my brain chatter."

I laugh. "So do I. But it can get in the way..."

The jury is still out as to whether I ever have genuine converations with my "soul" -- although when my mother used to instruct me to have a "a little talk with myself," I think she was referring to my soul (or my guardian angel, or the Blessed Mother, or the Sacred Heart) for an examination of my conscience.

Meanwhile, I'm well acquainted with brain chatter. I enjoy a rip-roaring conversation with myself, rethinking all the things I should have said to So-And-So and rehearsing all the things I wish I had the nerve to say next time. Sometimes I can dialogue my way through a problem and onto a good decision path. But it becomes a problem (a) when I'm obsessing and can't let it go, till I write the ill-advised email or eat the whole bag of M&Ms. Or (b) when the voices distract me to do a million things except for the project I should be focusing on. Or (c) when I am just plain wrong and use my brain chatter to reassure myself that I am right.

To hear something more original, more creative, and wiser than my obsessed-distracted-benighted ego-voices, I need to think of them as separate from me and let them float away. "Just thoughts -- nothing to do with the reality of the moment -- we can pick up where we left off later."

To get serious about tuning into the deeper, purer voices, some cultures/traditions use specific techniques: chanting, drumming, breath control, counting. I've tried enough "mindfulness," from the Buddhist tradition of zazen, to know that it works... not that I practice it as often as I should.