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Thread: The blasted, nagging, loud inner voice while meditating

  1. #1
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    The blasted, nagging, loud inner voice while meditating

    Gassho, all.

    Does anyone else find a persistent, nonstop inner voice bothering them while sitting? Much of my job day-to-day is reading, analyzing, forming an opinion and writing, so I have a clear, articulate and logical narrative like someone speaking, only in my mind.

    When I sit, it overrides much else of what's going on. While imagery, memories and feelings arise, they clear out pretty quickly as I focus on my breathing. But the voice is constant, like a tap with a broken faucet, or a talk radio station you can't turn off, and louder than everything else. It's never really bothered me before, and doesn't as I go about ordinary life. In fact, I've always felt it was an asset.

    But as I've become more aware of my inner life through the process of zazen, I find I -- whatever that "I" may be, I'm not sure -- am getting frustrated, and that frustration is manifesting itself in resistance and judgement, even though I don't want it to. Presumably, I'd ideally just let the voice run without judgment while sitting, but it never seems to talk itself out. It seems inexhaustible. If I'm awake, the voice is running. When I sit, the voice is running.

    So, any advice from more experienced meditators would be most welcome. By all means, sit me down on Buddha's couch and have at it.

    Cliff

  2. #2
    Senior Member Nameless's Avatar
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    Hey Cliff,

    I know this voice well. I call it the Executive Inner-Monologue. After settling in to a sit, thoughts seem to take on almost tangible form as the other senses recede. Then one by one it feels as if they float up and away. The executive is the last one to depart for me. Usually it grows a bit quieter, then the words become unintelligible and almost sound like a babbling brook. Then even the brook fades away.

    It's taken me months to even begin to let it go, and sometimes it's more persistent than others. When this problem first started coming up, I found focusing on the space between the words helped. Kind of focusing on non-focusing. Sometimes the space after an exhalation is a beneficial area of focus too. It's important to not beat yourself up over it.

    I've had an active inner-monologue for years. It's taken me around 8 months of practice to finally see through it. Also, the more I think of cutting off all thinking as a goal, the more it becomes impossible to attain it. Just cut lose brother, and it'll come.

    Gassho, John

  3. #3
    Senior Member Tiwala's Avatar
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    I don't know, but regularly exercising helps me. I mean, like really intense exercise that flood you with happy natural chemicals. There's something about devoting your energy to moving the body that clears the mind real nice.

    Gassho, Ben
    Gassho
    Ben

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by cgcumber View Post
    ... bothering them while sitting? ...

    -- whatever that "I" may be, I'm not sure -- am getting frustrated, and that frustration is manifesting itself in resistance and judgement, even though I don't want it to. Presumably, I'd ideally just let the voice run without judgment while sitting, but it never seems to talk itself out. It seems inexhaustible. If I'm awake, the voice is running. When I sit, the voice is running.
    WHERE is this "bother" "frustration"? Is it the thoughts that are bothersome and frustrating, or ultimately your reaction to them? Thoughts, life events, noisy neighbors ... are not "bothersome" unless we react to them and are bothered. It takes "two to tangle". It takes your making frustration for you to be frustrated!

    Just let them do their thing. Just allow them, as if allowing those noisy neighbors not to disturb your Zazen (and I do not mean you should get up and go bang on their door. Rather, just let them be. Pay em no nevermind.).

    If thoughts really really really REALLY are out of control, one might count or focus on the breath for a short while.

    Last time, I spoke about how there is no “bad” Zazen, even on those days when the mind is very cloudy with thoughts and emotions. But in fact, there are a couple of things we can do to settle down when the mind is really, really, really, stirred up with tangled thoughts, wild emotions and confusion.

    We can count the breaths, for example, counting from 1 to 10 at each inhalation and exhalation, then coming back to one and starting all over when we reach ten (which we rarely do) or lose track. Or we can simply follow the breath without counting, for example, observing effortlessly as it enters and exits the nose. These are excellent practices, and will calm the mind (itself a form of Shikantaza that some people pursue, even for a lifetime!). HOWEVER, for reasons I will discuss, I recommend such practices only as temporary measures for true beginners with no experience of how to let the mind calm at all, or others on those sometime days when the mind really, really, really is upset and disturbed. AS SOON AS the mind settles a bit, I advise the we return our attention to “the clear, blue, spacious sky that holds all“, letting clouds of thought and emotion drift from mind, focused on what can be called “everything, and nothing at all” or “no place and everyplace at once.” I will explain why in today’s talk.

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...-%28Part-XI%29
    Jon's advice to find the space between thoughts is good too (like the clear moments between clouds).

    But then, when things settle a bit ... return to nonjudgmental, open awareness. Be no more bothered by your thoughts than you are bothered by the table sitting across the room from where you sit. It just is. Do not grab on, be concerned, react to it ... make it worse. You are creating the "bother" and "resistance". In the end, just let clouds be clouds.

    Clear days are clear, cloudy days are cloudy. Silence is silent, noisy neighbors are just noisy. The trick to this Practice is to realize that the Clear is always present, both as sunny days and cloudy. Silence is found in both silence and the loudest noise. One does not need silence to experience Silence.

    If you stop being bothered or getting sucked in ... if you come to "pay em no nevermind" ... you may find that, poof, the problem is solved! The thoughts become less important, and no bother. They may even fade away as they fade as a bother, thus fading from attention. Do not try to stop the thought trains. Rather, just do not get on the train and let em pass by, finding the destination right where one sits!

    By the way, good time to repost the following ... what I say to anyone with a similar self-made "problem".

    Right Zazen and Wrong Zazen
    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...nd-Wrong-Zazen

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-03-2014 at 03:54 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  5. #5
    I had this problem at first, to the point where I just wanted to give up sitting altogether. However, I found treeleaf and posted a question much similar to yours. After taking into consideration all the advice that was given (especially from our awesome teachers) I decided to stick with it and keep those words in the back of my mind. The Zazen for beginners (we are all beginners!) sit-a-longs with Jundo and Taigu are also fantastic. I'm not sure you'll find anything as helpful as that anywhere else regarding our practice. I started to think of my thoughts as a fire: the more kindling you add to it the more out of control it becomes. Once you stop adding fuel to the fire, you will see it start to die down. I think the easiest part was to not be frustrated with my thoughts, while the hard part is not letting them take you away into some elaborate narrative that you get completely wrapped up in.

    Sent from my SCH-I535 using Tapatalk

  6. #6
    Hello everyone,
    I sit since 5 years and I have that noisy mind almost always, well, I guess it got less, but it doesn't matter. What I found is a strong relation between the "rest of the life" and the zazen times, if my life mind is very busy, my zazen mind is very busy. Just these days it is.
    _()_
    Myoku

  7. #7
    Hi Cliff,

    Accept this inner voice and relax.
    Then it will be easier to let it go.
    And when it vanishes one day that won't be a reason for being happy either - rest assured it will come back again.
    Things are as they are - just let go. Even the strong desire to let go.

    Gassho,

    Daitetsu
    no thing needs to be added

  8. #8
    Senior Member Entai's Avatar
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    Cliff,
    We need to get used to that voice, because it's not going away. Best to let go as best you can. Watch it doing its thing, don't pick it up. It may quiet down a bit, it may not. Then the question is this: who is doing the watching? That one pops up for me at times. Let that one go too...over and over. It can be a very interesting onion...layer after layer. But there is nothing "real" about any of it. Typically you won't miss out on anything important by not picking them up. If that makes any sense...

    Gassho, Entai

    Entai (Bill)
    "Be kind - for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" - Plato

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    Some really excellent advice here, as always. Thank you all (John, Ben, Jundo, Steven, Myoko, Daitetsu) -- the only problem is not realizing there's no problem, and the only person who can do that is me. (But having good people remind you is invaluable.)

    Fighting things, wishing things were some other way that how they are, judging, resisting, going against the grain and the flow, wishing 'sad' days were happy or 'happy' days were happier ... filled with a sense of self bumping up against all the other 'selfs', with a mind held by thoughts of doing Zazen 'right' or doing it 'wrong' ... THIS IS DOING ZAZEN WRONG. And when you are doing it wrong, it will usually feel like you are doing it wrong, for there is resistance, and a sense of imbalance, cloudiness, greyness.

    But as well, even at those times when Zazen feels 'wrong', when there is resistance or imbalance ... it is still 'right', still 'Zazen', still just what it is. IT CANNOT BE WRONG. This last point is vital to understanding.


    Domo arigato gozaimasu.

  10. #10
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Hi,

    The voice is part of you. It's that portion of your mind that over thinks stuff and that won't shut up. You can't ignore it and you can't make it shut up.

    However you can slow it down. It doesn't become a problem until you make it one by focusing on it.

    Just let it flow like nice fluffy cloud passing by your clear blue sky.

    I have found that after a few minutes on my zazen the voice simple morphs into the background.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Please remember I am only a priest in training. I could be wrong in everything I say. Slap me if needed.

    The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one. Mr. Spock

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Myoku View Post
    What I found is a strong relation between the "rest of the life" and the zazen times, if my life mind is very busy, my zazen mind is very busy. Just these days it is.
    _()_
    Myoku

    I find this too

    Gassho,

    Risho

  12. #12
    Senior Member Heishu's Avatar
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    Inner voice is always there, greet it, acknowledge it, let it go. As time passes inner voice will become bored with your sitting and will sit with you in peace but will still challenge you from time to time. When that happens; greet it, acknowledge it, and then let it go

    Gassho,
    Heihsu


    “Blessed are the flexible, for they never get bent out of shape." Author Unknown

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Heishu View Post
    Inner voice is always there, greet it, acknowledge it, let it go. As time passes inner voice will become bored with your sitting and will sit with you in peace but will still challenge you from time to time. When that happens; greet it, acknowledge it, and then let it go

    Gassho,
    Heihsu
    And if one can, no need even for the "greeting" and "acknowledging" ... and best to just "let go". No need to greet or acknowledge any more than one greets and acknowledges the air around or one's own skin. Just let it be without paying "no nevermind".

    Even better is to recognize that there is "no coming, no going" in thoughts that we need to even "let go." Nothing that can be grabbed from the first either.

    An old Koan ...

    Hui-k'o, who would be the Second Ancestor of Zen in China, said to Bodhidharma, "Your disciple's mind has no peace as yet. Master, please, put it to rest." Bodhidharma said, "Bring me your mind, and I will put it to rest." Hui-k'o said, "I have searched for my mind, but I cannot find it." Bodhidharma said, "I have completely put it to rest for you."

    The source of thoughts and where to go to cannot be found, and is always present. They do not "come", they do not "go" ... even though they appear to do so (and so it is for my dear Teacher Nishijima whose funeral I attend today ... and our cat who died last week. They appear to come, they seem to go ... but yet there is "no coming, no going").

    Best to know that, while all the world seems to come and go ... even silence and noisy neighbors ... ultimately, no coming no going.

    But, in the meantime, until such is realized ... when thoughts comes, just do not latch on and let them go their way.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-04-2014 at 01:01 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  14. #14
    Senior Member Myosha's Avatar
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    Thank you.


    Gassho,
    Myosha
    Practice with humility, respect all beings, avoid attachments, give rise to prajña from your own awareness, put an end to delusions - Hui-neng

  15. #15
    Some call it the shitty committee. Pay them no mind and they eventually get tired and go mind someone else. :-)

    Gassho, Jishin

  16. #16
    Senior Member Tiwala's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kyonin View Post
    Hi,

    The voice is part of you. It's that portion of your mind that over thinks stuff and that won't shut up. You can't ignore it and you can't make it shut up.

    However you can slow it down. It doesn't become a problem until you make it one by focusing on it.

    Just let it flow like nice fluffy cloud passing by your clear blue sky.

    I have found that after a few minutes on my zazen the voice simple morphs into the background.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    And if one can, no need even for the "greeting" and "acknowledging" ... and best to just "let go". No need to greet or acknowledge any more than one greets and acknowledges the air around or one's own skin. Just let it be without paying "no nevermind".

    Even better is to recognize that there is "no coming, no going" in thoughts that we need to even "let go." Nothing that can be grabbed from the first either.

    An old Koan ...

    Hui-k'o, who would be the Second Ancestor of Zen in China, said to Bodhidharma, "Your disciple's mind has no peace as yet. Master, please, put it to rest." Bodhidharma said, "Bring me your mind, and I will put it to rest." Hui-k'o said, "I have searched for my mind, but I cannot find it." Bodhidharma said, "I have completely put it to rest for you."

    The source of thoughts and where to go to cannot be found, and is always present. They do not "come", they do not "go" ... even though they appear to do so (and so it is for my dear Teacher Nishijima whose funeral I attend today ... and our cat who died last week. They appear to come, they seem to go ... but yet there is "no coming, no going").

    Best to know that, while all the world seems to come and go ... even silence and noisy neighbors ... ultimately, no coming no going.

    But, in the meantime, until such is realized ... when thoughts comes, just do not latch on and let them go their way.

    Gassho, J
    Thanks, Jundo

    Gassho, Ben
    Gassho
    Ben

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kyonin View Post

    Just let it flow like nice fluffy cloud passing by your clear blue sky.

    I have found that after a few minutes on my zazen the voice simple morphs into the background.

    =
    I've been finding this more and more. It's still there, but I let it be, and it's not so loud or insistent.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Entai View Post
    Cliff,
    We need to get used to that voice, because it's not going away. Best to let go as best you can. Watch it doing its thing, don't pick it up. It may quiet down a bit, it may not. Then the question is this: who is doing the watching? That one pops up for me at times. Let that one go too...over and over. It can be a very interesting onion...layer after layer. But there is nothing "real" about any of it. Typically you won't miss out on anything important by not picking them up. If that makes any sense...

    Gassho, Entai
    Entai -- who watches the watchman is one I wonder too, every so often. I think the onion analogy's a good one, in that ultimately, it's layer upon layer, all the way down.

  19. #19
    Senior Member Entai's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cgcumber View Post
    Entai -- who watches the watchman is one I wonder too, every so often. I think the onion analogy's a good one, in that ultimately, it's layer upon layer, all the way down.
    Funny thing is, when you peel an onion all the way down, you are left with no onion... except of course for the onion you've peeled...

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