Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Submerging the chatter

I recently learned about a Buddhist meditation technique called vipassana, which is basically saying to yourself over and over what you are doing at that moment. It can be used when doing walking mediation. So, you can say "walking walking walking" as you walk. You can also say "looking" or "seeing," whichever word works for you. I prefer "looking" because it's when I'm noticing something in particular. It's a more active word than "seeing," at least in my thinking.

When I'm done looking at a particular object I go back to saying "walking." Sometimes I change it up and I say "feet feet" and center my concentration on my feet. I notice how my feet strike the pavement, whether any part of my toes are feeling rubbed by my shoes, the sound of my footfalls.

Speaking of noise, I also really enjoy switching it up to "listening listening." I have discovered that when I focus on listening with an open mind, the world around me sounds different and I hear all sorts of things I'm not sure that I would notice otherwise.

I really like the effect these techniques have on quieting the chatter in my head. On one hand, I wish I could simply turn down the chatter and be done with it. But I can't make that happen without assistance right now. And it turns out that this type of mediation turns those voices right off.

Apparently some people who practice this meditation will allow their thoughts to wander and then they will simply silently chant "thinking" when they notice that happening. That doesn't really work for me because when I'm doing this exercise I prefer to not allow my mind to wander. So when it does I calmly steer my thoughts back to the chanting right away.

Vipassana is so effective that I can do it almost anywhere and even better if I'm able to close my eyes.

I was on the train headed to Brooklyn yesterday evening and there was a lot of chatter. So I closed my eyes and checked in with various parts of my body. I silently spoke to each part of my body and focused on how that body part felt. When I got to body parts that felt like they were not calm, I stopped on them and I spoke gently to them. "Forehead, I get that you're tense right now. Do you want to try relaxing a little bit?" That sort of thing. I have never spoken to my body like that before, but at the time it just seemed like a good idea.

I have to say: it REALLY worked. I opened my eyes after a little while and felt completely relaxed and no longer tense in any way. I calmly looked out the window then and saw my local stop whizzing by. While in my trance, I had missed the announcement about the train switching from a local C to an express A. Damnit! All sense of calm disappeared in an instant.

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