What if you had someone following you around all day, chattering non-stop in your ear about everything that happens (or has happened, or could happen)?
When you are talking to others, this person is judging what they're saying, telling you what you should say, or talking about something completely unrelated to the conversation you are having.
When you are at the store or the coffee shop, they are yammering on about everyone and everything around you - labeling, criticizing, judging.
They offer a constant narrative on everything in your experience - people, places, things. And if you are alone, they remind you of what you did (or didn't) do in the past. Or, they stress you out about things that may (or may not) happen in the future.
If you're working or studying, they talk to you about stuff not related to work or school. They distract you, and fill your head with things that pull you away from the task at hand, limiting your productivity and focus.
If you're relaxing, they talk to you about work or school. They get you worried and anxious, which defeats the purpose of trying to relax in the first place!
What would you think about this person that followed you around all day long and did these things to you? Would you be annoyed? Angry? How long would you let it continue before you took steps to change the situation?
Most of us wouldn't go more than an hour or two before we said "enough is enough!" Some of us wouldn't go more than a minute or two.
Being at the mercy of someone so pervasive and compulsive - someone who didn't stop talking - would have dire consequences on our overall health and well-being.
Yet, this is our relationship with our minds.
We all have this voice in our heads. It's so common and omnipresent, many of us don't realize it anymore. We just automatically listen to it, and let it influence (and, oftentimes, dictate) our decisions, actions, health, and state of being.
Being lost in this mental noise is how we spend most of our days. And, it creates conditioned behavior that leads to the struggles we all face in life: from stress and anxiety to endless worry, low self-confidence, sleep problems...the list goes on and on.
What do you do about it?
Start listening to that voice in your head right now. And keep listening to it throughout your day.
What's it saying while you are working? Talking to others? Watching television? Playing with your dog? Walking around the block? Cooking dinner?
When you listen, you cultivate awareness. As you become more aware, you learn not to indulge that voice and everything it tells you. You learn to let it be as it is, independent from you and your attention.
This is the essence of mindfulness and meditation.
It's like telling that person following you around all day, chattering non-stop in your ear, to leave you alone.
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