I don’t know how or why, but from a very early age, as young as I can remember, I’ve always identified with being smart. Intelligence was always something I aspired to. I remember being in second grade and hearing the story of Solomon for the first time. He was a King and a really good guy. So much so, that God told Solomon that he would bless him with whatever he wanted. Land, power, women, you name it, you got it. Solomon asked for wisdom, and God was impressed. He gave Solomon a wise and discerning heart, and threw in all the other things Solomon had passed up as door prizes.
Since I was eight years old, I’ve periodically prayed the same prayer Solomon prayed. I wanted wisdom. I wanted God to be impressed with me. The fact that it also impressed parents and teachers was a bonus.
All of that to say, I have an extremely active internal monologue. That little silent voice that speaks all your thoughts “out loud” in your brain has been a constant companion my entire life. So much so, in fact, that I’ve always believed that voice and myself to very much be the same thing, despite the fact that I endeavor to have conversations with it from time to time.
In fact, that voice is quite the chatterbox. If I’m reading, it says each word aloud in my head. If I’m thinking about something intently, it’s talking the various points out. I’ve always assumed that this is normative; we all do it.
So imagine my surprise when in doing my meditation research I came across this little nugget:
“You will never discover the true you by thinking about something, or anything for that matter. You see, there is a difference to be observed between ‘you’ and ‘what you think about’. In fact the very sentence says it: ‘What you think about’.
The ‘you’ is considered to be separate from your thought. Your thought is supposed to be a tool for the ‘you’ to help you accomplish things in life. Unfortunately, even tho we feel that we control what we think about, it is the opposite. Thought controls us. Enlightenment starts with becoming lighter from the burdens of thought. ‘The thinking disease’ it is often called.
Because the mind is constantly racing thoughts through our mind, we think that we are what we think. Even though we become what we think it is not who we are.
The real You is obscured by all those thoughts and emotions. By meditating, we learn and train our mind (gently as there is no other way) to not constantly identify with thought, to create space between who we are and what we think or feel.
In time, thoughts and emotions will be separate from our deepest self, a state commonly described as ‘enlightenment’.
As you might have guessed now, the trick is to not think. Since this is almost impossible to achieve without practice, we learn tricks, commonly known as meditation techniques, such as watching the breath, mantra, chanting, prayer, you name it. By slight concentration on one thing, you train yourself to watch all your thoughts, observe them without judgement or involvement. That is all you need to think of, nothing more, and I must say, it is difficult enough already.”
In all my years, it had never occurred to me that there was any difference between my identity as a human, and that voice in the back of my head. All my life, that voice has spoken the way I speak, thought the way I thought. When I speak out loud, I’m emulating that voice. If I’m not that voice, then who am I?
During my evening meditation tonight, that question was bouncing through my skull like a bouncy ball despite the mantra padding I was trying to place. After several minutes of meditation, I started reflecting. (Meditation is allowing your head to be free of thought. Reflection is trying to quiet your thoughts so you can roll an idea or thought around your brain with less interference.)
Thinking about this, I realized that the Great Silence was brought about because I refused to recognize God attempting to engage with me in any way that didn’t also engage my mind. If God was being active in my life, then I should have epiphanies to show for it, shouldn’t I? It never even occurred to me that there was some other way that God might try to interact with us. Even right now, I can’t begin to guess what that would look like.
What if learning how to shut off that voice and to simply be and exist allows God to get to places in our bodies and minds and psyches that he couldn’t ordinarily get to? In the darkness of our guest bedroom, I imagined that I was a computer. Some of my parts have overheated and gone wonky. Others are filled with dust. Some of them need replaced. What if this voice, this concept of me is like the case of the computer? In order for God to be able to really get in there and make some upgrades, that case has to come off.
And once it’s off, what the hell does that look like? Who are we if not for those tiny head-voices? I honestly don’t have a clue. If that voice is only a reflection of my personality and not the origin of it… Where is it coming from?
I don’t know the answers yet… But if God is there, I hope to find Him.