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Urban enlightenment – On brain chatter

In Insight and Experience by LivingNowLeave a Comment

I’m learning, day by day, to identify brain chatter for what it is. It’s chatter. It’s not truth, not reality, not even good advice! It’s part gossip, part drama and part hot air from a part of you that delights in that kind of thing for its own sake.


I wish I were perfectly enlightened, perfectly aligned, perfectly clear. Instead, I’m normal. I mean my brain is a bit of a mess most of the time, and it turns out that there’s a reason – apart from the obvious conclusion that I’m only human!

The problem is that I carry around inside my head not one, but several voices. There’s the one I like, the one I can never find and then there’s the other one that … well … let’s just say that it’s the little mongrel that drives me mental.

First, there’s the calm, collected, centred part of me that makes rational, considered, solid decisions. This part of me has the capacity for perspective beyond the moment. It can speak of ecstatic joy and impenetrable sadness and everything in between. It tries to keep the perspective that I’m a spiritual being having a human experience.

Of course, it’s tricky to hold this perspective when you’re constantly dealing with the human experience itself. And let’s face it, that experience is very distracting!

Secondly, there’s the part of me that’s left over when all the other voices are actually quiet. To be honest I don’t connect with this part so often. This part turns up when I’m searching for the gap between my thoughts in meditation. This part is super quiet, super grounded and basically quite amused with the thing. This is the part of me that assures me it’ll be there when my time in this physical existence is done. This is the part of me that dwells in a higher place and connects me with my higher mission. This is the bit that I like to think of as who I really am.

Frankly, I wish I had this part of me on speed dial. Unfortunately, this enlightened me either doesn’t carry a mobile phone or doesn’t get reception. Email also bounces. Either way, it’s a delight when we’re actually in touch for those few magic seconds each day.

Then there’s the last and most annoying voice in my head. This voice is loud, convincing and lives moment to moment. This part of me is, for the most part, a trouble maker. Unfortunately, he’s also a terrific impersonator. He spends a lot of time pretending to be the other, more considered me – and getting away with it! Also – he’s quick. Oh man – he’s so quick with his little comments, his little jabs, fast as a snake in his judgments, in raising his fears and concerns. And did I mention dramatic?

‘He’s got a terrific body. We should sleep with him!’ he whispers in your ear as you spot an attractive jogger from your perch in the driver’s seat of your family car. Not something you actually want to do when you consider that you’ve been happily married for almost ten years.

‘We’re going to be fired – then we’re going to be broke! We’re going to lose the house and live on the streets!’ blurts the voice as you get an unexpected email from the boss, as yet unopened. This voice doesn’t consider that you’ve held this job successfully for several years. This part of you doesn’t take into account that the boss generally only emails you to take you to lunch. It just yells, ‘Panic stations, everyone, go to Red-Red-Ultra-Red-Alert Mode RIGHT NOW!’

‘We’ll never get rich, we’re going to be poor forever, how will we ever pay this?!’ the voice laments as you open a phone bill, never stopping to consider that you can actually pay comfortably and have always found a way.

‘This is going to be cancer, I can feel it!’ the voice says as you sit waiting in the doctor’s office for a report. ‘After all, one in eight people die of cancer, and don’t you remember? We used to smoke!’ says the voice, not taking into account that you’re actually feeling fine.

This voice is pretty compelling, right? And it’s so quick, so automatic and reflexive that it’s easy to mistake for truth.

And yet, most of the time, it’s not. Sure – this part of you is looking out, like a sailor watching for rocks in the crow’s nest of your mind, for your best interests. Does that make you a boat? Maybe we should change the metaphor.

The problem is that this part of you doesn’t always, doesn’t often, have the best answer. It just has the first answer. It often has the louder answer. It almost always has a stressful, fearful answer that would have you live in those emotional states perpetually – and who wants to live in perpetual fear, stress and tension?

That alone is bad enough. Unfortunately, this part of you also contributes massively towards the kind of ambiguity that will derail your efforts regarding the Law of Attraction.

I call this voice my ‘Brain Chatter’. It feels very ego driven to me – and not the kind of advice I’d want to use to run my life. I’d much prefer to listen to that more considered, fun loving, basic part of me that is talking when the brain chatter is not active. Actually, given a choice, I’d prefer to listen to the soul or spirit part of me that pre-dates even that consciousness – although as mentioned above, that part is hard to find. It doesn’t have its own Facebook page marked ‘My True Inner Self: VIP Access Only’ – which would be helpful. What gives?!

Long story short, I’m learning, day by day, to identify brain chatter for what it is. It’s chatter. It’s not truth, not reality, not even good advice! It’s part gossip, part drama and part hot air from a part of you that delights in that kind of thing for its own sake.

Actually, there’s another signature move that allows this voice to capture my attention. It loves to focus on how events might unfold. It can run this stuff around and around, searching for and elaborating on new ideas and options forever! And it can have me worry about them too, even when they haven’t actually happened!

And it’s not only me. I have a great friend who is a flourishing rock-star at the beginning of her career. We talk frequently about the details of her life with lovely updates on the latest unfolding events. It’s like watching the evening news only the gossip is often quite positive and I actually know the person involved.

Anyway, we were in midst of one these updates in which we were talking about the release of her up and coming album, entitled ‘the Experiment’. Lovely. She was telling me about the interviews her PR agent was lining up, the gigs her booker was finding, the duplication of the album and so on. All stock standard rock-star industry gossip, nothing unusual there.

Then I noticed that we’d actually had this same conversation before. We’d had this conversation not only once or twice but dozens of times over the course of several years. It was actually an endless loop in which we considered what should come first, who should do what, whether we were doing the right things and what might possibly happen. We were dwelling endlessly on the ‘What if’.

In the moment I realised this I said, and this might not have been my proudest moment, ‘Have you considered focusing on what you want rather than these endless iterations on how your desires might come to pass?’

There was a deafening silence on the other end of the phone. Clearly I’d stepped beyond the bounds of a friendship and into the inappropriate space that breaks them. After all, I’m her friend, not her guru!

The problem is that we are addicted to the endless looping, to the endless irrelevant focus on ‘how’. We are captivated by the brain-chatter that is filling our minds like a 24-hour internal broadcast of ‘The Days of Our Lives’.

The trick is to learning to recognise when it’s brain chatter talking as opposed to your more profound, conscious, grounded voice. And when you do recognise a thought that comes from this chatter place, here’s what you do.

You love it. You just give it a nod, a smile and a wave as it passes by. It’s doing good work, after all, looking out for your best interests. It’s just not the part of you that you want making your decisions!

I’m glad it’s there – but I prefer to think of it as comic relief as opposed to my best guide to reality.

‘We’re going to have to get rid of the dog or we’ll slip on one of these yellow puddles, break our leg, lose our job and ultimately die!’ it tells me as we step around another pool of stinky carpet dampness. ‘This is a PANIC SITUATION!’ it yells.

I love it – what a great voice! Even better when I recognise it right there in that moment.

And when I do, I just nod, smile and wave, deliberately forgetting that it ever even spoke.


Tim Levy is an author, entertainer and executive producer. He is currently finishing up a book combining spirit and business through his Life Summit process. He does regular workshops and life coaching around Australia.

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