Do we have to get rid of all our mental chatter?

A student writes:

I was reading the book ‘Openness Clarity Sensitivity’ where it talks about mental chatter. I’ve noticed I’m always talking to myself in my head, even when reading I’m saying the words. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to stop. Do you have any advice?

Lama Shenpen replies:

The instruction is to notice the mental chatter – not to stop it. So when you are reading, you just notice the way you voice the words to yourself (or not) and continue noticing what happens at other times too. Maybe there is no problem with voicing things in your mind?

Maybe there is something to be learnt from noticing it that has nothing to do with stopping it. Or you may find that there is an awful lot of mental chatter that is actually driving you and taking your attention away from things you would rather be aware of.

Noticing the chatter is the first step to noticing you have more choice than perhaps you thought, about what to engage your attention in.

It is interesting too, to notice yourself talking to yourself as you read and write and go about your life – just to notice if it is actually really necessary or not. I don’t say that because I think it’s unnecessary. I say it because it’s so interesting to become aware of one’s experience.

Lama Shenpen Hookham

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