Rebel Zen and the Art of Small Voices

By Seamus Anthony

By Steven Mills

There is nothing better then finding that you have carved out a spare hour in the day to sit and meditate.

The daily worries of the world have started to float away, and the big thoughts that fill your normal waking mind have started to quieten down. A slow, easy feeling of peace works its way over your body as you focus on the simpleness of in breath and out breath. You begin to focus on nothing, to pull your observing mind out of the “stream of consciousness” and begin to notice your thoughts as something separate.

Then you start to hear them.

“Oh yes doing well, yes quieten down the thoughts” says one.

“You really should be doing that blog post and not meditating” says the next.

“Sounds like a truck outside, wait.. wait… no it’s a bloody leaf blower!” complains a third voice.

It’s the small voices of the mind, the thoughts that during waking life dictate your actions and way of thinking, but now in meditation serve to distract you from your aim of letting go and giving the mind a rest.

In the still silence of meditation each of these small voices begins to sound very loud. And while you would think on a Zenish blog such as this I would be all against the annoying babble of the ego, I have come to have a small sense of respect for this misunderstood aspect of my psyche.

The way that I see it, each of those voices is a mini revolution in your head. It is your mind, or more accurately your ego rebelling against the idea of being quiet. The ego will do anything to get you to stop focusing on something else, but instead go back to how you spend a lot the other hours of your waking life, focusing on it. It puts on characters, it puts on plays. It will start to talk to you like yoda.

It will send you off on strange mental journeys to remember what you had for lunch on the 3rd of April in 2004. It will try to convince you that are 232 better things that you could be doing with your time right at this very minute. It will try to send you to sleep; it will try to make you uncomfortable. Some call it monkey mind, but more often then not it acts more like King Kong then a friendly chimp.

So you can see that while you start to quieten down these voices, the ego part of you starts rebelling against the observer.

An internal war escalates, with both sides digging in and upping the ante from minute to minute. The harder you directly fight the inner voices and forces of the ego, the harder it will fight back.  If you continue to fight it will end up in full on war, with all of your attention being used to quell the voices and associated images, and none left to focus on the object of your mediation. And you thought this stuff was all peace and love?

Well, instead of fighting this inner rebel, the thing to do is to accept him. Let go of the idea chasing all of the voices down and let them speak. As they do though, imagine that the volume on each is turning down, and that the voice is slowly floating away.

Allow them to say what they have to say, but don’t buy into the story that they are telling you.

Hi, I'm Seamus Anthony. I am an author, artist and musician from Australia. Here at Rebel Zen, I document my journey as an creative artist and human and in doing so, hopefully help you in your own progress through your life of creativity. Go get your free E-book by me: "Taming The Monkey Mind".

2 comments Write a comment

  1. Since I first read this post, my small voices are still there. But now I have a new one, saying “turn down the volume, let them float away”. 😀

    I need a set of observer-earplugs I think. *sigh*

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