It seems I waited too long to sign in to Oprah's book discussion with Eckhart Tolle tonight...so I'll have to watch it tomorrow.
At least it gives me a chance to post a bit.
I wanted to talk a bit about meditation (being Meditation Monday) and quiet mind.
It is interesting that when we sit to meditate, often our mind begins to chatter, chatter, chatter. (This is the voice that Tolle talks about in the book A New Earth. It's so easy to hear it when you are trying to quiet it.)
Sometimes it's in attack mode: "this is stupid, pointless, boring" or "you're no good at meditating...." Sometimes it tries to distract: suddenly you realize you haven't cleaned the litter box in a few days and it MUST BE DONE NOW! Or you wonder what you should have for dinner, or that you need to pick up cheese at the store...or any other little thing.
It is strange that we do this to ourselves, that our mind (ego) can't keep still for even a minute. This is because it is the ego, and it isn't real. It is just a tiny part of who we are...but it likes to make us think it IS who we are, after all: "I think, therefore I am", right? On pages 54-55, Tolle discusses this: "He (Descartes) realized that the fact that he was always thinking was beyond doubt, and so he equated thinking with Being, that is to say, identity--I am--with thinking. Instead of the ultimate truth, he had found the root of the ego, but he didn't know that." The ego knows that without our believing it is who we are, it's very existence will be threatened.
What can we do with this when we meditate, that is, when our aim is to achieve a quiet mind?
Firstly, don't rail at it. Don't yell at it or demand it to be quiet: that's it coming in through a back door.
Also, don't identify with it. You'll notice that if you don't get up to change that litter box, when your timer goes off (or your meditation session otherwise ends), it will suddenly be not so important, and chances are you won't even do it (I speak from experience.) Setting yourself a small amount of time (even 5 minutes) is often a good beginning technique: it gives you a good amount of time to meditate, but if your voice is nagging at you to do other things, most everything can wait five minutes, so you're not as tempted to give in.
As soon as you find yourself following a thought, just let it go and come back to your breath, or whatever other focus you've set up for yourself (some people relax their body into the floor, others use mantras or images.) Don't judge or scold yourself, just let it go and come back to the breath. It happens to everyone (unless it doesn't.)
Soon you will begin to wordlessly notice the quiet, the spaces between the breath, the spaces inside. Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer refer to the space as the gap. It is very peaceful, serene, vast. But as soon as we put words on it, that is the voice at work again, so just let it go and come back to the quiet.