The babbler is the one who is ruining your meditations. The babbler is the one who brings up your to-do lists, memories and plans for the future and uses the emotions tied to them to distract you from concentration, regardless of how dedicated you are. It’s the fault of the babbler that so many people think they are no good at meditation. Last night I had a close encounter with the root of this voice and I want to talk about it. [Also, this is the first post I’ve worked on for more than a day during this challenge.] I’ve spent many hard months learning to call upon my babbler by many different names… “inner voice”…”ego”…”Little Veronica”… they all helped for a while, each led me to know some small part of where these natural distractions are coming from. Let’s take a deeper look.
Close your eyes (at the end of this paragraph, obviously) and imagine a lake. The surface is wavy and wind stirs up the water making it choppy and tumultuous, unable to reflect the images of fluffy clouds drifting across a blue sky. Now sink deeper into the water. As you move down towards the center of the earth, note the increasing stillness of the heavy, almost solid water. When you get to the bottom of the lake, the water will be motionless and you will feel one with the silent stillness. (Now’s the time to take three breaths and visualize this progression.)
Beneath the memories of missed opportunities and awkward moments that float across the surface of my mind-pond, last night I decided to sink down (as I do many nights) to find stillness; however, tonight was different because I realized that as I moved down, I was also somehow moving to the root of these distracting thoughts, and quickly I found myself at the bottom of the lake, facing my ego.
At the tranquil bottom of a pond that seemed so crazy and unsettled, I saw that this gentle creature, so often demonized by cries of, “Kill the ego! Lose it! Forget about it!” was actually just very humbly working in overdrive to keep my special self alive. Little Veronica was overwhelmed by fear and constantly asking what she could do to feel safer and more secure, constantly scanning the area for threats to her peace and joy. This searching and asking is the voice of the babbler and this voice is formed when we are small, bearing appropriate fear and love tendencies related to our childhood environments.
This fearful creature inside all of us lives alongside the peaceful and joyful internal presence we call the spirit. The act of meditation is training the babbler how to sit quietly and recognize that s/he needn’t be active all the time, that the work of surviving can be shared. It’s no coincidence that society has increased difficulty teaching our children the habit of stillness and that stress runs rampant in adults and despite increased scientific evidence of its benefits, so few people find they can sustain a meditation practice.
It’s my hope that with an awareness of where these thoughts come from we can all view their arising not as a failure to meditate, but a good sign, a clue that will lead us to the root of the babbling, the end of the treasure hunt, and along the path to stillness.
Have you been to the bottom of the pond before? What’s it like at the root of your thoughts? How do you get there? Is the babbler your friend or your enemy or even, your frienemy? How do you feel when thoughts, dreams, emotions and feelings drift across the your surface?