The conversations you have in your head that you'll never have out loud.
It's a beautiful Spring morning. I'm walking in the local park with the dog. The sun is shining, it's unusually warm for the North of England, and neither me or the dog are quite prepared. I'm totally overdressed with a puffa coat and jeans, and the dog hasn't had a haircut for three months, due to COVID19 restrictions, so not only does she look disgraceful but she is really hot. She's looking at me as if to say 'Really? You dragged me out of the cool, shaded house for this?'
Nevertheless, we've got out of the house, the park is quiet, we've got time on our hands, and it's a glorious day.
I always choose the most secluded route around the park, off the beaten track and through the foresty areas. Not only because it's prettier, but it's just much easier to avoid other humans and in the current world of Coronavirus, and after nurturing a modest bout of agoraphobia, who wants to come in to contact with other people?
After about ten minutes I am totally relaxed and in the moment. I'm enjoying the feeling of the sun on my face, the warm air around me, the smell of the flowers, the gentle breeze that blows every so often to keep us cool. It's perfect. I am truly in the moment. I'm not thinking of anything other than being here right now.
Then I notice that I'm not thinking about anything, and so my mind shifts into another gear, it starts to speculate on how to keep this state of 'no thinking' up - but by now I'm already thinking again and that innocent moment has gone.
So, I try a new tact. I acknowledge the new inner dialogue and try not to search for any other state of mind, I accept that the noise in my mind is perfect just the way it is - there doesn't need to be total inner silence for everything to be okay.
The walk continues like this for a while, shifting between moments of quiet and other moments where my mind gets noisier but not enough to totally distract me. I realise I'm further around the park than I thought I was, something has happened to time. Although I was essentially very present I was also unaware of lots of other things, such as my surroundings.
I ask myself if this is good or bad, and before I know it judgement has sneaked in and I've begun to analyse what just happened. One thought leads to another thought and an inner debate begins, and the noise inside gets louder and louder until it just becomes everything.
By that point, when the mind is in the throws of a good argument with itself, it's very hard to stop it in its tracks.
I would love to tell you that I managed to, and that 30 years of meditation practice, yoga and Qi Gong were able to save the day and spare me the discomfort of a nagging inner dialogue, but that's not the case. My beautiful, peaceful morning walk turned into an inner battle. I forgot about the sunshine and the cool breeze.
I'd also like to tell you that at least there was a winner of the debate raging inside of me, that for all that mental effort there was some unanimous conclusion and a life-changing insight at the other end, but no.
The only winner was mind.
But, then I got home and I started to write notes in my journal and I suddenly realised that the only way that mind wins is when I believe it or even pay it attention. I just need to accept the churning and clunking mechanism of the mind, in the same way that I can accept the beating of my heart, or the ever-changing breaths that flow in and out of me. The thoughts are the sounds, words and pictures of energy moving through me. That's all. They aren't good or bad, right or wrong, spiritual or non-spiritual.
And then the sun came out again.