In Buddhism or Yoga it may be called any number of things: “monkey mind” or “chattering mind”. I have a more personal pet name: “mental diarrhea”. It’s the constant psycho babble going on the the background of awareness. It follows like a parrot (or, in my case, several of them) sitting on your shoulder, commenting on everything, even about thinking.
In my case, the parrot says, “Ok, just be. Am I really being or just trying to be? Am I thinking? Ok, stop. Don’t worry, be happy! That’s so corny! What a nice day this is, but I’m not really enjoying it. I’ve got so much to do. Why do I procrastinate so much?” Each thought affects mood and clouds focus. But thinking is not the problem so much as not thinking cleanly and efficiently.
What if I told you that thinking caused most of the problems in your life? You wouldn’t believe me. Though I have to admit, thinking itself is not so much the problem, it’s that we aren’t aware of most of it. And yet it has power to shape our mood from moment to moment. It has a life of its own. And it has power over us. I’d say that’s pretty important.
Now I’ll confuse the subject even more. A lot of the time, we “think” our emotions are thoughts. Bear with me. Think about it. When you get upset about something, you feel an emotion, but words also arise, such as, “Damn, I’m so stupid!” or “That guy’s and a**hole! I oughta punch him.” or “I just want to give up”.
Is it possible to feel the emotion without attaching any story line to it? Yes. Then you feel it deeply without losing yourself. Is thinking itself bad? No. But the majority of our thinking babble is either useless or detrimental to living fully connected to life. I’d say 90% of our thinking is repetitive and superfluous. Think of rocks tumbling in a polishing machine. When I was a kid, my best friend had one of those. You put in the rough rocks. They tumble and tumble. And tumble. What you get at the end is pretty, shiny stones, but still just stones. We polish our thoughts over and over trying to perfect them. In the meantime, life is passing us by.
I wish I could tell you there is a switch to turn it off, but thinking is like the waves on a pond or ocean. The more you think about not thinking, the more waves you make. So picture the pond, and just watch it. And listen. Or, smile at all the bags of beans or rice going “think!” on the counter. And when that parrot on your shoulder keeps talking, just smile at it. Give it time. It will eventually quiet down.