The Lunatic Is In My Head

Girl sitting on a bench at the trail

I was sitting alone on a bench in a swamp, surrounded by Spanish moss dripping from magnificent Cypress trees. It was the kind of place that you might see in a coffee table book about Louisiana. The whole of the scene was both beautiful and mysterious. But the spell was shattered when I heard a woman speaking loudly. She seemed to be having an argument with someone. “No! It’s all your fault…you did this to me…do you blame me?…shut up…” And on it went. I looked over and saw that she was seated on another bench not far from me – alone.

My mind immediately shifted to pity. I reasoned that she must be mentally ill, perhaps schizophrenic, and off of her medication. Then abruptly, she rose from the bench and headed toward the park’s nearby pavilion. I decided to follow her. Perhaps I was thinking that she may be in need of some sort of assistance. I don’t know what I thought I was going to do exactly, only that perhaps I could help her in some way.

She disappeared into the women’s bathroom, still loudly talking to herself. I could hear her quite clearly from outside. After a few minutes passed I decided that perhaps the best thing I could do was to notify a park employee at the entry gate that there was a woman in the pavilion that might be in need of assistance.

I climbed into my car thinking how grateful I was that I was of sound mind. Grateful that I didn’t have to wrestle with the demons of mental illness or insanity. Then came the inevitable stream of thought…

I was lucky to have had loving parents.
I wonder if she was abused.
Will the park employees make her situation worse?
Where does she live, is she homeless?
I was almost homeless once.
But that was my fault.
Why was I such an idiot when I was younger?

Then I actually said to myself, out loud, alone in my car, “Man, I hope I’m doing the right thing here.”

I reached up to adjust the rear view mirror, caught a glimpse of myself, and it hit me like locomotive. I was her. We are all her.

Whether or not we choose to recognize or admit it to ourselves, most all of us exist in the exact same incomprehensible state – all mentally ill, all schizophrenic – living with the incessant voice in our head. Its constant, unceasing stream of narration, berating, second-guessing, criticizing, complaining, deciding – it’s always there, always with us. If we had a friend who was with us twenty-four hours a day that did this, that said these things to us constantly and never shut up, how long could or would we tolerate it? Yet this is our perpetual state of mind.

In our unawakened state, we come to completely identify with this voice. We believe that it is who we are. It literally becomes our identity.

The trick is to endeavor to understand that we are the consciousness behind the unending chatter. We are the space between the mostly banal bouts of banter. This is what meditation teaches us. With consistent practice we begin to glimpse the unmitigated peace and happiness that emerges as we understand that WE are the agency that is aware of the voice in our heads. That voice is not who we are. That voice is largely responsible for most of our suffering – for most of all human suffering.

A mind trained by meditation is capable of silencing the lunatic in our heads, at least for a time. And what lies beneath is glorious beyond what mere words can possibly describe. Mindfulness is the gateway. Peace is the prize.

I chose not to inform the guards about the woman, lest I was willing to inform them about myself.

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