Tinnitus of the Mind

By Anthony Gold

For many years I thought the word tinnitus was pronounced like tin-NIGHT-us. It wasn’t until a friend and healthcare worker corrected my misperception and informed me it is actually TIN-nih-tus. But regardless of how the word sounds, people suffering from this disorder experience a continuous ringing or buzzing in their ears.

Imagine such an annoyingly incessant noise “playing” in your ear. It’s extremely frustrating, particularly since there is no easy way to “turn it off”.

Yet have you ever tried to stop the unending stream of thoughts that enter your head? The internal dialogues, judgments, frustrations, goals, hopes, and fears that consume our non-verbal consciousness.

We all suffer from a form of tinnitus of the mind.

We are compulsive thinkers indeed. Try spending a few moments just observing the thoughts.

I didn’t get nearly as much done today as I wanted. I wonder if the weather will get much colder. I’d like to make more money, but my boss will never agree to a raise, and I’m dreading my next interaction with him. I need to prepare that report for next week, but when will I have time to work on it? I’d like to be a better parent – let me research some good books on that. My stomach is growling – what should I eat for lunch? I’m feeling bored – let me check Facebook.

On and on it goes. Even into sleep.

And what preoccupies our thoughts? Judgments and emotional responses to events which have already occurred and mental what-if scenarios of the future – but always interpreted, from an ego perspective, in terms of the past.

“Now” has no meaning to the ego. The present merely reminds it of past hurts, and it reacts to the present as if it were the past. (T-13.IV.5)

We dwell on the past and concern ourselves with the future – completely drowning out the present moment.

We can’t even quiet our minds for a few seconds without getting distracted by the ceaseless thoughts. Descartes might as well have appended his dictum, “I think, therefore I am not present.”

The goal of meditation and many spiritual paths is to separate the thinker from the thoughts, the dreamer from the dream. These unrelenting thoughts are not thrust on us through some neural anomaly in the brain – rather, we choose these thoughts.

The choice is unconscious, which makes it seem as though the thoughts just happen. But with practice, we can understand not only the source, but also bring about the incredible peace that results from a quiet mind.

Join us in Monday’s class where we’ll explore the nature of thought and the cure for tinnitus of the mind. I look forward to seeing you then.

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