A few days ago I woke up with a migraine. I took some medicine and went back to bed with a cold gel pack on my forehead. The headache did not subside. It got worse.
As I lay there, I became aware of the constant chatter going on in my mind. We all have that background thinking loop that plays and replays behind our conscious and directed thinking. My mind, when left to its own devices, explores the most random locations, relives the past, rehearses the future, ponders plots from TV shows, imagines dire events unlikely to ever happen, picks at emotional scabs until they bleed, considers strategies to manipulate uncontrollable people and circumstances, and basically never stops talking.
When the pain shut down my conscious thinking, my attention was free to observe what was really going on underneath. What I hadn’t realized before was how exhausting it is to run this ceaseless program in the background of our minds. It is like the drain on our electric power by leaving things plugged in that we aren’t using.
And even more surprising was how painful these thoughts were. It was like I could physically feel the impact that the thoughts had in my brain. With the hypersensitivity of the migraine, the thoughts felt like a little chain gang hammering tiny spikes for a miniature railroad.
Naturally, I wanted it to stop. I tried to make it stop. No luck. I felt a little panicky at the relentlessness of this habitual monologue. And then I heard a soft voice gently saying, “Rest.” For a moment, everything quieted. Relief.
It started back up almost immediately, but now I knew what to do. I stopped listening to it all, and silently whispered “rest.” Again, rest… rest… rest. Tenderly, lovingly, like a mother soothing a restless baby.
For moments at a time, my mind quieted. The pain of the migraine was still present, but there was a spaciousness about it, a peace. I rested with the pain, and with the reminders to my brain to rest with me.
Since then, I’ve been more aware of this chatter. During meditation I bring my wandering mind home with the mantra “rest.” When going through my day, as I start to get hooked by the drama of the moment, I can pause and remember to rest. Just rest.
I am fond of acronyms, so I’ll leave you with this one. You might come up with one of your own.