Zach's PEN #14: Talking to Myself

2020 Week 44: An inadequate description of a small part of the most profound change in belief that I've experienced in meditation.

My good friend Zack, a rabbi, told me something a year ago that blew my mind. He told me that he doesn’t have an internally running dialogue.

For most of my life, I would have assumed we just had a misunderstanding of terms. How could you not have a dialogue? How would anything ever get done? How would you even function?

But over the last couple of years, I’ve had a series of experiences in meditation that have radically transformed my understanding of how my mind works (and doesn’t), and “who” actually does things and who merely talks about them and takes credit for them.

The truth is that most, if not all, of the dialogue that constantly runs in my head is completely unhelpful to me. It’s actually the opposite. It sabotages, second-guesses, justifies, dismisses, avoids, turns up the dial on anxiety… More than anything else it does, it judges. It judges me, it judges others, and it judges every little thing that arises or passes it by.

The bad news for me: This voice cannot be defeated or even balanced by a “nice” voice. All that does is legitimize its point of view and give it a sparring partner (who is secretly just the same voice in another form).

The good news for me: The way to actually overcome this voice is much simpler, and the only reason I wouldn’t call it “easy” is because it is in fact so easy that it’s difficult to trust that it could be that easy.

The way to overcome the voice is simply to notice it. To notice that it’s a voice. A concept. A construction. It’s not “right” or “serious” or “useful” or “me” in any way whatsoever. But it is here. Along with a ton of other things to notice, most of them much more interesting, and the totality of them sublime.

Now, I don’t think Rabbi Zack would say that his lack of an internal dialogue means that he doesn’t have self-judgment and all these struggles. Any word or thought is simply an expression of the feelings underneath it anyway. But mine so clearly and blaringly manifest as a Loud Ass Voice that Zack’s experience is different enough as to help dismiss any notion the voice is important, should be engaged with, or taken any more seriously than the sound of someone talking on the phone passing me by on the street.

I’m doing my best when I trust the part of me that just knows how to do what it needs to do without any pushing, meddling, or judgment. And I can learn to trust that part of me more and more, which ultimately results in just completely letting go and watching amazing things happen.

I feel at my best when I’m not really holding any opinions about myself, negative or positive.

I’ve saved the craziest part (to me) for the end here: Noticing in this way requires zero effort (italicization intentional). You are actually noticing whether you try to or not.

Big Week, PENpals,



P. S. The stuff I’m talking about has been of great interest to me over almost two decades of pursuing a meditation practice, but I’ve recently really keyed in on this concept of non-doing universally applied via a relationship with Michael Ashcroft, who comes at this by way of Alexander Technique. He has been my coach for the past several months and he recently launched his first beta online course.