Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The two-sentence rule

Regular readers of this blog would know that I am quite the Cheri Huber fan.  Cheri is a Zen teacher and writer who has some very direct and creative teaching techniques. 

Much of the focus in Cheri's teachings is on becoming aware of the voices in our head.  She calls these, 'egocentric karmic conditioning'.  These voices are the 24 hour non-stop news network we run in our minds. Our own private Fox News channels are full of most of the stuff that the actual 'news' broadcasts; gossip, high drama, tragedy upon tragedy (real or imagined), all broken up with infomercials for miracle weight-loss pills.

Whilst I'd like to think my own version of Fox News is more like the News Hour with Jim Lehrer (or if you're in Australia - more SBS World News than Mornings with Mel and Kochie), I have to admit that Rupert Murdoch has complete control over the content of my mind.  The channel in my head isn't erudite, and Paris Hilton gets a lot of airplay. 

Mel and Kochie with some dude in an embroidered shirt.
Cheri Huber's life-work is to encourage us to notice these voices that broadcast continually in our minds and to become aware of the strategies they use to pull us out of the present moment. These strategies often include an element of high-drama and possible tragedy. They encourage us to think that life is divided into two extremes;  it's win or fail, gain or lose, triumph or tragedy, life or death.

My current extreme story is about a new chronic condition that I've developed.  Over the last year, some very mild tinnitus (ringing in the ear) has become worse. Every few weeks it gets louder, and is now at the point where I can't wear earplugs anymore to sleep and it interferes with my resting during the day. 

I have always feared getting any other illness that would impact negatively on my sleep and ability to rest, and now it seems like my worst fears have come true.  Not only do I have tinnitus, but it seems to be getting worse, and in my mind I am not only resisting it in the moment but engaging in fearful and vivid stories about how it will be so bad in a few years that I will not be able to sleep and will commit suicide. 

Now, I try to tell myself that engaging in these thoughts can actually make the tinnitus worse.  But, that doesn't really help, becuase I still feel fearful and  the thought that I 'shouldn't' be fearful just lumps more anxiety and blame on top of the fear. 

This morning I read Cheri Huber's blog, and came across an instruction that I think might be helpful as I go back an forth between fearful projections into the future, and trying to just be present with what I'm feeling in the moment.

"Don’t participate in any internal conversation more than two sentences long."

She goes onto explain this technique: 
Egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate keeps the illusion of duality alive in a conversation about what’s wrong, loss, lack, deprivation, fear, urgency, the past, the future, using judgment and comparison as its tools. Its method is conversation, a conversation in the head of a human who is vulnerable to being caught in a dualistic belief system. Without that conversation the illusion of a dualistic reality cannot be maintained.
I feel like this very simple and clear instruction - 'you don't have to listen to anything that goes for more than two sentences' is something that I might be able to follow over the next few days. My internal conversation about this tinnitus and how it is going to destroy me currently runs at a length that would rival War and Peace, so I can see how just adhering to the instruction to drop any discussion that goes for more than 20 words might be helpful. 

I'd be interested to hear of strategies you use to bring yourself back into the here and now. 


  1. No no no suicide allowed! Think of the tinnitus as a chorus of angels (however annoying it is!) I have suffered constant tinnitus for almost 13 years with this CFIDS. It is a bitch, but it is what it is, right? We can do this, Emma.

    If not for mindfulness and self-awareness, that I am ever trying to increase and reinforce, I would not be the happy-enough well-adjusted-enough, tolerant-enough-of-this-dd person that I am! I especially resonate with Eckhart Tolle's teachings (discovered him wayyy before Oprah did!)(heh heh)(that is my ego talking).

    I too, would never choose to compare my constant-thoughts-news-broadcast as FOX News. Perish the thought! The only time I have to get even a glimpse of that station is when I am at the gym--that is the only news they air! Ugh! Well, that's not true... I have seen CNN on also.


  2. Thanks for the encouragement Judy! It is very helpful to hear of someone else with CFS who also has tinnitus.

    I do know that tinnitus is mostly 'mind over matter' and people say you do eventually get used to it...so, here's hoping!

    I'm interested that you relate to Eckhart Tolle's teachings. I read a book by him last year, expecting to get a lot from it, but I just couldn't connect with what he was saying. I'm not sure why that was - maybe my expectations were a little high (given that this was after the Oprah hype)!



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