Dear Donagh,

…. My wife has been telling me lately that I never stop talking to myself. I asked her if this was a new thing and she said Not at all, you have always been talking to yourself.  She said I used to whisper to myself before, but now I often talk out loud. This came as a shock to me because I have been doing a bit of meditation since last year, thanks to your website, and I thought I was getting over this mental chatter that we talk about.  It is troubling to think that it may be getting worse instead of better.  Have you any suggestions?  Could you comment on this?  Colm

Dear Colm,

Thank God something is happening with your meditation.  When people take up meditation their problems often begin to appear greater than before, and this is probably why many then abandon it.  Don’t worry.  All the rubbish has to come to the surface.  Would you rather it stayed buried inside you?  If the neighbours can now hear your nonsense you can be very confident that you are moving in a good direction.  The truth will set you free. 

Think of an air bubble trapped near the bottom of a barrel of water.  The only way out for it is through the surface.  As it rises it gets bigger, because there is less and less pressure of water on it.  But if it continues its upward journey it will quickly vanish into the air. 

In the Genesis story the first effect of sin on Adam and Eve was to make them want to hide.  We have been hiding ever since.  We try to solve our problems by hiding them – like trying to make a room look tidy by stuffing everything into drawers and closets, or into other rooms.  But things are getting better for you.  Not only your wife but now lots of other people can see the mess in your mind.  Be grateful for that.  You are coming out of hiding. 

Whatever you keep hidden inside you grows: your inside is a fertile place.  Whatever you keep hidden becomes big and strong, because it grows deeper roots.  But whatever you throw out begins to wither.  You also get a better look at it when it is out, and it looks much less impressive than when it was hidden – daylight has that effect on fantasies.  Your ego’s grip is not as tight as it was.  But don’t worry: you are not losing anything real; you are only losing what you are not. 

What is real in you cannot be lost.  Your true nature, which comes to you moment by moment from God, cannot be lost.  It can be hidden (it normally is hidden) by the ego, which is the false self; but it cannot be lost or destroyed.  Julian of Norwich wrote that there is in everyone to be saved there is “a godly will that never consents to sin, and never will.”     

In trying to hide itself the ego hides your true nature as well.  This is the real tragedy.  Who cares whether the ego’s charades are believed or not?  But what a tragedy that this nonsense can hide our greatest gift, even from ourselves, for a whole lifetime!   

Thank God you have taken to talking to yourself out loud, Colm!  Trying to disengage from the ego’s fictions is often a lonely task; but you can now have the assistance of everyone within earshot! 

It is a great tragedy that Christian spirituality has not distinguished often enough or clearly enough between the ego and our true nature.  Failing to make that distinction we get into tailspins about low self-esteem, and the supposed remedy for it: high self-esteem.  In fact one is just as bad as the other.  But the distinction between ego and true nature enables us to admit that we are, at one and the same time, a self-centred piece of fiction, and by God's gift a luminous being.  No need then to defend the ego, imagining that our worth depends on how this ego is looking and feeling.  This gives us such freedom! – freedom to give up the fiction that is oneself and one’s stories.  You are already coughing them up.  Congratulations!


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