In a prior post we discussed the miracle of speech production and comprehension.
Speech production involves intricate motor control by the nervous system of breathing, the larynx, mouth, and tongue producing sound pressure waves that can be detected by others. Speech comprehension involves the response of the auditory system to sound pressure waves produced by another, causing a neural response from the receptors in the cochlear and transmission of this information to the nervous system.
Production originates in the nervous system and comprehension occurs in the nervous system. Because all of the information processing occurs internally in the central nervous system it is reasonable to think that perhaps the nervous system could produce and comprehend language without the involvement of the vocal apparatus or the auditory system. This is indeed what appears to happen in what we call implicit speech.
In essence we talk to ourselves. We’ve been dong it most of our lives and as such we take it totally for granted. But, taking a much closer look we can see that this may be even more of a miracle than the production and reception of vocalized speech.
In meditation, we attempt to quiet the mind. What this means in essence is to turn off implicit speech, to cease the constant internal jabbering. But, it is very difficult to do this and veteran meditators have learned not to fight it, but to allow it to happen and observe it just as they would observing an odor rising up and falling away or the shadow of a cloud as it passes over us. As a friend of mine likes to say, let the thoughts come in, just don’t serve them tea. In other words, let them pass on through without undue attention.
As we meditatively observe the process of implicit speech we appear to “hear” an internal voice. In addition, the meaning of this speech is readily apparent as if it was produced outside. Somehow understanding is present but where or how or what that understanding is, is a complete miraculous mystery. As you become more sensitive to the whole process you begin to recognize that the important stuff happens in an awareness that isn’t the verbal mind that we thought it was, the awareness that is aware of the internal speech.
Although implicit speech is part of our thought processes. It is only a small part. But, nevertheless it can be very distracting. It is for the most part not terribly productive, frequently repetitive, with a thought or phrase repeating itself over and over again, sometimes even a song lyric. Problem solving and creativity seem to happen outside of this internal speech but when the solution becomes apparent, the implicit speech recognizes it, articulates and is often credited with the solution of which it had very little or any part.
We think of the implicit speech as our mind. But, it is as Suzuki Roshi used to call it our “little mind.” He called the actual, vital, creative, but mysterious entity our “Big Mind.” The reason we need to quiet the implicit speech in meditation is so that the “Big Mind” will not be hidden by the incessant noise of the “little mind.” Once it is quieted we can observe the core of our existence, the “Big Mind”, the consciousness, the awareness that is the essence of our being.
So, observe this process of internal speech and marvel at it, but quiet it and see what you really are.