I went for an hour while mowing the lawn and did not begin to start talking to myself until I got a song from the Simpson's in my head. The Sherry Bobbins episode to be exact which had a few songs. I had realised that I was going to do a bad job on the lawn which segued into “Just do a half-assed job”. I was singing which is technically not talking to myself but it was close to something I would talk to myself about. From here I did not stop trying but it did get harder and harder not to engage the mouth in the mental discussion in my mind. That is where it started and always starts in my head. The idea is planted and I follow the tenuous links till I am far away from where I started.
It is in the head where the battle begins and ends. What are you focused upon? What will you let in? What links will you follow? Where will you end up? I have had mental wanderings that ended up in places I did not want to be in. This is the habit of an uncontrolled and ill disciplined mind. Something Thomas Merton touches upon in Contemplative Prayer in talking about a “deep interior silence” which is an opposite to the “mental prayer” which uses “reasoning, active imagining and deliberate stirring up of affections”. These workings conflict with the silence and get in the way any peace in our minds. Now singing songs from the Simpson's is not a mental prayer at all (except for the Flanders rendition of “Bringing in the Sheaves” or the wonderful “Arise and Shine and give God the Glory, Glory”) but it is active imagining and a genuine stirring up of my affections. The simplicity and peace of deep interior silence is fleeting when we do not have any ability to tame our thoughts. The wanderings of my mental processes let alone mental prayer while mowing the lawn, driving the car, walking the dog, browsing the internet requires a leash to restrain it. The author of James puts this in its place when describing the bridling of the tongue in chapter 3. To bale to bridle or restrain the tongue or mind involves practices that are simple and repetitive. Merton suggests psalmody and a few simple words from scripture or even simple prayer like “Lord, come to my aid.”
What I began and stopped not long after trying it for a week was reciting a few remembered scripture verses.
Be strong in the Lord in the power of his might. Eph. 6:10
Trust in the Lord your God with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding in all your ways acknowledge him and he will keep your paths straight Prov. 3:5-6
I have decided to try and keep in my mind on a loop are variants of these two verses. You can sing them as they do lend themselves to being sung. Be strong in the Lord becomes a dirge and Trust in the Lord has evolved into a country tune. In these versions I can use my habit in brining up songs to use these songs instead. This then becomes a form of basic prayer/meditation that can be repeated in different ways. So from silence I have ended up in meditation and recitation of scripture.