07/21/2012 11:13 am ET | Updated Sep 20, 2012

If the Voice in Your Head Is a Know-it-All...

Most of us don't like engaging with know-it-alls. Those people who are constantly telling us what is correct, what is right, based upon their extensive acquisition of information, which they are more than ready to share with us.  Sometimes they even spend time in our conversations finishing our sentences -- even if the words they use, and sometimes even the thoughts they imply, are not where we were going with our expression.

Imagine if you had a conjoined twin, and every moment of every day he told you exactly what was going on, what to think, how to finish your sentences. You would probably want to punch him out, only then you would have to drag that heavy weight around with you. Such a burden! And such an annoying way to go through life.

Yet this is how almost every one one of us does go through our days, only the twin is the voice in our head. Every experience we have, sight we see, smell we encounter, sound or phrase we hear and taste we take... immediately our "know-it-all" mind tells us how to interpret and what to believe about it.

This is true especially with phenomena that we routinely encounter, such as washing our face or meeting our boss. With something like the former our twin thinker will dismiss all new, actual input and sensation, telling us that we have done this 1,000 times before and so we have no need to pay any attention to it because there are other, more important things to know or figure out! With someone like our boss it will replay for us the story we have created about him or her, whether it is pleasant ("She likes me and I feel useful") or unpleasant ("What an asshole!").

Either way, we don't really pay attention to who this boss is today, in this moment, or what is actually happening between the two of you.  Rather, all new inputs get edited, so that the ones that reinforce "what we already know" re-prove it to ourselves while all other inputs get ignored or suppressed or chewed on until we can spin them into our "known" story.  Enslaved to this twin know-it-all, we miss out on many small, miraculous moments, like the cool, energizing feel of water on our face and the calm aroma of the lavender soap we use, or the quiver in our boss's voice signaling their humanity. And of course we also have to carry around the heavy baggage of all of those old stories we think we know are some unchanging truth.

"Not-knowing is true knowledge.  Presuming to know is a disease.  First realize you are sick; then you can move toward health." -- Lao-tzu

Finding ways to practice becoming aware of our presumptions and prejudices, even the very small ones, can put us on the road to rediscovering the vitality, the "juice" of life... not "known" life but true, evolving, ever-changing and never exactly the same life as it is actually being lived.  The boss you encounter later today is a different person than the one you encountered last time, as are you.  And the face that you wash is a different face, with different water, than the one this morning.  Is it possible to "know" this moment, and then to "know" this one, and so on, without having to rely on that twin thinker preemptively finishing the experience for you?

As an experiment, whenever you become aware that you are operating from "know-it-all mind," take 30 seconds and focus on the feeling of your breath. As you exhale, say to yourself, "this moment," and as you inhale say "new moment." Since every moment truly is new, how could you really know what is going on, or what will happen, or how it will all end, before actually paying attention as you go through it?

I invite you to try this practice for one day.  Commit to going back to this DON'T-know-it-all mind whenever you become aware of your twin voice in your head.  Drop that heavy baggage and begin to live life anew, fresh with possibilities.  

Maybe this is Eastern woo woo bulls*#@!.  Maybe it isn't.  Is it possible to even "know" this just after reading it? Or only possible to discover in some future, now moment? Please comment back and let us know what you find.


-- db

For more by Doug Binzak, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.