I was recently reading one of Osho’s books on Taoism and he talks about how people are three weeks from Madness. Psychologists are now agreeing, that If we were left alone with our thoughts without activity for three weeks, just three weeks, we would go completely mad. All activity is used as a way to cover up this madness, in work, partying, watching TV, playing computer games. It comes as no surprise the rise and rise in popularity of tablets and smart phones, with millions of apps – this technology now means people can avoid themselves completely and entertainment becomes both endless and in the palm of your hand. These are potentially dangerous times.
Osho breaks it down. For the first three days you will dream and talk within, an inner chattering. Then this will become boring, After the first week you will start talking aloud, after the second week you will not only talk to your self but you will start to answer, now a duality has been created, you are divided, you are completely mad. When we see people walking around muttering to themselves we feel we are quite different to these people, the actual difference is not so much, it’s quite sobering to think, just three weeks and you will be the same.
I agree with this idea, but if anything I think three weeks is a little lenient. In my first meditation retreat for ten days in silence, in Thailand the inner chattering and dreaming reached a point where I felt I was losing the plot, although I didn’t go insane in ten days, the experience did make me think how insane it was to have so many deeply repetitive and useless thoughts. Multiple times I wanted to run away far from that place, There was so much thinking going on in there and yet so little clarity.Eckhart Tolle points out that ninety per cent of thoughts are repetitive. Not being able to stop thinking is possibly the greatest threat to our inner peace, we have fought countless wars, and numerous mental health diseases stem from this addiction to thought. In those ten days I did not experience meditation but I did experience a profound insight into the nature of our minds, as many people say the untrained mind is like a monkey jumping from branch to branch this way and that.
A few retreats and a few years practice later, the mind has been cleaned somewhat of some of this chattering, but still it remains a life long work. The fact that most people would find ten days in silence daunting, scary, terrifying or overwhelming as I did, is perhaps a sign of the times. Times of increasingly fast paced living, combined with innumerable distractions, where even fifteen minutes per day in your own company can be avoided. There is a price we pay for it and that is stress and anxiety. Perhaps we need to confront our inner turmoil head-on rather than sweeping it under the rug and allowing dust to gather for years and years. They say the first sign of sanity is to realise your own insanity and I couldn’t agree more.