You know the benefits of meditation.  But still, you don't do it.  Hmmm.

Maybe it's time to consider an alternate approach.  Not an alterna-tive--I have no doubt that meditation is everything you've heard.  But perhaps a nudge in the right direction is required.

Meet Srikumar Rao, an contributor, former professor and current executive-effectiveness guru.  Srikumar has packed up his popular B-School elective, "Creativity and Personal Mastery," which he taught at Columbia and London Business Schools, and has taken it on the road.

CPM, as it is known, is a kind of survey course in finding life balance.  It is popular among executives, even those who might initially find the subject matter to be suspiciously introspective...Until they see a quick change in themselves from the "mental chatter" exercise.

Defining mental chatter

The background:  Many people find that the 'brain' talks to 'you' as if they were separate persons who did not just eat the same Bic Mac for lunch. And often your 'brain' is saying things that are critical of 'you.'  

Rao says that negative self talk, as well as other compulsive mental filler, occurs in almost all of us, but it is so prevalent that we have stopped recognizing the messages.  These messages could be:

You messed up. You aren't going to make it. You will run out of money.  If your kids don't succeed, you're a failure.  

Or they could be cotton candy messages, kind of like empty calories for the mind.  Songs, wishes, envy, do people like me?, health questions, shopping.

(For me, it was and frequently still is, real estate envy, courtesy of  Hello-o-o, Malibu!)

These are examples of the mental chatter we all carry around.  For many, those messages are so insidious that they hurt day-to-day effectiveness. You can easily see how:  they can contribute to procrastination.  To poor relationships.  To worry and unease. 

In fact, too much mental chatter can take up the head space you need to do your job!

But the good new is, the mental chatter is reduced--in some people it is eliminated--by recognizing it for what it is.  

Here's how Rao suggests you clear mental chatter: 

Set an alarm to sound every four hours.  At the alarm, write down anything in your head that is not directly associated with the task at hand.  Become aware of that thought and be ready to recognize it and banish it the next time it sneaks its snout under your mental tent.

Do this for one week.  You will then have a randomly-generated list of the crap filling up, and frequently influencing, your day to day self.

Here's what happened when I did this exercise.  Or rather, when I didn't do it.  Initially, I resisted.  It sounded like a lot of work, and while it seemed to make sense, the technique lacked a certain cachet attached to mindfulness meditation.  Also, to borrow a phrase, I have a very good brain.  I refused to believe that it housed a bunch of chaos monkeys randomly shutting down the system.

My colleagues at the CPM course started to claim great benefits of reducing mental chatter.  So I took a pen and took a stab at the mental greenery and, hoochy-momma, there sure was a boatload of toxic mental underbrush lying in wait.  

Here's what else happened when I finished the week's exercise.  I was better able to focus.  And, I slept better because I was less prone to the 3 AM rush of  thoughts that had frequently brought me awake.

As Rao says, meditation will provide you with the moments of calm.  And if you do the mental clutter exercise for a week, you'll have a targeted list of the thoughts you now know to avoid.