I wonder if you can ever make the inner monologue in your head stop, short of practicing Zen all your life…
The only time when I experienced true quiet was in the mountains, where effort and the now came together into one single thing. After a long and hard period of exertion, coming back to the cabin half way down a route. Right inside the shelter, after a hard-earned cup of hot coffee or cocoa, my mind went into slow motion, slow enough where laps of quiet in between thoughts were long enough to enable a natural self reflection.
The mountains, the deep forest, the wide desert, the vast ocean, or the open road under a big sky provide a chance for this self reflection. The more time spend in wild places, after struggle or periods of great effort (mentally, physically, or both), the more this earned respite will enable this self reflection. Learning something about one’s self usually follows.
This sometimes means exhaustion or weariness, but a lot of times the process begins by having solitude. Add effort to solitude and the mind and body will follow.
Simple things hold the key. Simple experiences, intense and purposeful. Simple places, often austere and spartan, where the mind finds no distractions. Experiences that require commitment and full focus.
Self reflection after effort teaches. It is as simple and as hard as the effort itself.