Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Meditation 1: Monkey Mind

Although it seems counterintuitive to read about meditation rather than well... doing it, it actually helps to have some understanding of our mind and the effects of meditation upon it, as well as what we are wanting to achieve, before we even begin. So bear with me brogis!

Most of us (myself definitely included!) have what we call in yoga the "monkey mind" - meaning our mind jumps from thought to thought like a drunken monkey jumping from branch to branch on a tree. We have no control over where our thoughts go, rather they lead us... and often to places we would rather not go - envy, anger, worry, sadness, resentment... any of these sound familiar?! Meditation (and yoga) seeks to calm this monkey; to be the observer, rather than the follower, of our thoughts.

Eckhart Tolle's book 'The Power of Now' is a great source for learning more about the idea of the observer or "witness" of our thoughts; below is a passage I found really helpful when I was trying to get my own head around this concept... hope it helps you too:

"You have probably come across "mad" people in the street incessantly talking or muttering to themselves. Well, thats not much different from what you and all other "normal" people do, except that you don't do it out loud. The voice comments, speculates, judges, compares, complains, likes, dislikes and so on. The voice isn't necessarily relevant to the situation you find yourself in at the time; it may be reviving the recent or distant past or rehearsing or imagining future situations. Here it often imagines things going wrong... this is called worry.

... It is not uncommon for the voice to be a person's worst enemy. Many people live with a tormentor in their head that continuously attacks... and drains them of vital energy.

... The good news is that you can free yourself from your mind... You can take the first step right now. Start listening to the voice in your head as often as you can. Pay particular attention to any repetitive thought patterns... This is what I mean by "watching the thinker" which is another way of saying: listen to the voice in your head, be there as the witnessing presence."

I feel a bit funny telling you to "listen to the voices in your head"; but that's exactly what I want you to do! Start just witnessing the thoughts that come into your mind and - unlike the drunken monkey - watch them as an observer rather than simply just following them on the (oftentimes dangerous!) path they wish to take you down.

"When you listen to a thought, you are aware of not only the thought but of yourself as the witness of the thought... The thought then loses power over you and quickly subsides, because you are no longer energising the mind through identifying with it. This is the beginning of the end of involuntary and compulsive thinking. 

When a thought subsides, you experience a discontinuity in the mental stream - a gap of "no mind". At first the gaps will be short, a few seconds perhaps, but gradually they will become longer. When these gaps occur, you feel a certain stillness and peace within you."

Bingo! This is exactly what we are hoping to achieve in meditation, this state of "no mind". And notice I say "hoping to achieve" - it can take a while to grasp, and is something you will need to practice over and over again. Don't become discouraged or expect immediate results; we are so used to the "drunken monkey" way of thinking that often it takes a while to get any kind of gap at all, and when we first start meditating it may feel like our thoughts will never clear. Trust me... my mind was one of the drunkest monkeys you could ever meet! But I know with a regular meditation practice these kind of gaps in thinking (and overthinking!) do begin to occur, and the result is a much healthier, happier you. Yay! :)

I will finish this post now, as it is probably a lot to take on... but I will be back soon with more information about meditation, as well as different techniques you can try to assist you in your attempts to find this lovely state of peace and calm. In the meantime, I invite you to try simply observing your mind... and see what happens. Until next time...


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