During the practice of meditation, most people are burdened by what the Buddhists call ‘monkey mind’…reading Eat Pray Love the other night, I happened across the perfect description of it:
“…the thoughts that swing limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl. From the distant past to the unknowable future, my mind swings wildly through time, touching on dozens of ideas a minute, unharnessed and undisciplined.”
We get attached to these thoughts and, all too soon, we are completely distracted and our minds are full yet again. There are many meditation supports that can be used to try to reign in your monkey mind – from mantras and chants, to focussing on the breath, to concentrating on sounds outside of your meditation (music or just everyday sounds), guided visualisations, and naming your thoughts as they come up.
Being such an individual practice, something that works for one person won’t necessarily work for another, and some people may have worked out their own meditation supports. Personally I find a combination of focussing on the breath and naming the thoughts works for me. In naming, you literally acknowledge the thought as one of three things: remembering (if it is in the past), thinking (if it is in the present) or planning (if it is in the future), therefore letting it go and allowing you to return to your practice.
Sometimes whatever support you use just doesn’t work whatever you try to do. I have had times where I’ve had an itch and no amount of naming it (‘this is an itch, this is an itch, this is an itch!’) makes it pass, so I have just to itch! There are times when you are tired or not in a good place physically or mentally (it’s always hard to maintain practice if you are going through a particularly hard time, so we shouldn’t be hard on ourselves about this)…The important thing is not to judge each practice as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, because as soon as we do so we start attaching to it, and then want to repeat the ‘good’ practices and not have any more of the ‘bad’ ones. Meditation, like other life experiences, is what it is. No meditation practice is the same every time and every individual experiences and gets different things from it. It’s also important, as in life, not to compare but to focus on your own journey.
Until tomorrow, love and monkey minds, sm x