Over the weekend some ill-timed and unkind words hurt the feelings of a dear friend. With a rare lack of consideration, I replied to a friend’s loving note with rude sarcasm. When I realized my mistake it was, of course, too late. I could not take back what I had written.
I am a kind person. I am empathetic and accommodating. This lapse in judgment was unusual for me and I continued to dwell on it until little Monkey Mind and her chattering little monkey friends cobbled together a story in my brain that my heart grabbed hold of like a dog with a bone. Click here to read a great article about what the Buddha had to say about the monkey mind.
The result? Monkey Mind’s got me. She has a firm hold of my cerebral cortex and is giving it a real rattle.
You know Monkey Mind, don’t you? She’s the uninvited guest who insinuates herself in many ways. She’s our inner gossip. She keeps our mind restless and unsettled; doubtful and confused.
I regret the choice of words I used with my friend but instead of acknowledging my lack of judgment and moving on Monkey Mind is making certain I stay stuck right at the moment when I pressed ‘send’. I’ve no opportunity to push ‘pause’; no way to hit ‘delete’. Instead, my mind is set on instant replay so I can witness the fumble on a constant loop. I’ve seen the sequence of events in my mind’s eye enough times to rewrite several different, happier outcomes. But of course those alternative outcomes will not be realized.
Monkey Mind is a trouble-making nuisance that serves no purpose. She’s distracting. When Monkey Mind has the upper hand we lose concentration and focus. Trying to meditate when Monkey Mind has us by the bal…er…brain is a little like trying to walk a straight path during an earthquake.
But guess what? We should meditate anyway because a pint of comfort in the guise of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia washed down with a bottle of root beer will not settle Monkey Mind.
But meditation will. I need to meditate.
And so I did.
I began with a thirty-minute asana practice that balanced a strong standing flow with calming forward folds. Focusing on my breath redirected my awareness away from the chatter in my mind.
Nevertheless, when I took my seat and closed my eyes Monkey Mind was still poking at me. But I knew a subtle shift away from Monkey Mind’s influence had begun.
As I settled into meditation, I did not force myself to ignore the chatter. Instead, with detachment and non-judgment, I simply watched my thoughts as they rose, lingered and floated away.
I turned my awareness to the tip of my nose where I noticed the cool in-breath and the warm out-breath. And when I felt suitably centered I began to silently repeat the mantra ‘so-hum’.
Thirty minutes later I blinked my eyes opened and took a gentle stretch.
I will not try to convince you that Monkey Mind disappeared after one asana and meditation practice. What I can tell you is that Monkey Mind’s loud, distracting and overriding cackle has softened. Once more I can thrive in the present. And that sure beats obsessing about a future I’m unable to predict and a past that I unfortunately cannot change.