Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Drooling Monkey Children of the Mind

So...I've been thinking about taking up a meditation practice again. Thinking about trying. Thinking about trying to attempt taking up a meditation practice again. Maybe.

I'm a bit hesitant.

I know I'm being silly. There is good reason for me to try this again, the most obvious of which is that meditating, just hummin' along with the song of the universe, would be really, epically, cool. I love the image that gets into my head--sitting in lotus position high within the foothills of the Himalayas while I radiate inner peace and eternal contentment.

When distilled away from any sort of spiritual tradition or philosophy, meditating can be simply regarded as sitting. Just that. Sounds easy, yeah? Sure, we can all sit, maybe even in lotus position if we're feeling super fancy. If we can learn to sit with a quiet mind, we can learn how to find that ever-elusive present moment--the one in which there are no demands, no distractions, nothing but ahhhhhh....good. We all get glimpses into this state in the daily instances that we strive to hold on to. Long walks and beautiful sunsets, kisses, really good food, runner's highs, vacations, when you're nowhere else but Here and Here is so very good.

The thing is, meditation is tough stuff. Therein lies my struggle with it. Sure, I can sit in lotus position and close my eyes and be on a mountain top. But quiet my mind, much less hum with the song of the universe? My past meditation practice has left me feeling lifetimes away from even picking up the tune.

In yoga tradition, the everyday mind is often referred to as the "monkey" or "puppy" mind. Always distracted, our thoughts swing from vine to vine, from shiny object to tasty treat with barely a breath in between. For me, my meditation practice has been plagued with "4-year-old child" mind.

Let me describe what my meditation practice has been like in the past. I set a timer, intent upon doing my recommended dosage of sitting. I fold myself into a comfortable seated position, my hands resting gently in my lap, a blanket around my shoulders, a pillow helping my posture. I am going to rock this meditation.

For the first two seconds,
"Look at me, meditating...oh! I should stop thinking now."

After a few more,
"Man, this is so easy. I bet I could sit for like, hours, and not even be phased. I'm so glad I'm doing this. Oh! Stopping thinking now!"

It only takes a few more before my the 4-year-0ld child of my mind makes her entrance. Our interaction proceeds as follows:
Tugging on my sleeve, the child whines:
"Po? Po? Po! I'm bored."
Me: "Shhh...I'm trying to connect with the universe right now. Go away we'll talk later."
Child momentarily pauses.
Child: "Why?"
Me: "Because I want to achieve inner peace."
Child: "Why?"
Me: "Because I think it will help me be a happier person."
Child: "Why?"
Me: "Because being able to find stillness within the chaos that is...wait, I'm not thinking now!"
Child: "Why?"
Me: "Alright, no seriously you have to go away."
Child moves dejectedly to a corner for a brief pout.
Me: "Oh man she is tough to get rid of. Good thing I'm not thinking now."
Then, seeing my obvious weaknesses, the child pounces upon my non-thinkingness again.
Child: "Po? Po? Po! I'm hungry. And bored."

And it's about now that either Eye of the Tiger or that song from Mulan (Look at me/I will never pass for a perfect bride/or a perfect daughter) start playing, scratched-record-like, repeatedly in my head.

When I finally look down at the timer, certain that it must be broken, that hours have passed, it has been--dear lord--4.5 minutes.

But I know that I should try this again, and keep in mind that it's called a meditation practice for a reason. It can take years and years of daily intention to find even five minutes of a stilling of the mind. There are all sorts of useful techniques that are out there to help qualm the drooling monkey children that play so freely in our heads.

Because despite the hurdles I have encountered with meditation, I have also caught glimpses of quiet. Though they have been transient and elusive, they suggest a goal worth striving for.

I could totally dig some humming with the universe.

So maybe, just maybe, it's time to try again?


Marisa said...

Can totally relate. UNTIL I found what worked for me. As soon as I wake up in the morning, while I am still lying in bed in sivasana, I slap on some headphones and listen to a guided visualization for 20-30 minutes. I've done it almost every day for over three years now and I start my day in bliss not bleh. I find I now can focus on breath and get to a calm place anytime I want (due to that pracitce piece you mentioned). And because I do it in the morning, I rarely fall asleep. Since I'm still in bed, it's totally warm and comfy, which gives it a nurturing (as opposed to torturingly sitting in lotus) quality. I truly don't believe there is only one way to meditate. For Gandhi it was sitting at a spinning wheel! Don't get so locked into the process that you forget the destination...

Shelley said...

Have you read Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert? Practically 1/3 of the book is about her difficulties with meditation. It sounded very much like your post :)

Po said...

I have read Eat, Pray, Love! It's a wonderful book that really illustrated a lot of the struggles that I think we all face when attempting meditation (or any inner journey). It's a reassuring reminder that we are not alone, that countless people before us have successfully faced similar struggles.