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Monkey mind

February 5, 2012

meditation equipment ≠ meditation practice

Yesterday I no sooner published my post than I forgot what I’d said about meditating for five minutes.

I have been studying meditation for years now. I have bought or borrowed lots of books on the subject. I read magazine articles and blog posts about it. I went to part of a workshop once. I have CDs of guided meditations and meditation music. I have a nice meditation bench and a sweet little meditation bowl chime. So sitting down to meditate wasn’t difficult. I’ve done it lots of times.

But do I have a meditation practice? Do I sit and stay on a regular basis? No, I don’t. I would rather read about someone else’s monkey mind than spend time with my own. Am I a bit defensive about it? Oh, yes. Yes I am. When you become a seminarian, suddenly lots of people want to know about your spiritual practices. You read stuff about the importance of having a practice and sticking with it as a discipline. And I know this about myself: I love new calendars, new organizers, new storage containers, new sheets… but I hate writing things down, sorting stuff, putting things away, and making my bed.

Still, I told my public, whoever you are, that I would meditate, and so I did. It wasn’t that bad, actually. I sat right where I was when I remembered my promise (on the living room couch), set a timer, and brought my attention to my breath. No stalling, no candles, no CDs, no bench. When I found myself wondering about all those meditation writers who report in such detail what they think about instead of their breath, and wondering if they stopped mid-meditation to take notes, or if they made stuff up later? I noticed, and brought my attention back to my breath. When I heard the bathroom door open upstairs and began tensing, expecting my son to either come bouncing downstairs and interrupt, or to shout to me from upstairs and interrupt, I noticed, and brought my attention back to my breath. As best I could.

And then the timer went off, I had kept my promise, and my son hadn’t interrupted.

I can’t tell you which nostril I was breathing through, and I didn’t feel anything like some of the meditation experiences I’ve read about, when people experience themselves as part of the oneness of everything. But that’s okay. I sat and noticed my breath as best I could, for five full minutes. I did it again today, outside in the afternoon sun while I was walking in the woods. I barely remembered to notice my breath at all, but I heard the details of the wind in the trees, voices of neighbors calling to each other, birds singing… things I haven’t paid attention to like that in a long time. Maybe tomorrow I’ll notice my breath. Maybe not. But either way, yesterday was a better day for those five minutes, and so was today.

But if I’m really going to have a meditation practice, I should probably get one of those buckwheat cushions for tomorrow, says the monkey…

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Cathie Creed permalink
    February 6, 2012 9:00 am

    How true you are. Paying attention to what YOU need, is for you to do. The books can sometimes feel like a crutch. Like what they say is what is “supposed” to happen. I don’t think there is any “supposed to”. Everyone’s monkey mind is their own, just like what you need to do is your own too. Good luck. and enjoy every 5 minutes when you can.

  2. Ed Proulx permalink
    February 6, 2012 10:24 am

    I imagine my monkey mind thoughts (wondering if they stopped mid-meditation to take notes) to be like a butterfly who accidentally flies in through an open window. Ah! There it is. Ah! There it goes. Good bye butterfly, thanks for stopping by.

    I don’t think you can actually control monkey-mind. Just knowing its there is more than 3/4 the battle, I think. That’s why they sit like that, at a certain point, my ankle hurts so much, then it doesn’t hurt (until you try to stand up, that is).

    • February 6, 2012 10:35 am

      Yeah, what’s with the deliberate physical torment there? I think that meditation pose was invented by younger people…

  3. wren44 permalink
    February 6, 2012 2:13 pm

    You know the triangles we are filling out this week for the paper quilt? ….well you can fill in that you gave me a gift today. A gift to remember to take a time-out. 5 minutes …starting …..now….
    Thanks.

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