Joy Held's Writer Wellness

"Be well, write well."

Monday Meditation: Monkey Mind Matters

on July 18, 2011

I’ve got bad news. Meditation is not the “quick and easy” idea several teachers and websites claim it to be. It’s so simple, it is REALLY, REALLY difficult. During my teacher education courses in college, I was admonished about forewarning students that “the following information or activity may be difficult, but do your best.” As a student, I would have appreciated knowing in advance that I was about to be trying to tame extremely hungry lions, but the prevailing teacher education message of the day was, “Don’t tell students in advance that the lesson is difficult. You are setting them up for failure.” Poo (and I don’t mean Tigger’s friend the chubby, blond bear.) If something is going to take work, I want to know up front.

Meditation takes work.

“How is that possible?” you ask. “All you do is sit there with your eyes closed. I do that every night once the wine kicks in.” Meditation is not sleeping. Snoring is a sign that your brain is bored and has fallen asleep. This is not meditation. Meditation is CONSCIOUS RELAXATION where thoughts are guided, not controlled or followed, but guided. Huh? We all have this state of thinking that is fondly referred to in meditation circles as “monkey mind.” Meditation is taming your monkey mind to keep it from jumping from thought to thought, image to image, and idea to idea. Taming monkey mind is not as easy as cracking a whip or stabbing at the air with a wooden stool. This may cause hungry lions to back down, but it does not scare monkey mind. Monkey mind responds better to kindness and compassion. Monkey mind ceases to chatter and screech, and finds a still place to rest if it is fed a steady diet of calmness, reassurance, and love.

I’ve recently explained how a simple set of words repeated over and over in your mind will calm your brain, breath, and body. It’s called a mantra, which literally means “mind tool” in the ancient Sanskrit language which is the mother tongue of meditation and yoga. It is always a very simple phrase like “Breath in. Breath out,” that is repeated rhythmically with the movement of the breath and sometimes the body.  A mantra is not quite a chant because chanting is a call to order, a statement of purpose, or a dedication. Mantras are always really, really simplistic and tend to feel musical as they are repeated over and over. They aim to produce a hypnotic state of stillness and peace by repeating the chosen phrase over and over until it doesn’t want to be repeated any longer. Yes, I said until the mantra decides it has been said enough. This is one point where the difficulty arises.

It reads like a simple exercise to mentally repeat a phrase until your mind is at rest, but the actual practice is challenging because monkey mind is typically very immature and difficult to appease. With time and practice, just like any normal toddler, monkey mind will learn to quiet down sooner and sooner when it hears the mantra, but it requires practice, practice, practice. One thing toddlers and monkey mind do NOT respond well to is punishment. No spanking, yelling, or time-outs in the corner for monkey mind. It will only mature and become quiet with patience, practice, and love.

So here’s the plan. Sit comfortably with your spine supported and your eyes closed. Yes, you can recline slightly as long as you PROMISE not to fall asleep. Better to sit upright. Begin by allowing monkey mind to chatter away about everything it can possibly think of. When you think the time is right, begin repeating the mantra you have chosen. (See list below.) Anytime monkey mind interrupts your mantra, kindly and gently IGNORE it and return to repeating the mantra. Set a timer so you don’t get frustrated. Start with three minutes once a day and gradually add a minute as you notice the time seems to “fly by.” That’s a signal you’re ready to increase your meditation time.

Simple? Let me know. Be kind to monkey mind and it will be kind to you.

Mantra suggestions:

Breath in…breath out

I breathe in…I breathe out

Peace in…negative out

I…am

There are five primary areas of practice to the Writer Wellness plan. Every other week I will post an idea for relaxation (Monday Meditation,) creative play (Tuesday Tickle,) fitness and exercise (Wednesday Workout,) journaling and misc. (Thursday Thought,) and nutrition (Friday Feast.)

Meanwhile, remember to look for a digital or print copy of Writer Wellness, A Writer’s Path to Health and Creativity at Who Dares Wins Publishing, http://whodareswinspublishing.com.

 

And check out these great blogs for ideas to keep your writing and publishing healthy and prosperous.

 

http://writeitforward.wordpress.com/ Bob Mayer

 

http://jenniholbrooktalty.wordpress.com/ Jenni Holbrook

 

http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/ Kristen Lamb

 

http://inspiration4writers.blogspot.com/ Inspiration for Writers, Inc.

 

Be well, write well.

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