Thursday, February 17, 2011

Monkey Mind

"I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the 'monkey mind' -- the thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl." 
Last year I read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  Despite criticisms I heard that it was self-indulgent and not realistic, I savored this book.  I would not let myself read it quickly.  I would read a bit, and stop to reflect on how this could be translated into my own life.  If I was  newly single with no children and a career that could not only support me well, but allow me to work where ever I chose, I wonder if I would feel free enough to take a year for personal growth?  Where would I choose to go?  What would I choose to learn?  I love pondering these questions.....
One thing that I took away from the book was the purpose of yoga.  I am not a follower of this practice.  I took one class while I was pregnant with Grace 11 years ago.  I enjoyed it but after she was born my personal time became non-existent and I did non continue with yoga, preferring ballet classes to get my pre-baby body back (well...almost back). I equate yoga with tai chi, which I studied a bit back when I studied karate seriously, again, pre-babies.  Like yoga, tai chi has a way of relaxing your body and moving energy from other places in your body and environment to you core.  When I was in China, I actually experienced this feeling.  Technically we were not supposed to be studying with this Tai Chi Master.  It would be like a freshman in college dropping in on a Doctoral class.  But since we were there on an exchange program, we took the class.  When I lost myself in the moment, mystified by my location, surrounded by beauty and opened my mind to learning, something amazing happened.  I began to feel tingling in my fingertips that spread to my lower arms.  As I repeated this swaying motion moving my hands in a circular motion about a foot away from my chest, my upper stomach began to tingle and get warm.  It was a lovely feeling, not unlike the rush of love you sometimes feel but without the butterflies and nerves.  It did not last long, but that was my chi.
Reading Eat, Pray, Love I learned that yoga prepares the body to pray and meditate.  It opens up the energy pathways and prepares the body and mind to be still for long periods of time.  Last night I went to bed overwhelmed with the events of my life.  The kitchen is being painted so the dining room had to be emptied.  Dishes had to be washed in the bathroom sink because I have no kitchen sink right now.  Lessons are falling behind, I did not buy all the necessary paint needed, I am not prepared for Brownies, or botany and I have to figure out how to get Lilah to her Brownie class tonight while getting Grace to her basketball practice.  My head hurt and it was late.  My mind was swimming and when that happens I like to use prayer as a mantra to help me settle down and sleep.  I tried saying Our Father.  Couldn’t do it.  I could not stay in the moment for 30 seconds.  My brain was bouncing from one thought to the next.  When this happens I think of Elizabeth in the ashram trying to say her mantra with a brain that would never settle.  She hated meditations because she could never stay in the moment, focused on prayer, while blocking out the rest of her life that constantly intruded on her quiet time.  
I feel like that sometimes.  I want to turn it off for just 30 seconds.  How hard is that?  It should be easy right?  Say a prayer, stay with the prayer, do not think of anything else, period.  Not easy.
A few years ago I had a yoga dvd.  This tape promised rock hard abs through yoga.  It did not deliver - or I did not stick with it long enough!  I did it after the girls went to bed.  But back then they were in bed at 7pm and I had time and energy to devote to myself.  I would like to find a new dvd, for beginner yoga or tai chi that I can do during the day, ideally at night before bed, when I want my mind and body still.  
This is a goal for me now.  To be able to say one prayer completely with silence in my head.  I wonder how long it will take me to achieve this goal?  If I can meet this goal, think of the possibilities!  Perhaps I can sit by the pool watching my girls swim and relax.  Just relax.  Not have my calendar on my lap or my cell phone in my bag or my mental to-do list growing and growing.  Perhaps I can sip my morning coffee clearly present in the glory of the sunrise peeking over the treetops without focusing on the rush of the day that is about to begin.  Perhaps I can take my own advise that I give my daughter constantly, the same advise my Grandfather gave me over and over again, to stop wishing your life away.  Live now.  Enjoy now.  Love now.    Pretty much sums it up!
I would love recommendations for beginner yoga or tai chi!


Karen said...

I loved Eat, Pray, Love so much. I too, tried to read it slow because I fell so in love with her story, her journey. I started doing meditation every morning but found it impossible to calm my mind. I did always emerge from my dark room feeling calmer. Maybe I should try that again.

I don't know any good yoga DVD's but would love to know if you hear of any. How strange Kei and I were just talking about this and I did look on Netflix instant streaming but was overwhelmed by them.

I so identify with the "Monkey Mind"

Rosemarie said...

I so understand the mind racing game. I struggle with it every day. I hope you find a good DVD. I am thinking of taking a yoga class again, just to have some time for me.

mamak said...

I have issues with the ever thinking mind as well. I think I am very distracted, mostly by technology. I am slowly trying to wean off of facebook. Not quit, but check it on a pre designated time (s)
As for yoga suggestions, there are free ones on ON DEMAND if you have cable, check netflix, and as usual there are good sites on line if yo google, and I bet there are good ones on you tube..
Good luck my busy monkey minded mama, may the lotus drop easy in your lap...

Marcie said...

Oh how I feel your pain. And I use the "monkey brain" term often. My husband googled it about a week ago to understand what I was talking about.

The only DVD I have ever used is by Rodney Yee. I don't care for DVD's though because I never know if I am doing something properly and there is no one to tell me any different.

The one thing I can do and I have had to practice it a lot!!! is to close my eyes and see only black. Then I concentrate only on my breath in for three counts and out for three counts. (or four or five) Most of the time it truly helps, but there are still those times when it doesn't. I cannot stay in a prayer or meditation because my minds wanders freely. But by thinking only of the sound and counting it forces all other thoughts away.

I'm sorry I am not of more help.

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