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quieting the monkey mind

Posted Feb 06 2010 8:36am
Anyone who has ever practiced any form of yoga or meditation will have experienced the monkey mind. The monkey mind jumps from one thought to another like a monkey jumping from tree to treeand it does it at the most inappropriate moments.

In the second verse of his Yoga SutrasPatanjali talks about chitta vritti nirodhah or the ability to control and still the movements of the mind so that the true self or Atman can be seen without distortion or distraction. Only then are we truly practicing yoga. Only then are we truly practicing meditation. Only then are we able to enter sat-chit-anandaa state of conscious bliss.

Apart from very brief and occassional moments; one notable one in a hotel room in Katmandhuthe state of sat-chit-ananda has mostly eluded me mainly because of the constant distraction of my monkey mind.

We've all been theresitting on our meditation cushions pretending to look calm and serene when really our mind is racing ten to the dozen like a duck's legs as it paddles alongproducing a stream of consciousness of which Joyce would be proud.

"Goodness I'm uncomfortable."
"I wonder if I'm sitting up straight enough."
"I'm hungry."
"Must remember to buy some washing up liquid on the way home."


It happens in asana practice as well.

"Hmmmm... she's very bendyI wish I looked like that."
"oooh nice yoga trousers/tattoo/navel piercing."
"I'm hungry."
"Must remember to buy some washing up liquid on the way home."

And I don't know about you dear readerbut even away from my mat and cushion my monkey mind is in overdrive. Whilst looking for one thingI will find another and begin an entirely new search at a wholly impractical time. I will be distracted by a shiny button and right now the monkey mind is in overdrive about an exciting new development in my writing. Now this is all well and goodbut there is a time and a place for everything.

In this year of mindfulness it is more important than ever before for me to be conscious of my monkey mind and at least attempt to deal with it when it strikes.

Personally I have always found focus on the breath the best way to bring the awareness back to the presentto the here and now. One practice that works for me is feeling the breath travelling up and down the body and this can be done anytimelyingsittingstandingduring asana practicewhilst doing the washing upwherever you choose!

As you inhale visualise the breath travelling up the body from the soles of the feet to the top of the headfilling up the whole body with energy and vitality. As you exhale visualise the breath travelling down the body from the top of the head to the soles of the feet taking with it tiredness and tension. A few rounds of this breath can soon bring you back to the momentand the task in hand.

As for the achievement of of chitta vritti nirodhahwell all I can do is keep practicing. Maybe one day. In the meantime I take solace in something Tara once told me. Like sleepwe can set up the perfect environment for meditationbut like sleepwe cannot force it to come.

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