Monday, February 29, 2016

Taming the Monkey Mind - To use a Thorn!

"Use a thorn to remove a thorn." So it is said in rural India. Great yogis have taken inspiration from this down-home country wisdom to suggest that we use the monkey mind to tame the monkey mind.

It is typical for beginners in meditation to report that their group meditations (e.g. in their meditation classes) are more satisfying and deeper than their private meditations at home. While the reasons for this are obvious enough -- after all, they are new at this and haven't an established daily meditation practice at home -- the meditator saddled with the monkey mind can look back at this and use it to his advantage too.

And here's how: rather than use a pre-recorded guided meditation, teach yourself to be your own guided meditation instructor. (I assume you have a technique and a meditation routine that you use, whether strictly or loosely; literally or creatively.) Start slow with just a piece of it. One peace at a time, in other words.

Since you already have a talking head inside of you, why not train that talking head to guide you through the steps of your routine or technique? "Inhale, 1, 2, 3......, hold, 1, 2, 3.......exhale, 1, 2 3." While my example here is simple it is meant only to give you a hint. 

Imagine mentally talking your way through some stretches; to sitting in correct posture; to a chant, affirmation, intention or prayer; to deep breathing, pranayam, watching the breath and then, finally.....using a creative visualization to take you i...n..t..o.........s...i...l...e....n....c.....e!

There! The monkey just talked himself out of a job! Hee, hee.........Did you get what I just did (said)? Do you need a little more on this?

While the monkey minder (gyana yogi) will, in principle, be more, well, how does one say this politely, "mental," I find that even "bhaktis" (those who are devotional by temperament) will sometimes complain of monkey breath. So the bhakti should chant, read or recite poetry (aloud if necessary), read prayers or talk to her guru or deity until her monkey breath is sweet and she feels like going inward, doing perhaps some more breath cleansing work, before entering into silent, inner communion with the object of her devotion.

The active type (karma yogi) will be a monkey-gymnast: physically restless; wanting to move about after 30 seconds of "meditation." The Energization (Tension) Exercises by Paramhansa Yogananda are excellent for this. Hatha yoga can also be excellent, too, of course, but the EE go faster both in pace and in less time spent. The gymnast will probably do well and enjoy learning up to a dozen breathing exercises (pranayams), blissing-out on the energy soothed or aroused (alternately) before consenting to enter the silence, even briefly.

In each of these three "types," it is important to note (even in contradistinction to the standard or literal advice given in meditation classes), "even a little practice" of stillness will bring you back to the cushion and bless you with the benefits of true meditation.

Here's what I'm saying: I am supposed to teach my students that up to 1/4 of sitting time should be in silent meditation (without use of techniques). But I assure you that the reality is, especially for the monkey I have in mind, that this is not time well spent when it is imposed upon the mind. 

Better it is to have 30 seconds, 60 seconds, two minutes of peaceful rest in the Self and get up feeling refreshed, inspired, divinely blessed..........and looking forward to the next opportunity to meditate than to wrestle with the monkey on the mat, sweating, cursing and fighting and deciding meditation "is not for me."

Naturally I don't want you to use this counsel as an excuse to finish your techniques, burp and get up! You should aspire to 1/4 of your time in silent, inner communion; it's just that "when the bird and book disagree, believe the bird." (Audubon society proverb). Yoga is about direct perception and experience, not belief, ritual or rules.

In the next article on the Monkey Mind, I will share a routine with general suggestions for the monkey mind to try digesting: (don’t do all of them; pick and choose; experiment; mix and match; be playful, enthusiastic, and inspired to find the no-name, no-form joyful, peaceful transcendent God-Self within you)

Until that time, don’t monkey around; mind your monkey; chat with him (or her); bargain; negotiate; give reassurance of your undying gratitude to the monkey who (thinks he/she) runs the Enterprise.

Here’s a chant for you and your monkey: O My Mind, learn thou self-control (repeat); Go not in the house of senses (repeat); Learn thou, learn thou Self-control! (by Paramhansa Yogananda)

Swami Hrimananda