Sunday, March 6, 2016

Taming the Monkey Mind – Part 3 – Monkey Business!

It’s important to get along with your pet monkey. It’s also important to establish that you, the Self, are the alpha of your one-monkey troop. So, now it's time to teach your monkey some meditation tricks. It’s no use berating him (or “her,” but “him” sounds better). No, we have to demonstrate that our Self is a true and inspired leader. More on this soon, but, first:

“A word from our Sponsor,” Emperor Soul (Sole):

No amount of meditation tricks is going to trick your monkey into believing you want him to lie still unless YOU really do. There is, you see, something else needed and it's not a trick. It has to be real. You will be surprised by what I have to say.

Simply put: you have to WANT to be still. Yes, I actually wrote that. You object by saying, “Well, heck, that’s what meditation is all about and of course I want to meditate!” Paramhansa Yogananda may have responded to someone who said just that when he wrote: “The soul LOVES to meditate but the ego HATES to meditate.” 

You can trick your monkey but you cannot trick your Self. Very few meditators have reached the point, sustainably and consistently, where they have no inner resistance to meditating and do so consistently. 

Moreover, none of them are reading this article because what few of these exist don’t need to. You might argue by saying it’s your monkey that HATES to meditate and you wouldn’t be wrong, but there’s something deeper than mere habit that resists meditation, too.

It’s called many things but most commonly we call it the EGO. Yes, the monkey is part of the ego, but mostly the monkey is active, reactive, and restless, a product of necessity, survival, and habit. But there is something deeper and more still; it is dark, like the subconscious — meaning very difficult to “see” — because always “behind you” yet always there. If and when it decides you are more than a meditator and are, in fact, a serious devotee and disciple seeking Self-realization through ego-transcendence, it will put up a fight that will make the monkey seem like a pet. 

It is, in effect, the master of the monkey. This series of blog-articles are about the monkey, not the monkey’s master. That’s not an article; that’s a scripture; and more than a scripture; that’s the “greatest story ever told.”

For now, however, let me say this about that: the secret to achieving stillness in meditation is that you must truly and sincerely, and with energy, WANT to be still. Whether your incentive finds expression in philosophical or intellectual terms, devotional feeling, or by sheer will power (or, most likely, some combination of all three), it must be there for you to have the power, the patience, and, in time, the skill to train your monkey to become a pet monkey.

This is why you should never be very far from having a quiver of arrows handy that enumerate the many important and inspiring reasons WHY you want to meditate. When the monkey is acting out whether by mere habit, by stress or circumstantially-driven emotions, or the influence of its master ego, you, the peaceful soul-warrior, must reach behind you and draw from your quiver several peace-dipped arrows, one by one, reason after reason (powered by determination and ignited by inspiration) to anesthetize the monkey.

Because if “you” don’t really want to meditate, the monkey’s going to stay on top. Every day, therefore, you must stay in touch with the peace of meditation or any other aspect of the benefit(s) of meditation that inspire you to want to meditate as soon as you get up, or as often as you can.

OK, our sponsor (the soul) has spoken. 

Now, back to our subject: meditation techniques to train your monkey.
   1.       Begin every meditation (if needed) with an examination of conscience (an old Catholic term, I believe). What’s bothering me right now? What’s on my mind? Acknowledge this and promise it that you’ll come back to it after meditation. Write it down if you must.
   2.       Otherwise, start every meditation in your heart. Take whatever time you need to settle and harmonize the feelings of the heart in the direction of peace, calmness or devotion: that, “Aaah, I have come home! Good to see You again, old Friend!”
   3.       Assuming the monkey needs some petting, you should have in your routine no less than two pranayams (breathing techniques). Use them with consecutive breaths to energize and relax first the body; then the heart and finally the mind. (I do this in the kumbhak (holding phase) of sequential breath cycles by filling first the body with breath, energy, prana; then holding it behind the heart; and then finally in the mind, clearing out the fog of restless thought so the sunshine and blue skies of mental clarity break through.
   4.       Then, stepping away from controlling (yama) the breath, slip into merely observing and “watching” (niyama) the breath. Do so with keen, focused, and calmly engaged interest. (I am not giving a technique per se, but the “bhav” or feeling with which to observe the breath with whatever technique you’ve been taught.) You might imagine your breath as an old friend. He’s been with you since your birth, remember? Imagine you are sitting together on the couch, intent upon one another but not necessarily talking; enjoying each other’s silent company, like real friends do.
   5.       If you do speak, do so with each other in a simple way. Use a mantra or affirmation with each breath.

   6.       If thoughts enter the room, like a waiter eager to ask you “Is everything all right” just as you are in the middle of an important sentence, then consider this response:
a.      Observe the thought passing through.
b.      Observe your reaction to the thought.
c.      Notice that the two (thought vs reaction) are two, separate things (not one thing)
d.      Discard or dissolve the reaction;
e.      Notice the thought vanishes.
f.       Enter (however briefly) space-mind (the space where the mind resides—devoid or waiting for the next thought).
g.      Gradually expand the time and depth of your resting in space-mind-time.
h.      Enjoy Being there.
i.       Or, if you're not ready for space-mind-time, then go back to your conversation with the breath.

Well, it’s been nice BEING with you. When you are finished, tap on your pet monkey’s shoulder and say, “It’s time to get back to work!” Smile at him: he’s your friend, too.

Joy to you and yours,

Nayaswami Hriman