Meditating with My Monkey Mind

In all honesty, this post is more about liking the alliteration of the title than the topic itself.

In my mid-teens I found a book somewhere (yard sale, or used bookstore, or in a box in the garage, the memory fades after a handful of decades pass) about self-improvement and meditation. I don’t recall the title, though I do recall it was written sometime in the early 1900’s. It was my first introduction to concepts like affirmations and meditation.

I loaned the book to a friend who really took to the affirmations (I can still hear his radio-announcer-deep voice repeating “every day in every way I’m getting bitchener and bitchener”).

I was fascinated with meditation. I don’t recall the book pointing out the self-discipline aspect of it, though that is how I thought of it. Until recently, my meditation practice was never really a practice, but a series of abandoned attempts. This time has been different in two ways. First, I have an app (Balance). When I read Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Zen Teaching of Shunryu Suzuki, I understood the value of meditating in groups, but I’m not a group-joiner by nature, so that never happened. The app gives me guidance, which I think is part of the group value. It also gamifies the process. I started using it around December of 2021. At some point I noticed that it tracked sequential days of practice. I took a sabbatical this year, and as part of it decided to make meditation a larger part of my life. As of today, I have 113 days of daily practice in.

The second difference in my approach this time around is that I have dropped the association with discipline. While intellectually I know that discipline is not about making yourself do things, experientially I still feel that way. In reality, discipline is about doing things for the sake of the doing and the reward. Maybe making yourself is necessary at the start, before the discipline becomes rewarding, but forcing yourself despite yourself will not lead to discipline.

And that brings me to my monkey mind, what I call that inner voice that I know I should have more control over and yet it still goes off yammering about things, and more about things I tell it that I really don’t want to hear about. Once my monkey mind acquires some discipline, I think the next level will come.

© Scott S. Nelson

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