The yogi meditates to seek stillness. The Buddist meditates to achieve oneness, non-duality. Modern medicine recommends meditation to quiet racing thoughts and slow down our frantic existence. The rest of us meditate because it feels so good just to be motionless for a few minutes out of every day. Along the way we all catch glimpses of peace or the giddiness of noticing the tension literally draining out of our shoulders or hands like rainwater down a spout. Or having fifteen minutes without thinking about this, that, him, her, time, dinner, laundry, deadlines, appointments, pets, kids, work, and dirty floors. The “ahhhh” of a few moments without the chatter and screeching of monkey mind is all it takes to revive us enough to finish the must-do-today list. Then we take a bath, reach for a few hours of dreams, get up, and do it all again. Somewhere along the route, the moments spent deeply focused (that’s all meditation actually is, deep focus while being conscious,) begin to taint our everyday existence. In small ways, meditation practice filters into our daily routines, and we find that we are less prone to flaming out when something doesn’t go our way. At least, if we do flame out, it is not as hot as it used to be and doesn’t last as long. The flame instead sheds light on the situation, and we stop and think differently about it all.
It’s the same for everybody whether they admit it or not. Meditation is a challenge but a worthwhile one. I’ve recently finished reading The Accidental Buddhist by Dinty W. Moore, an English professor at Ohio University (Go, Bobcats! you were basketball awesome last Friday night!) in Athens, Ohio. Moore travelled the country for a year in search of instructions on becoming a Buddhist or at least learning how to meditate really well. He discovered much about himself and his relationship with spirituality, but he bluntly faces what we all face every time we put our rumps on the zafu: monkey mind is in control. Moore says it succinctly:
The problem is clearly inside. My mind is a monkey, and the monkey needs Ritalin. (The Accidental Buddhist, page 36.)
Everybody encounters the same yakety-yak of thoughts and distractions. That’s part of the practice. Learning to deal with ourselves in a kinder, calmer way spills over into our lives and that’s one of the ways meditation becomes a tool to help us deal with stress. We are harsh with other people because that is how we treat ourselves. We chastise and punish ourselves pretty regularly and it’s become a habit for lots of people. We treat others the way we treat ourselves. NOT beating yourself up when monkey mind goes berserk and draws you away from the calm and reassuring sound of your own breath is the first step to stopping this attitude in your dealings with other people. An easy way to hush the chatter is to out talk monkey mind with kind and reassuring positive affirmations. “I am kind. I am smart. I am calm. I am important,” are just a few of the phrases that will shut monkey mind down in a heartbeat. Repeat them over and over in tempo with your natural breath day after day. A positive mantra repeated over and over is like a sort of Ritalin to calm monkey mind down for a few minutes. And like Moore discovers after a year of grasping for an understanding of a meaningful and spiritual existence, you’ll realize what he did.
If there is a God, I should live my life according to principles of kindness, compassion, and awareness, and if there is no God, well then I should live my life according to principles of kindness, compassion, and awareness anyway.
You can begin by trying to show yourself kindness, compassion, and awareness the next time you and monkey mind meet on the cushion. And I highly recommend Moore’s book The Accidental Buddhist.
There are five primary areas of practice to the Writer Wellness plan. Every other week I will post an idea for relaxation (Monday Meditation,) creative play (Tuesday Tickle,) fitness and exercise (Wednesday Workout,) journaling and misc. (Thursday Thought,) and nutrition (Friday Feast.)
Meanwhile, remember to look for a digital or print copy of Writer Wellness, A Writer’s Path to Health and Creativity at Who Dares Wins Publishing, http://whodareswinspublishing.com.
Be well, write well.