Smart Monkey!

Monkey Mind needs a break from constant duties. Otherwise that smart uniform will begin to look shabby and the suitcases will overflow on to the floor.

This picture offers us a great lesson about the role of Monkey Mind.

The ‘toff’ in the elegant suit and top hat is standing by, allowing the porter, a monkey in a red uniform, to carry all the baggage. Unfortunately, one of the cases has fallen open, because the monkey can’t manage such a big heap of bags. The porter is rather like us, really – we are often so overloaded with thoughts, ideas, plans, shopping lists and daily timetables that we can’t keep everything tidy. Stuff is bound to spill over, especially while we are meditating.

If we think of the monkey porter as our everyday self – looking stylish, but trying hard to cope – then the toff watching on, detached and uninvolved, is our ‘witness’, our ‘higher self’, or Soul. This is the part of us that can stand to one side, staying calm and stress-free, even while the baggage is falling apart!

It is Monkey Mind’s job to deal with the everyday stuff. And Monkey is really smart. Just like the character in the red uniform, Monkey can get on with the task, usually with a high degree of efficiency – it’s not very often that the suitcases spill out their contents. What we are learning, is how to make best use of Monkey Mind, as a servant who can supprt our daily needs. What are a smart Monkey’s duties?

  • Planning our timetable
  • Checking our shopping lists
  • Organising outings and holidays
  • Doing the money maths
  • Finding the keys
  • Remembering birthdays…  and so on.

Monkey Mind will always find something else to get smart with. Excellent work, Monkey, you deserve a tip. Now you’ve got that sorted I can get on with my meditation!

We might think, looking at this tableau, that maybe the toff could offer a helping hand – or at least offer some kind advice. Like, “there, there my friend, not to worry, everything will be fine.” But the toff stands in his own centre, at ease, feet apart, looking on unruffled. He looks as though he doesn’t really care about the untidy mess the monkey has made. He doesn’t express any sympathy with the monkey’s plight.

We do need to care about Monkey Mind, our faithful, hard-working servant. That’s why we meditate, to give Monkey a break from the constant grind of keeping up with all our twenty-first century demands. Monkey can take a sabbatical twice a day and will breathe a sigh of relief when duty calls again, and the uniform has to come out of the cupboard. If Monkey doesn’t get a respite, how will there be time to keep that smart uniform clean and tidy, ready to put on the best show for the public arriving at the hotel?

Managing Monkey Mind

What to do with that chattering little voice when you’re trying to settle down to meditate.

Even the Buddha had to deal with Monkey Mind!

Monkey Mind is a chattering little trickster who can definitely sabotage your attempts to drop into the quiet, delightful space which supports and sustains you – Divine Source.  Our friend Monkey Mind has this nickname because real monkeys do chatter, and leap from branch to branch. They are restless, playful, lively and curious, always looking for something new to engage with. Our own Monkey Mind is interested in gossip, new ideas, shopping lists, looking ahead to Friday after work, planning our summer holiday, bank balances… and the never-ending stream of possibilities that 21st century life has to offer. Like the ever-present content of modern media and social networking, our inner Monkey Mind is always on the look out for an exciting titbit of news to get chattering about.

We mustn’t make Money Mind into our enemy – this mental activity is very important for humankind! Having an inquisitive mental capacity is a significant difference between us and other creatures. That’s how we get to be smart, creative, problem-solving, walking and talking homo sapiens. So, thank you Monkey Mind, you are a good and supportive friend.

But… we must manage Monkey Mind to our advantage and not allow her – or him as the case may be – to run amok when we want to take time out, resting in the hammock of Divine Source. When we have set aside time for meditation, we need to make sure Monkey Mind knows its place, and is an obedient little pet, only showing up when we give permission. We do need to create some firm boundaries, so Monkey Mind can’t charge in to our quiet space and disturb our peaceful reverie.

Looks like Buddha had more than one Monkey Mind. After all, he was a really cool dude!

When we close our eyes to meditate, Monkey Mind gets the impression this is an opportunity for playing. Our inner landscape is like an open playground for adventures and  potential fun. Monkey Mind will seize anything that is in our mental arena and start developing and expanding the topic, very, very quickly. Lots of intrusive thoughts will tumble and rumble as if there is no tomorrow! Just when you are putting your attention on the zera, Monkey Mind can distract you with lots of shiny  baubles. After all, you haven’t given yourself time to plan what you will wear for your friend’s wedding next month. Maybe you haven’t found a menu for Easter Sunday lunch. You definitely didn’t remember to call your Dad to remind him to lend you the strimmer. The baubles can be shiny and fun – but they can also be grey and gloomy. How about the credit card interest? What about sorting the water bill?  Will the bank extend the overdraft – the gloomy ones are often about money. But they can also be about health issues for you or for people you love. Most people do have a lot ‘on their mind’, concerns and anxieties that are difficult to put to one side.

How do we let Monkey Mind know that we need our quiet space, for a limited amount of time – just twenty minutes, PLEASE!  One useful trick is to have a notepad, where you can jot down the immediate issues that Monkey Mind could seize on. Make a list of Money Mind ‘food’. For example:

  1. Must call hairdresser
  2. Remind Dad about strimmer
  3. Do credit card maths and talk to bank re overdraft
  4. Search internet for recipes
  5. Set up direct payment for water company

… and so on.  By creating your list before your meditation session, you are acknowledging that those issues do need to be addressed, and you are also promising Monkey Mind that she/he will get  a window of opportunity after your ZedMed. session…(ZeeMed if you are in the US!).

We can pretty much guarantee that, as soon as you close your eyes, Monkey Mind will pop up: “Aha! You forgot something!” So be prepared to make a promise, that whatever has been forgotten will go on the list as soon as your session has finished.

Now… breathe deeply! Breathing into your tummy is a good way to hike attention away from stuff going on in your head, and this also helps to quieten Monkey Mind. Always begin your Zera Meditation session with deep breathing. You can observe your breathing as you introduce the zera, allowing the in and out breath to become synchronised with the syllables of the zera. Once this rhythm gets established, Monkey Mind will be much less intrusive. Enjoy!