Friday, July 20, 2007

The Monkey Mind

Thanks to Lindsey in Lawrence and her comment on yesterday's entry, I was paying special attention this morning to the monkey mind during my sit. Even after quite a number of years of meditation practice, I know that this restless, busy character is always ready to get up to his tricks, prodding me constantly to worry about yesterday and tomorrow--and particuarly, in my case, about what needs to be done today.

Watching him start in on his familiar chatter this morning, I thought to have managed to quiet him down and to have succeeded in bringing my attention solely to the breath, when I realized something that I have often suspected before without being fully aware of: that clever little beast was still working away at an entirely different level of consciousness, behind a kind of screen of contentment. I had lulled myself into the belief that I had him under control, but there he was, back in the driver's seat of my mind, without my knowledge or consent.

I realize now that I need to watch out for this phenomenon. As I say, I have been aware of it before: it's a kind of undercurrrent of vague discomfort, a sense of something going on at a level of consciousness below that at which the monkey usually operates. The image that comes to mind is that of the Indonesian shadow theater, where the action takes place not on stage, but behind a taut scrim, in silhouette. Or, less benign, a shark prowling below the surface of the ocean.

Thanks, Lindsey, for the provocation. And thanks to pandabonium for his thoughtful words. More grist for the mill! And, by the way, in this process I discovered this new site. Glad to know about it.

2 comments:

carly said...

P: It must be nice to walk the beach so close by, and clear the mind.

Funny. My Chinese year sign is the Monkey, and the image is, the monkey sits in the tree and throws nuts on the elephants. !

My mother used to say, that I love to stir the pot and walk away.

Here's something from Daily Zen, a journal at: http://community.livejournal.com/daily_zen/

At night, deep in the mountains,
I sit in meditation.
The affairs of the world
Never reach here;
Everything is quiet and empty,
All the incense has
Been swallowed up
By the endless night.
My robe has become a garment of dew.
Unable to sleep I
Walk out into the woods
Suddenly, above the highest peak,
The full moon appears.

- Ryokan (1758-1831)

They call him James Ure said...

As I say, I have been aware of it before: it's a kind of undercurrrent of vague discomfort, a sense of something going on at a level of consciousness below that at which the monkey usually operates.

Me too.