Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Monkey Mind

Our minds are often like a tree full of monkeys. If you think of this image, all the chatter, noise, and leaping about represents the myriad of thoughts that go through our heads everyday. I wonder how many random thoughts the average person has everyday beyond the self generated thinking required for our daily tasks? In Buddhism you sometimes hear the term "no mind". What is this "no mind"? "No mind" is the space between thoughts. Without some effort on your part, you will never be aware of this space. Some types of meditation will train you to let go of thoughts and increase the space between thoughts. I know I have an overactive mind. My own incessant need to be thinking all the time sometimes makes me crazy. Even writing these daily thoughts makes me crazy at times because I am always thinking about things I can write about. I write daily thoughts five days a week and now have around 400+ of them posted on my web page. A lot of thinking went in to all that writing. It doesn't help that I can be a perfectionist and sometimes obsess over choosing the right words. A thought will come and I can spend hours developing it in my head while hoping the finished product might be worthy of being committed to paper. I sometimes have a difficult time focusing. I am easily distracted because my thoughts are all over the place. I head down one road and often end up on a side street. Right now I am reading three different books because while reading one I get distracted by another. Recently, I was reading an in depth biography of the Beatles. Then I got into the Chinese philosophy of the Tao Te Ching and the 60's history by Tom Brokaw. I got back into the Tao Te Ching and then I bought "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle. Between the reading and the writing and the demands of daily work and living, I sometimes have a case of the "monkey mind". The ironic part of this is I'm pretty sure some of you think I have it all together all the time. The truth is that I'm as wired and frazzled as most of you, at least some of the time. My mind sometimes wears me out. The good news is that I do know the antidote. I need to quiet my mind and the way to do that is to spend more time in the space between thoughts. I need to spend less time expanding my mind and more time quieting it. I need to be still more often and stop filling my life and head with noise and information. Being still and being quiet and allowing most of my thoughts to float away will increase the space between my thoughts and allow me to be in a state of "no mind". I think the Christian monk, Thomas Merton, would call this space between thoughts the "ground of your being". It is where we meet God and ourselves. Outside of this space we usually only meet ourselves coming and going.

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