Trick to meditation is taming your ‘monkey mind’
We were about at the midpoint of our 75-minute yoga class when the instructor told us to sit cross-legged on our mats – hands cupped in our laps, one over the other, as if awaiting communion – and breathe.
Ahh, I thought. Finally a respite from the stretches and twists. We had just completed a series of simple but horrible poses, holding our arms straight out to our sides for what seemed like hours until our shoulders burned.
Sit and breathe, I nodded. What a relief.
Close your eyes, the instructor said. Focus on your breath. Keep your back straight, the crown of your head reaching toward the ceiling. Inhale, exhale.
So I began.
Within seconds I started to fidget, rocking ever so slightly on my mat. Breathe, I thought. Inhale, exhale.
I wiggled my hands, tapping the pads of my fingers one by one against my thumb. I decided to make potato hash for dinner. I wondered when my car might be out of the shop. I counted the days since I had last spoken with my parents on the phone. Too long, I thought. Need to call them when I get home.
I opened one eye and scanned the room. Everyone else seemed to be following the rules, both eyes closed and breathing calmly.
I admired the yoga top the woman in front of me was wearing, its purple straps criss-crossing her back. I thought about buying one like it. I imagined going to the mall. I envisioned the food court. I suddenly craved a hot pretzel with cheese.
“Monkey mind,” as the Buddhists would say. My thoughts were unsettled and restless. My body, consequently, couldn’t sit still. This was excruciating.
Having just begun my yoga journey, it’s little wonder I’m easily distracted. But according to the instructor, who has been practicing yoga for decades, the Sukhasana, or “easy pose,” can be one of the most challenging for people at any level.
We live distracted lives. It’s hard to find a waiting room or even a restaurant without television screens everywhere. We talk to friends with one eye on our phones, always checking for that next text, tweet, phone call or email. Our minds go a million directions at once.
Pile on the recent “Pokemon Go” craze, and the count may be closer to 2 million directions. If you don’t open the app and at least look around now and then, how are you ever going to find that coveted Vaporeon or Alakazam?
The trick to meditation, I’m told, is to start small. Fifteen breaths, maybe, or just 10.
A friend who often accompanies me to yoga shared a video with me in which Tibetan Buddhist master Mingyur Rinpoche shares advice for taming a monkey mind. The key, he says, is to focus on that chattering in your head and lean into it instead of trying to fight it.
“We can meditate everywhere, anytime,” he says.
“You ask monkey mind, ‘Hello! Watch breath.’ So monkey mind says, ‘Ah, yeah! Good idea!’ And be aware of breath: Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in.”
“This sounds a lot easier,” my yoga buddy said when she shared the video.
Easier said than done, no doubt. But I’ll keep working on it.
The Wichita Eagle
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