Put the Monkey in the Cage *
Yoga parlance is full of fun and descriptive phrases (“shine your heart forward”, “let your buttocks blossom to the sky”, and others), but one of my favorites is “calm your monkey mind”, because you immediately understand what it means. And, if you’re like me, you wind up with a cute image of your inner self as a monkey that is running around willy-nilly. Its a humorous and gentle description that draws attention to the fact that your brain might have been very far away from your mat. We all have those moments where we are running through mental to-do lists or remembering an argument with a friend, and so often we don’t even know that its happening unless an outside voice is there to remind you.
Recently, I was reading a book about meditation that encourages lovingly recognizing when your mind has strayed into the world of thought, as opposed to thinking you’ve failed in your practice. I am especially fond of Pema Chodron’s description of imagining an arising thought as a bubble, and tapping that bubble with a feather while acknowledging it, letting the bubble pop and disappear, and then returning to your practice. If the idea of bubbles and feathers is too distracting in and of itself, Chodron also recommends just acknowledging “thinking”, and then returning back to your breath.
Whether you practice in a studio, at home, or just while sitting on the bus, check in with yourself from time to time. If you find your mind wandering, gently allow your focus to come back to your breath and let the mind fall quiet. We will probably need to do this more than we wish we did, but it is the awareness of the noise that is more important than the noise itself. Each breath taken with that fuller consciousness is the reward.
Happy practicing! Namaste.