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Dixie Cup in a Windstorm

August 31, 2011

Everyone has experienced it before; you can’t sleep because you just can’t turn your mind off. You have your eyes closed, and you felt sleepy before lying down, but once in bed, your mind just spins out of control, and keeps you awake. Or perhaps you were asleep, but then woke in the middle of the night with a thought of something you need to do, and proceed to lie awake for hours.

This is just one of the problems caused by a “monkey mind”. Iyengar describes this mind as “a drunken monkey who has been stung by a bee and is crashing through the forest, swinging from tree to tree”. Yikes! But so true.

Our mind’s normal process of association is like a monkey swinging from tree to tree, from thought to thought, on and on, keeping us from having any peace and stillness. Our mind is a thought producing organ. That is its job. How could we change that? Are we really just innocent victims of circumstance?  Bodies attached to the thought producing organ, with no control?

Of course not. We do have control, but it takes practice to learn how to apply that control. Whose mind is it anyway? It is yours. You do have the ability to control the monkey by learning to meditate. But the skill of meditation isn’t second nature. It must be learned, practiced, and developed over time. In the mean time, your mind doesn’t want you to learn how to control it, like a 5 year old who runs amok and doesn’t want a new nanny learning how to contain him.

But give it a try. Again and again. The best advice for those of us learning how to meditate is “begin again”. Imagine this scenario:  You decide to meditate. You choose your position, and bravely sit to calm the Dixie-cup-in-a-windstorm of a mind you have, and for two breaths it feels like you might succeed. Then, your mind slips one in on you. A thought. You didn’t even notice how it got there. Sigh. So you “begin again”. Then the mind whispers to you, “don’t just sit there, do something”, and you remember something you should be doing. Ack! Thinking again. After a few rounds of this, you feel like you’ve been tricked so many times by your mind, you just “can’t do it”. You give up and walk away from your new meditation practice asking, “what’s the point!?” Your mind has won again.

The point is to find the diamond within. The best analogy is that the mind is like a mountain lake:  with thoughts whirling around like the wind, the waters are stirred up creating waves on the surface. The waves increase in size the longer the wind blows, until even the mud at bottom of the lake has been stirred up and the water is dark and murky. But if you still the wind, the waves will slowly calm. As the water becomes still, the mud and silt sink back to the bottom of the lake, and the water becomes clear. Sunlight penetrates the still, cool water, and glints off a diamond at the bottom of the lake. The diamond reflects the light, filling the lake with light, enlightening the lake… The diamond is your true Self. In fact, this is the whole purpose of yoga, finding the true Self within. “Yogah cittavrtti nirodhah”, says Yoga Sutra 1.2, translated as “Yoga is the cessation of movements in the consciousness”. “Tada drastuh svarupe avasthanam”, says Yoga Sutra 1.3, translated as “Then, the Seer dwells in his own true splendor”. Meditation is only one part of yoga, one of eight parts to be exact. All the parts put together guide us in stilling the mind so that the Seer within can exist clearly. I’ll write my next blog about the eight limbs of yoga, for those of you who are interested. In the meantime, don’t just do something, sit there. With a consistent and patient meditation practice, it gets easier. Then the next time your mind wants to run amok, you’ll have an easier time quieting down, and dwelling in splendor.

Seek qualified meditation instruction to aid you in your own attempts. Michelle Gindele is a certified meditation teacher of the Kriya lineage, right here at Santosha Yoga. Michelle has been a practitioner of meditation for 13 years. If you are interested in hearing more about her upcoming Beginning Meditation Series, please ask Michelle, or watch the Santosha website for details!

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