By Jerry Mooney
Is acquiring serenity driving you crazy? Are you at battle with your inner peace? Is your here and now there and then? Is your Zen more like a zoo? Well, this is common. And for years I’ve been battling with taming my monkey mind. It seemed like whenever I reached a small level of inner quiet, a thought parade demanded I engage it and all of its confetti.
I spent years trying to train my mind. I meditated. I read everything I could on the subject. I improved, but only marginally. Despite my best efforts, as I tried to go into silence, the shows began, demanding my immediate attention.
Go away! I’m meditating! I demanded and the more I cursed my thoughts, the louder and more insistent they became. Until I learned one little secret.
Training the Monkey
Up until I learned this secret, my efforts focused on training my mind to improve it. I was gaining skills, but no stillness. I was developing mindfulness, but no peace. Just like an athlete, I was training my mind to be better, stronger and faster, but the monkey still came. What I didn’t realize at the time was, that all of my efforts were to train, strengthen and improve the monkey not my peace.
Mind vs Ego
I know a lot of people like to use the term ego where I’m using mind. I’m using mind specifically because of the mess the term ego gets into with some common applications making it a synonym for conceit.
So how did I untether myself from my mental primate? I discovered, and this might be obvious to many of you, that I am not my mind. Despite all of my learning, I never considered that my mind was not me. In fact, I worked hard to convince myself otherwise. Oh, Jerry, you’re so smart! and then identifying my mind as me.
As a teenager I read The Way of the Peaceful Warrior and the author, Dan Millman, was advised to lose his mind. Although I thought that was clever, I didn’t understand it. Once I realized that my thoughts were independent of me, I could treat them as if they were an unwelcome visitor (Do I hear voices in my head? Yes I do. And now I largely ignore them). My mind can chatter on about whatever it chooses and I can go about my business. What is even better, is that the more I ignore my mind, the quieter it gets. It is as if it only wanted my attention in the first place, like a child who ate too much candy demanding the undivided focus of its parent.
So the trick to taming the monkey mind is actually not taming it, rather learning that, regardless of how tame or wild it is, it is not you. From there, you may find more here, now and again.
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Feature photo courtesy Webmonkeys, under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license
Jerry Mooney is co-founder and managing editor of Zenruption and the author of History Yoghurt and the Moon. He studied at the University of Munich and Lewis and Clark College where he received his BA in International Affairs and West European Studies. He has recently taught Language and Communications at a small, private college and owned various businesses, including an investment company that made him a millionaire before the age of 40. Jerry is committed to zenrupting the forces that block social, political and economic justice. He can also be found on Twitter@JerryMooney