Has it really been a month since I blogged? Om Namah Shivaya!
How did that happen? Life somehow obliterates any semblance of linearity in the space/time continuum.
One of my students was talking to me about how she can’t meditate because of her “monkey mind.” I think it was Ramakrishna (a 20th century Bengali mystic) who coined the phrase, “The mind is like a drunken monkey stung by a scorpion.”
Well, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not think about anything stinging my mind, and I’m not crazy about it being drunk either. And monkeys move too fast for me and they can be mean. Once when I was in India I was staying in a sort of motel place by the Ganges in Varanasi – I say sort of motel, because there were these free standing rooms on a hill up over the river, with some mosquito netting over the beds and a flimsy little door that didn’t close properly. You had to walk outside to get to the bathroom, which was essentially a porcelain-lined hole in the ground surrounded by four things mascarading as walls. For hygeine, there was a spigot outside the outhouse – bring your own soap!
Anyway one day there was a lot of monkey activity happening, a lot of “monkeying around” you could say. I had just gotten back from the market and I was making some rice and vegetables for lunch. I took some carrots to the spigot to wash them and left a small bag of peas on the bench in the room. I saw that the monkeys were eyeing me and my food. As I walked back into my room, I heard a lot of commotion, so I went over to the other side of the room to look out the window toward the river. At eye level, I could see that a gang of monkeys was in a tree trying to get the eggs out of a big bird’s nest. The bird was dive-bombing the monkeys – and all of this was accompanied by voluminous squawking, shrieking and a general sense of mayhem.
When I turned around to get back to my cooking, I saw a monkey scampering away with my bag of peas! “Hey!” I yelled, as if that might be productive. I ran after him out the door and saw him and three of his cronies sitting there on a wall across the courtyard – I swear they were taunting me and laughing, passing my bag of peas back and forth. I was set up by a bunch of monkeys!
So anyway, I think I’d rather think about my mind’s thoughts as being sweet, lovable wandering cats. Although I’ll admit that sometimes wandering cats are a bit nasty, or dismissive, or arrogant. At any rate, I’d rather think about cats in my head than thieving monkeys.
So maybe meditating is a bit like trying to herd cats. You can watch the cats wander around all day, they’ll probably pick up some friends on the way, maybe catch a nap in the sun, then wander some more .They’re not interested in paying attention to a herder – they’re not sheep after all (although sometimes when I’m meditating, they seem to have the same effect as sheep – I wake up to find I’ve got a kink in my neck from having my head slumped over for a while.)
But if you give the cats a bowl of milk, they’ll pay attention. And the mantra is the bowl of milk. It’s sweet and soothing. It makes them purr. Monkey’s, on the other hand, would prefer peas.
Famous last words: I will blog again soon!