Your Restless Mind

Steve Taylor writes very simple poems with a powerful message, reminding us of what is important. This recent one is about what others have called monkey mind.

Your Restless Mind

All is well
until your restless mind
wakes up and starts to wonder
whether all is well.  

Nothing is wrong 
until your restless mind 
stirs to life and starts to suspect 
that something might be wrong.

Like an overpaid manager trying to justify his role
your mind finds problems that never existed before 
and persuades you to make changes 
even though your life is running smoothly.

Like a detective who always suspects foul play 
your mind keeps questioning reality 
going over the evidence and the sequence of events 
until situations turn into crimes.

Like a soldier patrolling the streets at night
your mind is always in a state of vigilance 
scanning the darkness and silence 
for signs of unrest and danger.

But you can reassure your restless mind 
that life is only hard if you struggle against it 
that the world is only an enemy if you fight against it 
and that the natural state of life is peace.

Everything Comes from your Depths

From time to time I include on this blog a poem by Steve Taylor from his latest newsletter. This one reminds us about the source of what is really important, rather than what is on the surface – listening to the intuition, as opposed to the instant reaction of emotions or monkey mind…

Everything Comes from your Depths

Nothing real or valuable 
comes from the surface of your mind –
only the most trivial thoughts,
the most mundane impressions
and the most selfish desires.   

Everything real and valuable 
comes from the depths of your being –
the intuitions that guide your life 
as surely as a compass
the creative flow that carries you 
to places you never knew existed 
the inspiration that lifts you 
to peaks you never knew you could reach
the insights that are shared with you
like whispered secrets from a stranger.  

So let your the mind be soft and clear 
free of assumptions and beliefs 
and of dense swirling mists of thought 
so that there is no barrier
between you and your mysterious soul
and so that the endless riches of your depths
keep rising to your surface.

Beyond the Res Cogitans

I love this post from Scott Preston with a great title. It draws together ancient philosophical/ spiritual/ religious ideas and more modern thinking to suggest the direction that human consciousness is moving in, letting go of Monkey Mind and coming into presence.

And there’s a great poem by Rumi.

The Chrysalis

Huike said to Bodhidharma, “My mind is anxious. Please pacify it.”
Bodhidharma replied, “Bring me your mind, and I will pacify it.”
Huike said, “Although I’ve sought it, I cannot find it.”
“There,” Bodhidharma replied, “I have pacified it for you.”

It is often very difficult for Westerners, especially, to understand the meaning of this parable. Generations of conditioning has inculcated the belief that the res cogitans is fundamental to who and what we are — that is “the thinking thing”. “I think, therefore I am”, pronounced Descartes, and divided being into incommensurate domains of the res cogitans and the res extensa — the subject which thinks and the objective realm that it thinks about, the realm of extension, of space and motion. Cogito ergo sum — I am because I think.

This formula (called “metaphysical dualism”) has generated all sorts of problems for the modern mind, which are not…

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Musings on Attention and Mindfulness

A 3-year-old is contented playing with a toy. This all-absorbing activity goes on for a minute or two, and then attention moves onto something else, which may or may not then provide contentment.

An 8-year-old loves Lego and craft projects, also getting totally absorbed. Yet at times she may have a frown on her face, as some thought crosses her mind during the activity. It may be the worry monster. Monkey mind has usurped her attention, disturbing her contentment. Do we not all have this battle with monkey mind?

At age very much more, I absent-mindedly carry a cup of coffee up the stairs to my study, just as most days. One day, my slipper catches a step and a few drops are spilled onto the stair carpet, followed by panic, wetting, rubbing and blotting to try to avoid consequent stains. Since then, I strive to always carry cups of drink in full mindfulness, when there is no chance of spillage.

So mindfulness can be very beneficial. But then comes the beautiful sunny day when I congratulate myself on just how mindful I am being, and immediately trip on the pavement. It’s not easy.

When driving a car, we adults are very much like grandson absorbed in the act, yet we are required to perform the seemingly superhuman task of holding full mindful attention for an hour or two until the next break. If the worry monster finds space our driving is probably impaired. But there is that wonderful feature of humans called auto-pilot, where ‘I’ continue driving the car while speaking to a passenger, worrying or pondering on some problem – just as I carried the coffee upstairs while thinking of other things.

The scary thing is when you ‘wake up’ and realise that you’ve been absorbed in thought for the last mile or so of motorway, while ‘you’ were driving the car on auto-pilot. Who the hell was in charge? And did it matter?

If you really want to know more about, and develop, your powers of attention, try B. Alan Wallace’s book ‘The Attention Revolution: Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind’, which could take you all the way to Shamatha of the Buddhist tradition.

Featured image from Truck clipart.