Silence That Monkey Mind!
By Rev. Dr. Rick Belous
For many of us meditation can be hard work!
We will be trying to meditate, and the next thing you know our mind is off thinking about our shopping list for Trader Joe's-- or our brain is thinking about a nasty thing an old girlfriend said to us many years ago.
Yes, we try meditation and that monkey mind of ours is off to the races. We know that meditation is good for us. It is a key part of Unity's Fourth Basic Principle. Also, many spiritual teachers who we admire have a rich meditation practice. We would like to follow them. But through no fault of our own we have a bad case of monkey mind, and nothing we can do seems to still this chatter in our heads. In fact, the more we try to silence our monkey mind, the louder it seems to become.
At Unity Village, outside of Kansas City, there is the Silent Unity prayer vigil. Somebody is always there praying over the numerous prayer requests that come into Unity World Headquarters. I think that if there is a "Holy of Holies" at Unity Village, then it is this prayer chapel. On the wall of this prayer vigil there is a beautiful fresco that includes a verse from Psalm 46 ("Be still and know that I am God.") But how can we "be still" long enough to experience that "still, small voice"?
As I pointed out above, I think the inability to still the monkey mind has defeated more people when it comes to meditation. But here are some of the things that I have discovered that seem to help us "be still" and overcome that monkey mind:
First, realize and accept that having monkey mind is just part of being human. Even the great spiritual masters had to deal with monkey mind. You are not a unique failure at meditation.
Second, when you start to experience monkey mind, treat it like you are training a puppy. You spread out newspaper on the floor. If the puppy starts to go where it should not, you pick the puppy up and place it on the newspaper. "Go here," you say. It may take you many times of picking up the puppy and placing it on the newspaper, but things do get better. As soon as you realize that your mind is drifting, pick up your metaphysical puppy and follow the training routine. Yes, the enlightened masters had to do this too!
Third, find something that makes it easier to center your mind. For me this has been Kirtan chants and songs led and recorded by Krishna Das and others. (There is now even a Kirtan Rabbi who is great. Go goggle Krishna Das or the Kirtan Rabbi.) These simple and repetitive spiritual songs and chants are very effective in stilling the monkey mind.
Fourth, have faith that it will get better and that a good meditation practice is well worth it.
May the year 2020 be a time when you are able to have moments where you can "Be Still and know that I am God."
Rev. Dr. Rick Belous
Unity Center of Tulsa