Friday, January 8, 2010

A Peaceful State

Though I am decidedly Christian (I have this thing for Jesus that I just don’t think is going to go away), much of the spiritual or devotional type reading that I do is Buddhist. I am currently using Ocean of Dharma, 365 Teachings on Living Life with Courage and Compassion, The Everyday Wisdom of Chogyam Trungpa. It’s one of those little books with just one paragraph on each page, something that even I can read, digest (and maybe even put into action!) on a daily basis.

In one teaching on meditation, Trungpa uses the common metaphor of the “crazy monkey mind”. The mind that is continually jumping from one thought to the next to the next when we sit down to meditate or to pray contemplatively. If you were to spend some time with me, you would probably consider me a fairly mellow person, but I can tell you that I have a bad case of the monkey mind. Trungpa talks about meditation training and practice being the “development of peace”. Ah…which one of us doesn’t long for that? But then he goes on to say that he doesn’t mean a “peaceful state”. Rather he is talking about the development of simplicity. Simplicity of life, simplicity of mind.

Simplicity is another one of my favorite words. It’s why I keep thinking that I need to subscribe to that magazine Real Simple, even though there is nothing simple about it. Simplicity is not necessarily stark or ascetic. I feel a great abundance and spaciousness when I enter the word and ideal of simplicity. Simplicity is about knowing what is essential and what is not.

Trungpa writes, “Discipline is the process of simplifying one’s general life and eliminating unnecessary complications. In order to develop a genuine mental discipline, it is first necessary for us to see how we continually burden ourselves with extraneous activities and preoccupations.”

I feel that burden. Frequently. I feel it about having too much stuff. Being disorganized. Having too many things on my calendar. Too many things in my refrigerator. And then there are all of the preoccupations of my inner life and my mind. They are probably especially burdensome, for they are with me all of the time.

I hardly ever stop to think that I’ve placed these burdens upon myself. I brought home most of that stuff that is in the pantry and I am certainly feeding and entertaining all of those thoughts that are rattling around in my head.

Yesterday afternoon I was coming from a wonderful worship time of movement, music and silence. The parking lot that I was pulling out of had two exits, a north and a south exit. I chose to go to the north. The traffic was very heavy on that side, it was snowing and the streets were slick so there had to be a really big gap for me to take the chance of pulling out. I waited and waited and waited. Finally, I got my chance just in time to pull up to the left turn signal as it turned red. So, I waited some more. After I finally was able to turn left, I was two or three blocks down the road when the old brain started in. “Why in the world did you decide to go out the north exit? You had to have known better than that. That’s one of the busiest intersections in town. Gee whiz, if you had come out the other direction than you could have pulled into that little turn lane and then merged really easily with the traffic and breezed right through that traffic light.” I could go on and on because I was going on and on in my head. But something disrupted it and it was the thought, “This is SOOOOO extraneous.” And that was it. All that monkey mind was done. It just needed a tiny little flash of awareness.

Meditation, mindfulness and awareness are all key ingredients to bringing simplicity into my life. I will write more about this soon.


Roy said...

Ahh, yes. Simplicity.
Silence and just watching.
Monkey chatters,
I smile.
I open up to it,
welcoming it
without engaging it.
Exhaling, I say 'ahhhhhhh'...
Creating space around me,
and within me.
Sleep, little darling.
12:01 am.
I hum a lullaby.
Rest, o my soul.

lucy said...

i remember the first time i named my "monkey mind." it was a grand day. as i read your post i wondered if it had gone away and then i realized that lots of the extraneous stuff has been simplified and slipped away. most of the other stuff, i have managed to simply make peace with. wow. that is a profound thing for me to "say" and share. i'll say it again. i have made peace with my monkey mind. hurray!!

(btw-- it was not a quick task. simple, but not fast.) xoxo

The Pollinatrix said...

Simplicity is indeed a beautiful word; thanks for bringing my attention back to it. When I was a member of a very large, wealthy church, I thought about it a lot. Now that I'm surrounded by more of it, I don't think about it so much. It's become more about order. Hmmm. You've given me something interesting to contemplate.

I also love the term "monkey mind" and use it often. I'm always surprised when people aren't familiar with it.

Dan Gurney said...

I was raised a Christian. At 17 I became aware of Buddhism, and on the hunch that Buddhism might help me become better acquainted with Jesus, I began Buddhist practice to deepen my understanding of Jesus.

41 years later, I feel endless gratitude to both traditions, but I've found Buddhism far more practical in helping me embody the ideals of Christianity.

Kudos to you for openness in your journey. And good luck.

Rebecca Johnson said...

Roy, No worries about being up at 12:00 AM. I scheduled this post the day before. : ) I am actually sleeping a little bit better. Pulled out all the stops with the calm tea and the aromatherapy and the sleepy meditations and nixing the caffeine. Things are a little bit better. : ) Thanks for reminding me about "creating space" around the chatter and the "stuff". Spaciousness is important in my next post. Stay tuned! : )

Suz said...

You write so beautifully, Rebecca. I just read that in reading blogs, we seek sameness, and I certainly found it here. It took severe illness and hours of time alone before I finally began to be able to see that "monkey mind" dissipate.

Thanks for writing of a phenomena we all experience and rarely discuss!


Rebecca Johnson said...

Lucy, I am glad that your life is feeling more simple. Mine is too as my awareness grows, but it's not there yet! : ) I am envisioning you sitting in a calm lotus position, your eyes closed, a gentle Mona Lisa smile on your lips, and a crazy monkey jumping all over the place doing everything to get your attention, but you saying "No Thanks!" Peace with your monkey mind....


Rebecca Johnson said...

Polli, For me, it is hard to find order without getting rid of the "stuff". Though I have to try to make some peace because I have KIDS and stuff and disorder is just part of the equation. Know what I mean? : ) I personally don't like the term monkey mind. Interesting huh? I always wanted a more elegant image. : )


Rebecca Johnson said...

Dan, Your word is exactly accurate, PRACTICAL. Buddhism found me much later in the journey, but just at the right time, I think. : )

I went over and visited your site. Just beautiful! I especially love the little white dots falling on the screen. I frequently post pictures of snow on my blog because I live in Alaska. I love that the dots make it look like it is snowing in the picture. To me, there is nothing more peaceful than falling snow.

Thanks for stopping by. You will definitely be seeing me over at Mindful Heart.


Rebecca Johnson said...

Suz, Yes, just like in groups, in the blogoshpere we find those people with whom we resonate. Isn't it fabulous?! I'm always so happy to see you here and grateful for your kind encouragement. I never think of my words as beautiful and am always thinking that I need to learn to write more descriptively and better.

As I said to Lucy above, I am so glad that you are finding peace in your life and most importantly in your heart and mind.


The Pollinatrix said...

I feel like I'm constantly getting rid of stuff. And then getting new stuff. I gave up on trying to reduce it and now just try to keep it flowing.

RE: kids - I am currently blessed with A TWO-YEAR-OLD. One of the most destructive creatures on earth. When it gets chaotic, I just have to laugh. I walked into the living room this morning to find her big wooden beads strewn around the room among small bits of paper towel she had somehow gotten hold of.

Wanting a more elegant term than monkey mind is very funny. I'm still laughing at that one. The example for monkey mind that I always think of these days is in Eat, Pray, Love, where she's trying to meditate but instead she's thinking about how she'd like to decorate her meditation room. Monkey mind is funny to me. Except when I'm fighting it, of course.

I'm so glad you and Dan are connecting. You're two of my favorite bloggers, and seem to have a similar energy and spirit.

Anonymous said...

Well I have never heard that term but as soon as i read it i thought....ahhh yes, I have a whole lot of that!
i like the term and i like having something to call it now.
love you~