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When My Mind Is Elsewhere, Where Am I?

Welcome to My Green Vermont - A Blog by Eulalia Benejam Cobb.
By Eulalia Benejam Cobb

It\’s been happening a lot lately.  I\’ll have fifteen minutes before I have to leave the house to go somewhere and I think, \”I\’ll just write a couple of sentences to start my next blog post.\”  I\’m a great believer in jotting something down as a pump primer and returning to it later.  But inevitably, even though I firmly intend to stop writing and leave punctually for my appointment, I lose track of time, then come to with a start and have to rush out of the house like a bat out of hell.

The same thing happens every morning when I sit on the floor to meditate.  I set the 30-minute timer, close my eyes, and focus on the breath.  Next thing I know, I\’ve planned what I\’m going to cook for dinner and had exciting imaginary conversations with a couple of people I haven\’t seen in years.  I return to the breath, and suddenly I\’m writing the day\’s blog post.  And so on. 

I am prepared for this:  meditation gurus warn against the tendency of \”monkey mind\” to jump all over the place.  But I don\’t want to jump all over the place.  I want to focus on the breath and achieve serenity.  I want to write for fifteen minutes, hit Save, and leave the house.  Who is this monkey in my head?

It\’s the same monkey that, every night, puts me to sleep.  The difference is that, at night, she has my permission.  I get in bed, close my eyes, take a few deep breaths, and invoke the monkey.  I ask her to take me out of time and reality until morning, and she usually obliges.  My mind grows dim, wanders a bit, and next thing I know, the dogs are whining for their breakfast.  If you\’ve ever had trouble falling asleep, you know that the monkey cannot be summoned at will.  But neither, at least in my experience, can she be kept away.

I don\’t, of course, believe that I am inhabited by a monkey any more than I believe that I am possessed by a devil.  But then who is it that, despite my best intentions, makes me forget the time while I\’m writing, or plan menus while I\’m meditating?  Is the real me the one that sets the intention, or the one that seduces me into wayward avenues of thought?  And just who is in charge here?

Please tell me I\’m not the only one with this problem.

7 Responses

  1. I guess I have monkey mind too. Back when it mattered — when a wandering mind was distracting (for instance when I was reading college texts or grading papers as a teacher) I trained myself to stop the wandering by promising myself I could think about it when I went to bed. Now it doesn't matter all that much. So what if my brain wanders when I work — it is mindless work most of the time anyway. Unfortunately this has lead to a dearth of things to think about at bedtime.

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