The Goal of Meditation and mindfulness?
Students of meditation or mindfulness learn that an empty mind is an ideal one. An empty, quiet mind creates the conditions to allow us to experience an expanded consciousness of our real awareness. This provides us with opportunities to exist in the moment and have an increased visibility of what transcendence is all about and what we call the sunlit uplands.
Many people can catch fleeting glimpses and moments of the peace and serenity or the feeling of belonging that the sunlit uplands offer. Perhaps you sense a purplish light or just feel peace but the experience is fleeting and thoughts come and lure us away to another focus.
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy and those who try, rapidly experience the distraction and interruption caused by what we know as the monkey.
Although much advice is about working to quiet the Monkey before we are truly ready to begin our mediation practice many of us seem to struggle on battling an active Monkey whilst attempting a meditative practice or a mindful approach.
Where the Misaligned Monkey comes in
The process outlined in the Misaligned Monkey provides a new pragmatic method to get your Monkey onside. You can see it as part of your preparation for a meaningful Meditation or Mindfulness practice.
You follow the process alongside your existing practice and watch day by day and week by week as your practice improves.
Aligning the Monkey is not about a new meditation or mindfulness practice rather it is a method of investigating and utilising the Monkey as a resource to help you in whatever endeavour you are engaged.
Silencing the Monkey
The nub of the problem is that traditional approaches designed to silence or rise above the Monkey don’t seem to work very well.
In meditation, thoughts seemingly appear to us in an endless random stream and each can feel like it has been effectively designed to catch our interest. Our Monkey seems to know us intimately and seems to know exactly the right topics to raise and the right buttons to press to distract us from our own intentions and get us involved in something else.
Even if the first few thought salvos don’t work, the Monkey persists trying out different versions until we are sucked in and quite literally become ‘lost in thought’.
So lost in fact that we can be unaware that we have been distracted and led astray, far from what we were trying or intending to do.
The endless nature of the interruptions can seem to go on and on.
Jumping from subject to subject or repetitively covering the same topic again and again. You only have to stop and gently watch to notice their nature and their form but, as if by design, the nature of the thoughts means it’s not so easy to stay detached and do this.
The list of thought topics can appear endless:
Opportunities that require immediate attention
- Unfinished or half-done actions
- Reruns of personal failures
- Current future or past problems with people or things
Perhaps it’s more specific:
- A phone call you need to make
- A worry about the significance of an engine warning light you’ve noticed in your car
- The state of your bank account
Whatever their nature it can be hard to simply notice them and not get involved. Aspiring meditators learn to redirect their focus back to their breathing when thoughts appear but this is not as easy as it might seem.
In the moment, we focus on our breathing, relax our minds and attempt to simply notice the thoughts and let them go.
It’s like we are at a bus stop waiting for a friend who is going to give us a lift in their car.
A bus comes by and tempts us with a ride but we stop ourselves and refuse to go on because we are doing something else.
We breathe in and perhaps we start to feel faint sensations of peace and expanded consciousness.
Then another bus appears.
Unless we are carful, we wake up to find ourselves on a bus far from where we agreed to meet our friend.
In our meditation practice a thought appears looking for our attention.
We redirect our focus to our breath once again but this time thoughts arise midway through our exhale. Time to inhale but there’s another thought and we haven’t even begun to inhale yet.
The cycle repeats: Inhale, exhale, thought, thought, inhale, thought, exhale, thought, thought, thought and we eventually succumb to the relentless torrent.
Turning away from the mind’s thoughts requires a disciplined focus that can feel impossible to attain or maintain.
Then the timer beeps, ending your meditation session and any chance of basking in expanded consciousness or the sunlit uplands this time. There’s always next time but if we continue in the same way then the next time the same experience ensues; short glimpses of blissful peace until thoughts intrude again.
When this happens over and over and over, day after day of sitting in meditation seeking that peace, you begin to wonder if meditation is even worth it.
Perhaps you’ve spent years breathing and sitting every morning with no exceptions but your progress is not blowing your mind. Perhaps in many ways you are still having very similar experiences as you were when you first started.
Perhaps you begin to doubt your approach and you think having a more regular practice or more correct practice will change things.
Should we really ignore our thoughts?
At best, meditation tradition teaches us that our thoughts are not required. That our Monkeys should be ignored, risen above and relegated to the ‘not useful’ box.
It is not an exaggeration to say we are encouraged to consider them as an unnecessary evil that prevents our progress on the ladder to meditation success.
In our modern world this can be tricky to accept.
The truth is that meditation seems to be difficult for everyone, even the ancient sages and modern-day monks and gurus who meditate for hours. At zen monasteries and weekend meditation retreats all over the globe, acolytes and staff ring bells or gongs on a regular basis to call meditators who have become lost in the flow of thoughts back to the task in hand; to refocus on the breath and cultivate a quiet mind.
We do well to remember that no one knows what these thoughts are
No-one knows who is responsible for them or where they come from.
It’s not just meditation. Anything you want to do that involves focus or concentration required s you to put your attention where you want it and get something done. Any distraction or interruption can slow your down, so whatever your endeavour meditation or achievement of a better life sorting out a better relationship with these potentially distracting thought flows is of great benefit.
If we want to avoid a long fruitless debate based on opinion and folk lore, we are therefore left only with pragmatic choices about how best to live the life we want given the situation we experience.
We need to determine what works and what doesn’t.
This takes us to the nub of the problem:
Many of us find our Meditation or Mindfulness Practice disrupted by our Monkeys.
Traditional approaches designed to silence or rise above the Monkey’s activity have strong authority but they don’t seem to work very well.
The first issue seems to be that these ‘ignore or silence’ approaches are hard to implement effectively in practice and it is highly likely that our own Monkey experience supports the notion of the Monkey as a distraction or nuisance.
It’s something that that is hard to control and equally hard to ignore or rise above. Nobody underestimates the scale of this task (if we approach it in this way) and the Sutras of Pantanjali indicate it may take some considerable effort and much time to get the mind ready for mediation.
The second issue is simply that many of us ‘Westerners’ have an instinctive feeling that these thoughts may and are sometimes useful!
In fact, many of us realise that our thinking or thoughts have played a part in all the success we have ever had.
If this is you it’s a huge leap of faith to embark on a strategy that involves ignoring them. In practical terms it’s hard to know which thoughts are which.
- Are they really all from the Monkey?
- Are some mine?
- Which should I ignore?
- Which don’t matter?
- How do I tell?
We find meditation difficult for a number of reasons:
1 The demands of the practice itself –
- Time commitments
- Methodology and techniques
- The conceptual idea of ignoring the thought stream as unimportant or low value
- The simple fact that the practice or ‘way’ is not designed for and not compatible with life we live in today’s world.
- The nature of the Monkey driven thought flow
- Designed to catch our interest
What the Misaligned Monkey offers
A new way to think about and work with the Monkey that effectively reduces interruptions and distractions.
Misaligned Monkey promotes the idea of a Monkey that’s simply ‘misaligned’ to our purpose, the idea of a relationship between you and your monkey that has not been set up or managed effectively and the idea that the misunderstandings that have followed have caused the current situation. A situation where the Monkey tries to help as best it can and we find the help anything but helpful.
It suggests this can be rectified, that the partnership or relationship can be reengineered and, that once this is done, the path is clear for more effective and successful meditation and mindfulness.
The underlying assumption is that the Monkey can be an asset when used effectively.
What the Misaligned Monkey says:
“Looking at it from another angle, our thinking apparatus has enabled us humans to be at the top of the food chain. On a purely physical level, humans are pretty weak creatures. We lack the big teeth and claws of many predators and must use other means to kill animals for food. Most prey animals can outrun us or fly away. We lack fur, which protects us from the elements and keeps us warm in colder climates. Our thinking apparatus made it possible for us to create tools, clothing and other technology that enables us not only to survive but thrive as a species. It’s surely worth considering that used in the right way, our Monkeys could bcome our greatest asset”.
The Misaligned Monkey 2022
Misunderstanding the Nature and purpose of your Monkey
- What they are for
- What their job is
- How to work with them for effective results
If your meditation practice is not delivering what you had hoped for, if you feel the Monkey noise in your head is slowing you down from reaching your goals,
if your existing approach and methods are not giving you fast results perhaps its time to do something about it and try a new approach?
We lay out the story and the arguments in the Misaligned Monkey you can find it on Amazon
We also have a 12 – week challenge or course that will help you implement the ideas in just 12 weeks.
us designed to let you do just this.
If what you do is not working and the source of the problem is that voice in your head, that thought stream the interruptions and distractions that disturb you hold you back or just slow you down why not try the ideas on for size?
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The 12-week challenge