The human condition is cyclical, as is everything in nature. Changing seasons, lunar phases, weather patterns – life is waxing and waning like waves. Our attitude and behavior is cyclical too; what gives you great energy today won’t get you fired up a year from now.
Spending quiet time in the mornings is important, and a sitting meditation practice is something I’ve done regularly for about a year now. The benefits are obvious, but the last month or so I’ve not been as “spiritually enthusiastic” to sit on my bench. Sometimes I reach for excuses – don’t we all! I mean, Eckhart Tolle says you don’t need to sit and meditate to awaken. Just being in the present moment throughout your day is enough.
Well, I forget that too. My mind has been racing and filled with chatter. Clattering monkey mind that always has to have some sort of input be it music, my noise machine at bedtime or entertaining audio books. Distractions, distractions, distractions. Most of it audio, it seems.
The other day I listened (there’s that audio distraction!) to a dharma talk podcast on The Art of Listening. Ajarn Brahm starts this story about a village in Thailand that had a celebration that went on for several days and the monks could not get much sleep due to the noise. The monks’ abbot and teacher, Ajarn Chah gives them a lesson about noise – that it is not the noise that is a problem, but us and our reaction to it. This is something I need to consider as I find I need the constant hum of a sound conditioner in my bedroom every night due to thin walls and a neighbor who clatters around in his kitchen next door.
Then there are my audio books. It is my little indulgence and what began as listening to self improvement and spiritual books has lately been about entertainment. I’ve gotten into Game of Thrones and started out watching it, but the story was so good I decided to listen to the original audio books. There is no time for reading those huge books, but while I paint, cook, and clean, I can listen to a good story. Who doesn’t like stories?
It is a violent story though, full of pain bodies, as Eckhart Tolle calls them. Murder, rape, torture, trickery, warring. It takes place in a midieval time in a fantasy world though, so it is expected. But I can’t help but think that the energy created from this story has been planted into my psyche at least a little bit and has made me subtly restless.
Experimenting with routine
To try and get a handle on my monkey mind, I thought I’d try and meditate before my first cup of morning coffee. Now I get up super early so I can have time to meditate, give gratitude and pray before working on the computer a bit – all before 6:50 AM, when I get my son up for school.
My original routine was to wake at 3:55, then snooze on the sofa while the coffee brewed and then get up by 4:30. Drink coffee and read something til 5. Meditate for half an hour, give gratitude and prayer for another five or 10 minutes, then I’ll have an hour to work.
The mind kept chattering incessantly and my hour of waking was absurdly early, so I thought maybe having no coffee before meditation would be better. So I slept til 4:30 and meditated right after getting out of bed. But I kept dozing off! I’d try doing a few yoga stretches, but when I was half asleep, it was ineffective.
Now I allow myself a cup, and I work for an hour BEFORE meditating instead of after and my meditation begins around 6:10 AM. The problem now is that I get all involved in my work – like writing blog posts and doing other work on a different website, that I often go over time and my mind starts loading up on to-do lists or fixated on the endless fascinating news articles, FaceBook posts, etc.
Over the last week and a half, I’ve meditated HALF the time I normally do. My mind and energy are just agitated lately, and I’m going to have to put some extra effort into it.
One area that has gotten more concentrated is my yoga practice. I am grateful that I have a work trade deal at my local studio and I am therefore able to practice 2-3 times per week instead of once a week. Because I have a working commitment with the owner of the studio, I have to be there; she is counting on me to straighten up and clean – a job she would do herself if I were not there.
Because I’d have to notify both the studio owner and my teacher if I’d be absent, it motivates me to go twice a week, even on days I’m not feeling 100%. And because of my commitment, the fruits of effort are beginning to show. My body is getting stronger and more toned and that damn monkey mind quiets down a bit during class while I focus on the instructions of my awesome teacher and put effort into my asanas.
This too shall pass
I don’t get discouraged about my meditations. I have compassion for myself during this unsettling time period, because it is cyclical, like the moon. I am AWARE that I am distracted with my sitting practice and compensate by doing guided, shorter meditations. Do what IS working so that I have some smaller successes.