You know how sometimes you visit your doctor with a list of symptoms, she suggests a diagnosis and describes EXACTLY what you’ve been feeling and you say “YES! That’s IT!” That’s kind of how I feel about this paragraph in “Eat, Pray, Love”:
Like most humanoids, I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the ‘monkey mind’ – the thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl. From the distant past to the unknowable future, my mind swings wildly through time, touching on dozens of ideas a minute, unharnessed and undisciplined. This in itself is not necessarily a problem; the problem is the emotional attachment that goes along with the thinking. Happy thoughts make me happy, but – whoop! – how quickly I swing again into obsessive worry, blowing the mood; and then it’s the remembrance of an angry moment and I start to get hot and pissed off all over again; and then my mind decides it might be a good time to start feeling sorry for itself, and loneliness follows promptly. You are, after all, what you think. Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions.
Exactly. Those pesky monkeys have me as their slave.
Along with giving up meat, I’ve been trying to spend more time in meditation and prayer this lenten season, but my monkey mind keeps getting in the way. I’ve been trying a few new things to help keep my focus, like prayer beads and centering prayer, but, alas, the monkeys in my mind tease me as they hop from limb to limb. “Just try and stop us!” they taunt.
Perhaps if I could afford the luxury of three months at an ashram in India, like Elizabeth Gilbert, I’d learn how to quiet those monkeys. But there’s laundry to do, lunch to be made, children to play with, floors to sweep, groceries to shop for… you get the picture. Guess I’ll just have to live with the monkeys for now.