Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data.

Have you heard of the monkey mind?

I've got it, uh, on the brain lately. Been revisiting a lot of old Buddhist themes in my work, and the little concept of the monkey mind has been swinging around in my consciousness.

Basically, the "monkey mind" is a Buddhist term describing the way our minds rush and run like little monkeys, swinging from thought to thought a la the way the little guys at the zoo swing from branch to branch, never standing still, always bouncing and turning and twisting and swinging momentum from this thought to that, never staying in the present long enough to be still with what is.

I think - no, I know - that most of us "get" this. How many of us lie awake staring at the ceiling grappling with the kind of insomnia that reeks of questions of the future and ruminations on the past and cameo moments from our lives revisiting us at the most inopportune of times (say, when we have to be up at 5 the next morning). For me, as an introvert and someone who's always lived in her head, I work constantly with trying to tame the monkey mind. Sitting on the bus, watching the storefronts on Polk St. whiz by, I so easily lose myself in thoughts of "what if?" and "well, ok" and "oh shit" and "what was that?" And suddenly we find that we're no longer living in the present; we're so busy being caught up in analyzing what happened yesterday with that dude at the hardware store or who will win the South Carolina primary or what the hell is the name of the color of that paint I meant to pick up that we lose any and all awareness of where we are or what we're doing or what's going on right in front of us.

Yoga, of course, and the meditation that is a concomitant part of it, represents a constant effort to still that monkey mind, to slow it down for a few minutes or even an hour if we're lucky, to cease the swinging and the thinking and the rushing and to just let the thoughts blow by like tumbleweeds while we stay rooted in our breath and let our churning minds turn off for awhile. It's a struggle, of course, but that's the point, because suddenly after 90 minutes of sanctuary from wondering whether we'll win the hearing or whether I'll need that umbrella tonight or whether he'll walk into the bar, we're able to walk out the door and maybe apply that presentness to our regular doings, be they work or play or whatever.

I've been learning this lesson a lot over the last six months. Long story short: we've had a helluva legal battle with our landlord over some rent control schtuff that has essentially called into question whether my home of the last 4 1/2 years will remain so; through the course of hearings and petitions and attorneys and appeals and more hearings and more uncertainty, it has been all I can do to keep my monkey mind from swinging wildly from this branch to that, and will we lose and what if I have to move and where will I put my sleigh bed and what about my yoga studio and what about the lawyer's fees and hmm wasn't that opposing lawyer hot and did I catch him looking at me when he thought I didn't notice and yes I do think so and no don't be ridiculous and oh! if we just had something to rest in amidst all this uncertainty.

Chaos. Rushing. No stillness. And the thing I've learned, after a final hearing earlier in the week and what looks to be at least some temporary closure (and the great news that for the time being there'll be no moving to come), is how much energy we waste swinging with those monkey thoughts, and how important it is to step back and tame them and use techniques like yoga and meditation and watching the breath in order to keep our minds from simply running off the rails in the midst of uncertainty. And that that stillness, that taming of the monkey mind, is something we can rest in, in spite of any and all uncertainty.

(So there, hot lawyer. But, uh, you can tame my monkey mind any day you please.)


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