Who left the monkey in charge?!
Have you ever felt as though a monkey has been left in charge of your brain? Are you feeling scattered in your thoughts? Struggling to focus and concentrate? Suffer emotional turmoil? Perhaps for you, it’s more of a hamster running on the wheel of repetitive thoughts, habits or patterns, that really don’t serve you well.
We all experience it. Right from the moment we rise in the morning, our brain is three steps ahead of the physical body. Before I’ve even finished my breakfast, (or identified what it is), by head is already filled with the thoughts of the day…and there’s a lot in my day!
Rarely are we ever present in our physical body. Rarely is our mind ever still enough to just enjoy where the body is now. The ‘Monkey Mind’ is a buddhist term used to explain the persistent churn of thoughts in the undisciplined mind, and it couldn’t be more accurate. In fact, I often feel I have a troop of monkey’s leaping about causing a great deal of distraction!
But is this monkey, (or hamster) robbing you from finding that peace and inner serenity that we are all searching for?
In ancient Indian scripts, Hanuman was the monkey God. As a child he was mischievous, caused trouble, and abused his powers greatly. But the monkey God, who adored Lord Rama, learnt to master his mind and his powers. Hanuman ended up playing an important role in the great war at Lanka, and in serving his beloved Lord Rama.
Yoga and the Monkey
Vrtti means circular patterns, or habits.
Nirodhah is to block, or stop.But this interpretation is far too simple, and only scratches the surface of what yoga is. If you were to continue to work your way through the Sutra’s, and allow your yoga practice to develop and evolve, you will begin to see the depth of this Sutra and the full meaning of yoga.
Yoga begins to calm the patterns of consciousness, or the fluctuations of the mind. But what does it mean to block or stop your thoughts, visions, desires and even personality? Is this even possible? If this was the case, Patanjali would be introducing suppression.
We can’t completely stop our thoughts. In fact, most of us wouldn’t want to. Having thoughts is what gets us from A to B. It helps us to change things about our current situation. The expression ‘nirodhah’ should be interpreted as blocking the patterns of awareness, and not the awareness itself. For example, when you go to bed at night and enter an unconscious state as you sleep, what happens to your awareness of your body and brain ? Does it disappear, or has the state of awareness simply been altered? We still know our body is there, only we have entered a different state of consciousness.
As you move through your yoga practice and meditation, you will begin to experience the depth of this for yourself. Yoga provides an opportunity to to not only shut (or block) yourself off from the external experiences you face everyday, it helps to calm that monkey-mind and establish an inner stillness and silence.
By caging up those monkey’s, or getting that hamster off the wheel, even if just for a moment, provides an opportunity to remove ourselves from our current thought processes. From this new found space, or consciousness, we learn to observe the circular and repetitive patterns of the thoughts that don’t serve us well.
Patterns of self doubt, sabotage, anger, frustration, hurt, obsession, lingering pain, ego and pride…..I’m sure you can list some. In yoga we learn to let these false perceptions of the mind go, and instead we learn to replace them with Satya (truthfulness), Ahimsa (non-violence), Asteya (honesty), Aparigraha (non-possessiveness), Brahmacharya (abstinence), Santosha (contentment), Saucha (cleanliness), Tapah (austerity), Swadhyaya (self-study), and Ishwara pranidhana (surrender).
We learn to harmonise our social interactions and our inner feelings.
Yoga helps calm the fluctuations of the mind–taming that monkey.