Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. -- Gene Fowler

Monday, August 9, 2010

Finding the Monkey Tamer (Jan 9, 2010)

 The last couple of days have been fraught with distraction. My mind is like a curious child, always dashing here and there to investigate something fascinating, when all I want to do is walk straight down the sidewalk. Yesterday I sat down to do my Morning Pages and wound up working on tangrams and The Crazy Tropical Fish Game. I solved the fish game for the first time. I was amazed.

I tend to let my inner child roam about when I feel I can afford to do so. I'm a bit behind on my daily writing and also on my data entry work, but perhaps this is my mind's way of telling me I'm fussing too much over work and responsibilities and all that serious stuff. I'm willing to let it slide for now. I'll get back on track next week and get everything squared away.

The only trouble with indulging this kind of creative spurt is that it tends to come with a general scattered feeling. I feel as if I can't focus on one thing long enough to do any good with it. I've still not found a good way to combat that effect. Meditation might be a good start. The analogy I made at the beginning of this article brings to mind a description from an instructional tape on meditation I have. It likens your conscious mind to a curious child which is always rushing off to interact with some new and amazing thing while what you're trying to accomplish is to keep it on the sidewalk with you. The child sees a beautiful flower just off the path and before you can even open your mouth, it's off and running to smell that flower. You no sooner get it back on the path than it finds the best climbing tree ever and off it goes, up the tree. It's what I tend to call "Monkey Mind", a phrase originated, I think, by Natalie Goldberg in her book "Writing Down The Bones". Meditation can be a way to tame the monkey.

The best solution to that problem, the tape advises, is to redirect the child -- your mind -- very gently. "That's a very lovely flower, yes, but now we need to get back to the path." And you take the child by the hand and gently lead it back to the sidewalk. Naturally the child immediately sees something else worth dashing off about and the process repeats itself. The idea is not to squash the creative mind, but to bring a sense of order to it, to remind it that running all about with no clear destination is not conducive to getting things done.

Seems like a lot of work to get your mind in order, doesn't it? But, the tape also says, meditating is a journey you undertake without the expectation that you'll really reach a destination. It's the work that's important. Meditating with the belief that you'll reach the point where your mind will be completely calm and peaceful, even for a few precious moments, is like attempting to get to the grocery store on a stationary bicycle at the gym. You don't ride a stationary bike to reach someplace. You do it because the work improves your body. Similarly, you meditate to improve your mind, your concentration, your personality. The journey is the important thing.

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