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Fading the Monkey Brain

The Monkey Brain

Yoga Sutra III.24 Meditating on the strengths of an object will embody you with those strengths.

Yoga Sutra 1.43 Meditation can be a process of refining the memory.

Why do some people get stuck in their negative attitude?

I’ve spoken with several clients recently who are feeling stuck in their own negative attitude. When you think about it, most of us have gone through a really dark period in our lives at one time or another. We’ve got the stories, some way too dark or frightening to share. I know friends who endured cruel upbringings or abuse, some who have lost a spouse or a child. Others had a great career going and then they were let go, their ego squashed. They were never able to reestablish themselves in the corporate world again. We’ve cried our eyes out after losing a beloved cat or dog. We’ve confronted financial hardships or ugly messy divorces--Yikes, it goes on and on. Being able to stay “busy” was often a pleasant distraction to our negative thoughts. But COVID provided a new interruption. We couldn’t distract ourselves with outside activity. We were stuck in our monkey brain heads!

What interrupts our ability to develop mental clarity?

The Yoga Sutra 1.30 suggests that illness, doubts, fatigue, over indulgence, to list just a few, can all interrupt our ability to think clearly and be at ease. Interestingly, COVID-19 created a climate whereby most interruptions got in our way. We got sick, or feared getting sick. We may have overeaten or over indulged in alcohol to overcome the boredom and claustrophobia from not being able to get out and find comfort from friends. We may have doubted that we could continue making a living or doubted that we could continue living with that “special” someone that was now making us crazy. For these reasons, we may have felt uncomfortable in our own skin. Perhaps our mood cast a dark shadow. Moving in yoga postures or breathing deep and slowly became more challenging and may have been pushed aside in favor of Netflix. Why did this dark period cast a negative light on our well-being?

During class, you may recall me reminding you to “find your Drishti” by keeping your eyes fixed on one non moving target ahead of you. We can turn to the Yoga Sutra 1.2 which says “Yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively towards an object and sustain that direction without any distractions”. Does that mean no squirrels? Doesn’t it seem we make more mistakes and of course blame ourselves when we feel scattered (or stupid)?

Let’s look at how yoga can bring peace back into our lives. Yoga Sutra 1.43 says “When the direction of the mind towards the ‘object’ is sustained, the ideas and memories of the past recede. The mind becomes crystal clear and one with the object. At this moment there is no feeling of oneself. This is pure perception.”

Steps towards pure perception:

  1. Practice breathing with awareness Sutra 1.34

  2. Notice the role of the senses; be curious Sutra 1.35

  3. Seek counsel from one who has mastered similar problems to ours Sutra 1.37

  4. Inquire into dreams Sutra 1.38

  5. Inquire into anything that may peak your interest Sutra 1.39

May I encourage you to simple start with your breath. With each breath in, imagine strength and purity coming in and building up. With each breath out, visualize a cleaning house of toxic thoughts, and a melting away of taut muscle fibers. Your focus might center on an object that possesses the qualities you admire. As you continue to meditate on this object, you take on the same qualities.

Here’s an example: Her childhood was a whirlwind of ever changing faces and family. She never experienced the security that should come from parents or family. Within her yoga practice, she found solace in meditating on an incredible rock she’d seen a picture of at the Grand Canyon. A rock so vast and yet serene that could withstand any storm could also help bring grounding. She needed a connection that could support and protect her from upheaval. This became her meditation object of choice.

What object, pick anything at all, speaks to you? What object possesses qualities that you admire? Practice breathing in and out slowly as you bring focus to the object.

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