Thursday, July 18, 2013

Taming the Wild Mind Monkeys


We subscribe to a running magazine.  That does not make up prolific readers or runners, but at times we do our best to pretend we are both.  I usually prefer to read my running magazine while wearing sweat pants and eating pepperoni, thinking that I’ll definitely start tomorrow and leave it at that, but in one such issue I found something quite remarkable.
Running and life.  They are more alike than I thought.
The article referenced a Buddhist philosophy that inside all of our minds live a bunch of monkeys.  The way to succeed in any run is to tame the monkeys of the mind by meditation.  And as I sat there reading the article, suddenly I realized that I was running low on pepperoni and that if was going to make pizza for my family later in the week I had better get some at the store.   And eggs.  We are almost out of eggs.  And then I wondered where my phone was last put because I have a handy app that I use to write my shopping list so I don’t always leave it in the car like I do every single time I write my list on a piece of paper.  And speaking of papers, I had also better find the permission slip for school.  
Oh, and we’re also out of apple juice.
And one more thing.  My mind monkeys had completely torn me away from the article I was reading, which was sure to make me a better runner because a) I was actually reading a running magazine and b) I was going to tame those mind monkeys like the article mentioned.
The whole Buddhist theory of these monkeys makes a lot of sense to a busy person like myself, so much that I often wonder if there’s some inner supply of bananas growing in my skull to support them all.  The monkeys aren’t real, of course, but if you’ve ever seen a monkey or a video of one, you know that they swing from branch to branch, letting go of one before quickly latching onto another.  This non-committal repetition mimics exactly what my brain does as I go through life as a mother and wife.  (Self note: send in camp registrations ASAP.)  My own thought process moves at such a rapid pace that things fly through my mind without giving them enough time to sink in and settle down.  And according to Buddhist theory, these monkeys in my mind cause chaos and stress and eventually unhappiness, which is something I can totally buy into, right after I make that shopping list.  
The article’s answer to the primate problem is, of course, running.  By using the basic principles of meditation, you and feel better, run better, and live better.  Whether or not you are a running or pretend to be a runner while eating pepperoni, the bullet points the author listed make a lot of sense.
Tune in.  Pay attention to exactly what you’re doing at any given moment.  
Think happy.  Live with the glass half full and give yourself a pep talk whenever possible.  
Accept the challenge.  Running challenges are not much different than life if you dig that metaphorical stuff.  Let the challenge push you to be brave, not to try to escape whatever it is that is tickling your mind monkeys.
Love the run.  Or the life.  Think about what good things you are doing at that moment, for yourself, for the people around you, for all that you do and are.  
So the next time I’m running—whether it be actually moving my feet or just running my kids here there and everywhere, I am going to do my best to keep my monkeys at bay.  A happy mama is a good mama, and when mama’s happy, everyone’s happy.
(But we still need bananas.)

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