Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Monkey Mind or Mind Monkey?

I went to my brain tumor support group this evening  to hear a neuropsychologist talk about zen-like coping mechanisms for the frustration and anger that come with having a dysfunctional head. He had us do breathing exercises, in theory, to improve our concentration skills by focusing  just on the breathing, thereby ridding us of extraneous thoughts like "brain tumors suck."

Anyway, the wife of one of the brain tumor survivors there used the term "monkey mind" to describe herself. I had never heard the term, but I loved it, so I came home and Googled it. Here is how Wikipedia defines it:

Mind monkey or Monkey mind, from Chinese xinyuan and Sino-Japanese shin'en 心猿 [lit. "heart-/mind-monkey"], is a Buddhist term meaning "unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable". In addition to Buddhist writings, including Chan or Zen,Consciousness-onlyPure Land, and Shingon, this "mind-monkey" psychological metaphor was adopted in DaoismNeo-Confucianism, poetry, drama, and literature. "Mind-monkey" occurs in two reversible four-character idioms with yima or iba 意馬 [lit. "thought-/will-horse"], most frequently used in Chinesexinyuanyima 心猿意馬 and Japanese ibashin'en 意馬心猿. The "Monkey King" Sun Wukong in the Journey to the West personifies the mind-monkey.

Let's see "unsettled"--that's me... "restless" --check..."uncontrollable"--I've won the trifecta!

Granted I've had these characteristics since birth ( maybe I've had my tumor since then). I was my mom's little girl who never slept and would only eat toast. And I can still hear her cursing"goddammit Eden" when I jumped  naked into a fountain at the mall, just because I was hot, even though I couldn't swim. 

Everyone was hoping that getting rid of the tumor would tame my monkey mind. Just the opposite happened. All those traits became more pronounced. Danger Will Robinson!

As much as I like the premise of Eastern philosophy, controlled breathing didn't work for me. I take that back,  It would, until I had to concentrate on something else.

So I take my "I don't care" pills.  At first I felt guilty about taking them, but now I realize I want to enjoy what life I have left, and not completely alienate my family.  Also since I'm missing a huge chunk of my brain,  in theory the drugs are supposed to provide the serotonin  my brain evidently doesn't.

I think I'll go meditate now.  On second thought, I'll go to the mall and jump naked into the fountain. Viva chaos!


1 comment:

Yukon said...

Ah...the fountain. Another childhood moment that will life in infamy, aye?! SO FUNNY and your Mom -- I'll never forget that either. Interestingly, they talk about "monkey mind" in meditation/yoga, too. It's quite common really. I have it BAD. I can attest, that with a little practice, you can get better. I have. Though I doubt you'll ever see me under a tree for 10 hours straight, not moving, as I reach a state of "enlightenment." My "Rocky Moment" of zen was like 8 minutes! Better than nothing, I always say!