“All [human] miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.” Blaise Pascal
It was Descartes that proclaimed the ontological mystery, “I think. Therefore, I am.” But for me, it’s more like, “I think… and that is when the trouble begins.”
The Monkey Mind
Enter the Monkey Mind—that evasive beast who constantly interrupts me in my efforts to “sit in a quiet room alone.” I have found the monkey mind also to be my greatest foe in my attempts at meditation. I think it’s all about my incapacity to be genuinely “comfortable with myself.”
If you are not familiar with this ubiquitous beast it can simply be defined as mental chatter—the resistance of the mind to any kind of quiet or attempted focus on one thing only, without interruption. Like monkeys swinging from tree to tree, yipping and yapping along the way, the mind will do all it can to keep you from facing your deepest inner self.
The Difficulties of Silence
David K. Flowers writes,
The world would profit more if people would first confront their own anxieties and the things that cause them 1) to have filled every silence with meaningless chatter, 2) to stay constantly busy, and 3) to do anything to avoid being still.
Although I practice some form of silence daily, truth be told, I suck at it!
And yet, I know from reading the mystics and those that richly practice contemplative prayer, the benefits are truly otherworldly. But even the esteemed mystics of history past suffered greatly from what we call today the monkey mind, resulting in a reluctance to come face-to-face with both their demons and their divinity.
In January of 2020, my life was altered by an experience of sequestered silence. I attended a 10-day spiritual retreat, during which 6 of the days consisted of silence—no phone, no computer, no people, and even… no inspirational books to guide my thoughts. Just me in a room left in solitude to sit with myself.
The first three days were agonizing, but when I got into the flow of things I discovered a refreshing sense of deep peace within myself. And later, with the guidance of spiritual directors, I came way with a new sense of inner peace that continues 7 months later.
Having said that, please do not think I have conquered the beast. Monkey mind continues to get the best of me, and therein lies the real challenge. Practice, practice, practice.
Perhaps one day…
Your Inner Monkey Mind
The Greatest Foe to Enriching Peace
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