We all have a “monkey mind” that is constantly active bringing us a flood of ideas, thoughts, memories, judgements and perceptions. How do we manage this mental flood?
How we deal with this mental flood depends on how we were taught to handle life. What awareness was I taught, if any? I was taught that worrying was one way of “doing” or responding to the unknowns of life. This way of responding became natural, like a habit. I had no idea that it was unproductive until I started reaching points of exhaustion from over thinking, over worrying, over doing. I put in a lot of effort instead of cultivating the nature of wu wei or effortless effort.
It wasn’t until I started learning tai chi and qigong that I even started to become aware of how active my mind really is and how much tension I hold in my body. Doing the slow flowing movements of tai chi and qigong, along with deep breathing, is one way to calm my monkey mind and release tension in my body. The continuous flow from one movement to another feels like the calming flow of nature’s rhythmic patterns. I‘ve seen nature’s rhythmic patterns in the gentle ebb and flow of waves, in floating clouds above, in autumn’s fallen leaves as the wind carries them along, etc. I started to feel this flow from my tai chi movements. Over the years of practicing tai chi and qigong I started to relax a bit.
Also over the years I met spiritual teachers who spoke about quieting the mind. They made me realize that quieting the mind is not about having no mental floods, but rather observing the mental floods without doing, controlling or eliminating them. Let them flow. Let things come and go. One teacher’s wisdom was to look upon life as a relaxation. My most recent teacher went further teaching to find the empty space between thoughts. Relax and float. We can experience this letting go whether we are “sitting on a cushion” or walking in the world. I experience it when doing my tai chi and qigong. I wish to experience it more while sitting on a cushion and walking in the world.
I am filled with wonder, gratitude and awe for the journeys we travel and for the teachers we meet along the way.