Fortunately, my friend Mike Fitzgerald of Huntington explained it much better, advising that I focus on breathing while meditating, and if my monkey mind tries to distract, I should "Envision those thoughts rolling past like they're floating on water. Don't grasp for any of them. Don't even try or you'll only make it worse. Just watch, like a movie, what streams past. See what your mind is offering. There's a reason for you to see this."
Mike suggested counting breaths, chanting or humming, saying the humming vibrates the brain and lulls it into a relaxed state.
And relaxed is what I need, since having a mind that seldom slows is exhausting.
I used to joke that meditation was a way to rationalize sitting around doing nothing, then I actually tried to sit around and do (and think) nothing, and I quickly learned how hard it can be. I don't do "still" very well. I can't even relax while watching television -- I'm compelled to fold clothes or iron at the same time so I feel productive.
"Taming the monkey mind requires practice," said Mike. "You can get to the point that when the chattering arises, you can just notice it and then allow it to go away."
It was while trying to practice that I realized I may have been meditating for years without realizing that's what I was doing. All those times I took long drives because I needed to be on the road. Was that because I subconsciously knew I'd allow my thoughts to roam wherever they pleased, with no set goal or agenda? When I'd lose track of the hours while mindlessly removing every speck of paint from a piece of old furniture. Did that explain why I craved those types of projects?
I used to drag home thickly painted old pieces that take ages to strip because it felt like those things needed me to save them. But maybe those things were saving me. Grounding me. Allowing me to go into that zone that others go to while jogging or fishing or sitting in front of a machine that trades spinning cherries for dollars.
By not focusing for a while, the logjams from this forever-scrambling modern life can pass by long enough for the water to calm.
And for the monkey to start minding again.
Reach Karin Fuller at karinful...@gmail.com.