Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I Love My Monkey Mind


Monkey-minds are bad for you, so goes conventional wisdom of the artists of meditation and spirituality. The monkey-mind races from thought to thought, image to image, stirring up throbbing emotions and passions that disturb the peace and quiet that bring serenity and peace.

Calming the monkey mind will bring stillness and balm to the harried and hurried persons who hurtle through modern or postmodern life. Presumably we will sleep better, think more carefully, become more creative and be better persons. Religious people proclaim that in this calm we may better discern what God calls us to do and be.

The western interest in Zen Buddhism, the religions of India and the orient have aroused and interest in the calming effects of meditation. The Jewish and Christian religions have called on adherents to pray, be silent and hear the “still small voice” from within or from God.

Meditation centers, Gurus, retreats, spiritual directors and fakirs thrive in today’s secular and religious world to help people calm the monkey-mind and help us be better people.

Since I was a student in the seminary in the early 1950’s I have been exposed to all kinds of meditative practices. I have failed miserably at them all. I either fall asleep or think of sex. I used to feel bad that I could not calm my monkey-mind. My thoughts jump happily from concepts, ideas, schemes, plans, occurrences, notions and ideas. It finally dawned on me that the monkey-mind was really a good thing and I was not going to try to calm it any more.

I decided to watch my monkey mind when I tried to take a nap, go to sleep, think about writing or planning a trip. The mind gives me ideas and thoughts that jump out at me and I choose the ones that are interesting, unusual or creative.

Writing with approval about the monkey-mind is an example. Thinking about my busy mind made me ask myself, “So what is wrong with the monkey-mind?” I thought nothing, so enjoy it.

Putting a theological twist on it, perhaps the Holy Spirit speaks to us through our passionate and ever-changing thoughts. Traditionalists proclaim that the Spirit comes in stillness. Yes, maybe that too.

I have a big problem with my friends and colleagues who spend time calming their monkey minds. I do not see any results from such search for tranquility. I still see a lot of anxious and harried clergy and business people, worried about money, success and advancement. Out of the deep or shallow spirituality that pervades the churches and much of society, I see no passion for justice, peace or concern for the poor. I saw no outcry from the spiritual community when the president openly and cynically allowed more inhuman torture by governmental agencies.

I do hope that many people will get benefit from calming their monkey minds. People who meditate often say they derived great peace from their practice. I am glad this is true for them. But I fear this emphasis on meditation and spirituality keeps people quiet, tranquil and devoid of social consciousness or passion for justice.


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