One of the ongoing requirements for ADF’s Dedicant Path is a 5-month practice of meditation or mental training techniques, involving at least one session a week (though of course, more is preferable). I have been an on-and-off meditator since before my Pagan conversion and have tried everything from guided meditation to zazen with a local Zen Buddhist group to using a secondhand New Age book to pray to my guardian angels. (It’s been an interesting 6-7 years since leaving Christianity.) My regular practice, which never did extend past the ephemeral two-week mark, would occasionally provide me with insights and understanding, but more often left me frustrated, bored, and with a backache.
Perhaps the very first lesson I learned and relearned when pursuing meditation is that the concept of the “monkey mind” is very real, very present, and very persistent. The monkey mind is that aspect of our conscious thought that seeks to know everything. It is a constant chatter of questioning, organization, and judgment. Think of a monkey with a pickle jar. He wants a pickle so he reaches in and grabs it, then tries to pull it out horizontally so it’s too wide to fit through the head of the jar. If the monkey would just let go of the pickle, he wouldn’t be trapped and would be free to go about his day. The mind is like this too – just replace “pickle” with any thought, emotion, or sensation that drives the mind to fixation.