Friday, January 2, 2009

Taming the Monkey Mind

Happy 2009.

I spent a couple of golden hours on New Year's Day at a meditation class, "A Yogic Approach to Making and Keeping Resolutions for Constructive Change" taught by Dan Salmon and Jan Maslow.

I usually make typical New Year's resolutions and goals based on something I want to change or improve, but in the last couple of years it's occurred to me there's a better way of goal-setting.

First, I've discovered it's always better to work from your strengths, talents, passions, than your weaknesses. (The best managers, teachers, leaders know this.) Focus on the positive and it strengthens and brightens, eclipsing the negative. Spending a lot of time on correcting weaknesses drains energy and wastes time. In Zen-speak, it's not accepting What Is. Besides, what you resist, persists. (Mother Theresa: "I was once asked why I don't participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there.")

Goal setting from a yogic perspective emerges during meditation, from a quiet mind.
I know, I know. Easier said than done--but practicing does help tame the "monkey mind." And I have a very hyper jittery monkey mind. The kind that jumps and pirouettes and hisses and frisks passersby for peanuts with its little leathery hands.

Here are the steps for goal setting, as our teachers explained yesterday:

1. Finding Stillness. Let go of all concerns about goals; be open to the ever-present stillness, calm and joy within.

2. Goals emerging from stillness. Observe--without judging-- what goals/visions emerge from your deepest consciousness.

3. Dealing with obstacles from a place of inner stillness. Without reaction or judgment, see what negative "stories" you are telling yourself (from that incessant narrator in your head, that chattering little monkey) about who you are and what obstacles you think may present themselves on the way to achieving your goals. Replace the negative stories with positive ones.

4. Creative visualization. When you are calm and centered, experience what it feels like to have achieved the goal. What does the success feel like now? Picture it as if it is already a reality. A number of professional athletes often use such visualization techniques to improve their performances. Modern neuroscience supports the power of visualization.

5. Practice. Develop a regular practice of going within, centering, and then, from that place of calmness, use creative visualization to reinforce the progress toward your goals.

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