I began meditating a couple of years ago in an effort to try and calm my busy mind, as it has a habit of rattling out a constant internal dialogue during each and every waking moment of my life. I had an idea that this restless mind of mine could perhaps be one of the reasons why I loved a glass of wine so much, as excessive alcohol has the power to switch things off mentally for a while. I needed to create a sober mind.
Creating a sober mind
Quietening the mind through imbibing alcohol to the point of slipping into an unconscious heap on the settee is not the goal that your average Buddhist monk is aiming for! I came to this realisation around the time I knocked drinking on the head. Meditation, however, offers a mind-calming solution minus the coma, so I went along to my local Buddhist centre for a few sessions. To see whether it would help create a sober mind.
I surprised myself with the ease that I relaxed into such a peaceful state, especially given that I was sitting amongst a room full of people I had never met, all sitting with their eyes closed and feet resting atop small red cushions on the floor. However, I struggled to prevent wild thoughts (or monkey mind) from periodically posing a threat to the inner peace I was experiencing fleetingly (but which felt just wonderful when it happened).
Would I ever shut my monkey mind up?
After a few weeks of attending the meditation class I spoke to someone who I gathered was a long time meditator, and asked her if I would ever be able to shut my monkey mind up. What she told me was very interesting, and should be borne in mind if you have experienced the same difficulties in maintaining a true silencing of the mind. The goal of meditation, she said, was to develop a greater awareness of the mind and how it operates, and whilst sometimes it is possible to quiet the raging flow of ideas and thoughts that insist on popping up out of nowhere when you are trying to visualise a blue sky and nothing else, quite often those who are meditating (even people with vast experience of the practice) do not succeed in completely closing down their thought process.
Don’t view a busy mind as failure
Rather than view this as a failure, the woman informed me that if I was meditating (monkey mind being awake or not) then I was meditating – with or without the restful, thought-free headspace. Becoming more in tune with your mind allows you to view it as a separate entity that will constantly produce random thoughts – some right and others wrong, some representative of you and others not – beyond your control.
Learn to create space from your thoughts
This perception of the mind as almost a living thing in its own right helped me immeasurably to deal with my alcohol issues. Aided by meditation, I have developed the ability to recognise my monkey mind, bad voice, devil on my shoulder, wine witch, call it what you will, and to distance myself from the thoughts which are counter-intuitive to the person I think I am and who I strive to be in the future. Rather than interacting with this negative voice, I am now able to observe it objectively, giving me the power to deal with it as I see fit.
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