• Ken Caputo

Giving up on sitting still

Meditation did not go well for me today. I just couldn’t sit still. Not only was my body all fidgety, but my brain was completely out of control. All of these thoughts were skittering and bouncing around in my brain like someone just emptied a giant bag of ping pong balls onto a racket ball court.

I had a serious case of what we call “monkey mind”.

Have you ever had that experience? When you just can’t seem to quiet your mind?

I found myself sitting there, having had over thirty years of practice at this meditation thing, and my brain is going:

“Is it over yet?”

“Quiet. Focus on the breath, and the weight of your body...”

“My butt is going numb.”

“Relax. Feel your belly expand...”

“Remember when we told the kids to not forget to breathe out after they exhale so they don’t puff up like a balloon and float away? That was pretty funny.”

“Focus on the breath..”

“Now my nose itches.”

“Will you stop already!”

“I’m sorry! Maybe we’ll get lucky and just doze off . Then we can pretend we were in a deep meditative state and the universe revealed all of its secrets to us.”

“Whatever. I give up. I want coffee.”

One of the cures I’ve heard for Monkey Mind is to just think all of the thoughts until you run out of them and the quiet place in your mind is then revealed. That doesn’t work well for me. I have LOTS of thoughts.

The rabbit holes are infinite, and before I know it I’m contemplating the percentage of kids that pick their nose and eat it, as opposed to the ones that wipe it on whatever is convenient. And then the sub-groups of each that do this surreptitiously, verses the ones who do it blatantly with no concern for who witnesses their nose picking ritual. What does it all mean? We must go deeper! Deeper where? Up the nose? Ugh. (Side note...in my experience, there is no group of non-nose picking kids. They’re like unicorns. Sounds amazing but they don’t actually exist.)

How do you quiet your mind? I bet we all have a unique way of doing so. For me, the choice to find a place of center feels binary: Either I remember to let go, or I keep wrestling the alligator in my brain until we are both buried in the mud and exhausted.

When I remember to let go of any desire and effort for control, the quiet place finds me. This is a really cool place where my mind, body and spirit hang out peacefully. There are no edges or separation here, and we just lay on our backs, taking in the sky. Those random thoughts just become occasional clouds floating by.

Meditation and relaxation practices are incredibly beneficial. Even if some days are more successful than others, it’s worth doing anyway.

Here’s what struck me after I gave up on meditation and had a cup of coffee instead:

The point of meditation is to connect to the present moment. It’s a change of state that we can experience at any time, no matter what we are doing. We just need to open up to what is already all around us.

When we do that, when we let go of the trying, we can relax into the moment. Life feels a lot more enjoyable when you let it come to you.

Especially if you believe you can both stay present and navigate what’s in front of you skillfully.

Here's an example:

Teaching never went well for me when I had a tight plan. If I went in thinking “I’m going to teach this, and they’re going to do that and it’s going to be epic!” Things wouldn’t work out well. It never even got close to epic-ness. When you’re teaching kids, (especially kids in their 40’s and 50’s), a tight plan is a recipe for disaster. You’ll get frustrated, they’ll get frustrated, and in the end, whatever was accomplished is overshadowed by the feeling of it all being forced somehow.

Instead, I try to come in with a basic idea for that day’s learning adventure, then let the class come to me. Good teachers learn to trust the fact that they’ve practiced teaching long enough to be able to guide and nudge things into being productive (most of the time anyway).

A little learning that feels empowering is a whole lot better than a lot of information rammed down a student’s throat. Rarely does it stay down with that approach, and the odds of it actually being digested are slim at best.

Let things come to you and then navigate mindfully. It’s interesting.

Have you ever noticed that the discontent comes when the reality doesn’t match what was in your head?

The conversation didn’t go the way you wanted it to.

The trip didn’t work out as planned.

The career isn’t as fulfilling as you thought it would be.

Somehow, you just thought it would be different, and now you have an unresolved conflict between what is and what you thought it should be in your head.

What if you were able to simply watch the conversation unfold and focus on nurturing it into something positive and productive?

What if the focus of the trip was fun and connection, and the unexpected become rapids to be navigated with exhilaration, even if we get soaking wet in the process?

What if we look at that career and see the spaces where we can insert ourselves and embrace the challenge of making it fulfilling?

What if we simply let the flower unfold without expectation, then notice the unexpected beauty that is revealed?

My dream for you today is that you find peace in the fact that you can become more and more skillful at navigating what is in front of you. That you can be truly present. That you are going to be ok when you let go and let it come to you. That you learn to trust your ability to respond in a joyful and effective way more and more predictably over time.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s good to wrestle with your alligator sometimes. It is a worthy adversary and it will strengthen you. It’s also ok to let it lie in the mud at the bottom of the river so that you can just float with the currents. You’ll still have plenty of control. You can even swim ashore if you take an angle and let the currents help you instead of battling against them.

“Just keep swimming” right?

That’s it, I’m done for today.

Time for another cup of coffee :)

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