“Manam oru Kurangu...” is a song I often heard while growing up in Chennai in the seventies. The songs says that the mind is a monkey. It was probably written even before I was born. Yet, I wonder how the poet/singer could describe my mind so precisely. My mind is indeed a monkey! Some days, it is like a monkey on many cups of mocha. Thoughts come and go so rapidly. My mind leads me to the past. It can race back several decades in a few seconds, and leaves me exhausted with anger and sorrow. It can also zoom forward into the future and leave my heart pounding with fear and anxiety. My body stays in the present, but the mind that travels through time makes my body feel the ravages of time travel!
In addition to this overactive mind, I have always felt this intense thirst, a longing, a craving, an undefined yearning for something. I never felt complete. School, college, family, work did not fill this void. Clothes, jewelry, movies made me more miserable. I found myself strolling through library aisles, searching for the missing piece that was going to make me complete. The library introduced me to Zen Buddhism. I started reading books written by many great Buddhist monks. My readings gave me more insight into the workings of my mind. “Living in the present,” is a concept I understood through my intellect, but could never adhere to it.
Then by God’s grace, a teacher entered my life. While my children attended Balavihar classes conducted by the Chinmaya Mission, I started attending lectures on the Gita. I would sit at the very back of the lecture hall. Initially I wouldn’t even be sure about making it through the entire one hour of Swamiji’s discourse on “Bhagavad Gita”. However a miracle happened. I begun sitting through the lecture completely absorbed. The first chapter of the Bhagwad Gita talks about Arjuna's grief. I somehow could relate to him and my heart went out to Arjuna. I started attending the lectures regularly in the hope of finding peace for Arjuna. Over a couple of years, Swamiji's brilliant lectures made me see myself as Arjuna, and I started looking forward to Sunday morning sessions with my guide and friend , Lord Krishna. The Gita slowly guided me to other texts like Chandogya Upanishad, Tattva Viveka, and Upadesha Saram. When Swamiji chants the verses in Sanskrit, a feeling of nostalgia settles within me. I always have this feeling that I have heard it before and it fills me with a strange calmness. Bhajans, chanting sholkas, reading the scriptures, thinking and reflecting on them has helped me anchor my mind for a few minutes every day. Now, meditation seems to come more naturally to me. I train myself to remain in the “present” through these brief periods of the day, hoping that this will slowly enable me to stay absorbed in whatever I am doing through the day.
My mind continues to be a “monkey.” But a shift has occurred. I am able to observe and witness the antics of my mind. I must confess that sometimes I find it pretty funny. I have also learnt that the repertoire of thoughts that goes through my mind is limited, quite predictable and repetitive. The feeling of emptiness gets filled with fleeting moments of “mindfulness,” when my mind and body are completely synchronized.
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