Posted by: michelle @ books my kids read | October 7, 2009

Memories of India or The Monkey in My Mind

This is part 2 of my Eat Pray Love journey. Today I finished re-reading the second section of the book, while on the bike at the gym, and I wanted to share some of my favorite portions. In general, I really love the India section. Liz Gilbert travels to India to live in an Ashram for 6 weeks and practice with her guru. She winds up spending 4 months there.

I have a very difficult time with meditation because I don’t have a quiet mind. Yoga in this book is not the practice of flexibility that many Westerners envision when they hear yoga, but rather the task of finding union “between mind and body, between the individual and her God, between our thoughts and the source of our thoughts…” Some people are able to sit still in a quiet room and just be alone in their thoughts. I am NOT one of those people. I fidget, I pick up a book, I knit, I play sudoko, I talk. I don’t do silence. So the journey that Liz Gilbert takes in India is one that I find utterly amazing.

Yoga is the effort to experience one’s divinity personally and then to hold on to that experience forever. Yoga is about self-mastery and the dedicated effort to haul your attention away from your endless brooding over the past and your nonstop worrying about the future so that you can seek instead, a place of eternal presence from which you may regard yourself and your surroundings with poise. (italics added)

As I said, I’m not so good at sitting peacefully. Part of that is because I don’t know how to turn my thoughts off, to stop brooding about what I might have said wrong, did wrong or what the future might hold.Which leads me to this…

Like most humanoids, I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the “monkey mind” – the thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl. From the distant past to the unknowable future, my mind swings wildly through time, touching on dozens of ideas a minute, unharnessed and undisciplined….[the] problem with all this swinging through the vines of thoughts is that you are never where you are.You are always digging in the past or poking at the future, but rarely do you rest in this moment.

That is EXACTLY my problem! The problem with having a monkey mind is that it is hard to communicate with other people when you are so caught in your own head. I have a tendency to interrupt people when they are talking. I hate that I do it. I keep trying to stop myself. I don’t know why I can’t. Wait, yes I do…it’s because I’m caught in my own head. It isn’t so much that I think I’m more important, I’m just yearning for attention and afraid I’m going to forget whatever insightful thing popped into my head. I’m working on this.

So then she goes on to explain how you need to accept yourself as you are (hard!). “God dwells within you, as you.” I find myself often looking at other people and having jealous moments. I wish I was thinner, I wish I was a more crafty mom, I wish I was a better wife, I wish I had somehow followed the music dream a little further (I miss the htryx days), I wish I was less judgemental, I wish…. We all have moments like this. Okay, maybe not all, but a lot of us.

But at some point you have to make peace with what you were given and if God wanted me to be a shy girl with thick, dark hair, He would have made me that way, but He didn’t. Useful, then, might be to accept how I was made and embody myself fully therein.

I should meditate on this concept.



  1. Great post. I keep meaning to read Eat, Pray, Love but I haven’t yet. I’ll have to now after your post.

    I know just what she means/you mean about the “monkey mind.” I’ve been reading (and re-reading and re-reading) Tolle’s A New Earth, which is all about this idea… and how this impulse is basically the cause of human suffering everywhere. I pull it out whenever I can to remind myself to stay present, but of course it’s very difficult to do. I’m not very good at it. But I start thinking about how everyone does this to some extent, so while I’m being jealous of someone else and worrying about my own shit, everyone else is too and ultimately, eventually, it doesn’t really matter.

    I don’t interrupt people so much, but I don’t listen well. It’s especially hard at work when there are so many people with so many needs to contend with all at once…and the loudest needy voice is the one in my own mind. (sigh) It’s a journey, I suppose. For me it feels like it will be a long one…

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