Sleepy Mind, Monkey Mind

Anita Feng shares how to stop going back and forth between drowsiness and “monkey mind.”

Anita Feng
3 September 2019

Question: When I’m meditating, I mostly flip-flop between trying not to fall asleep and getting lost in my thoughts and fantasies. How do I stop going back and forth between drowsiness and monkey mind?

Anita Feng: Whenever you wander into the stupor of sleepiness or the labyrinth fantasies of the monkey mind, just note this occurrence. There is no need to be distracted further by imposing any ideas about the quality of your practice. Just come back, and recognize these “obstacles” as helpful guideposts along the way. You are on the path, which is wonderful! Furthermore, you see what your mind is doing—this is essential! Just imagine how many human beings are lost in a dream, utterly controlled by delusions and perpetuating pain for themselves and others.

Therefore, when you notice thoughts that say, “Drowsiness quicksand over here, watch out!” or “Chasm of demonic fantasies over here!” return with kindness and compassion to the path, which is nothing other than this very moment. On this you can rely, always. To return to present moment reality is an act of tremendous faith, courage, and resilience. Over time, your skill will improve. So what are those skillful means?

First, rest in open, spacious awareness. Then, like a cat poised in front of a mouse hole, be attentive and alert to what is, just now, emerging. Without picking or choosing, without elaborating on likes or dislikes, just see (hear, taste, smell, touch) what appears. Then, moment by moment, you will have this beautiful and perfect opportunity to find your fitting place in our long-suffering world.

Anita Feng

Anita Feng

Anita Feng is the guiding teacher for the Blue Heron Zen Community in Seattle. She’s also the author of Sid and a sculptor of clay buddhas.