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The 800-pound Gorilla in Our Mind

Coming to mindfulness brings many realizations, the most obvious being that our minds are pretty busy. Thoughts and memories, random emotions and remnant scraps of old events or hurtful comments – ours and others – echo loudly when we come to sit quietly. Meditation teachers often describe this mental background noise as the “chattering monkey mind”, assuring students such incessant internal racket is the norm.

But there are some messages that ring more loudly – painfully – than others. These are the messages of self-doubt and criticism. Recently a colleague and I were discussing the challenge of meditation practice. He noted his mind will often wander to a time, as a little boy, when he was thrust into a social situation he was unprepared for leaving him feeling he had no place there. That shadow of lonely exclusion has followed him throughout his life.

The truth is we all, everyone of us, have similar issues cutting deeply to our sense of self-worth, acceptance, doubt and inclusion which inevitably swim up from the depths like emotional great whites when we take the time to sit in quiet meditation.

I think of these as the 800-pound gorillas among the chattering monkeys.

It is understandable to flinch from such thoughts and memories. We do it reflexively in our lives; often in blind repetitious cycles that bring great pain and dysfunction to our relationships. In mindfulness practice we have an opportunity to sit with these thoughts and painful messages; to feel where they reside in our bodies and learn to be with the pain and to grow beyond it.

When thus visited it is important to look upon yourself with both patience and compassion. For most of us it is easy to pour compassion out to others while denying ourselves even a drop, yet, as H.H. Dalai Lama has noted, “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.

Consider joining me for “Coming Back to the Moment at Hand: Applying Practical Mindfulness to Your Daily Life” here at RoundRiver on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010. For a full description check out the “Upcoming Events” link on the RoundRiver web page:

Mark L. Taylor

Romance Valley, WI 11/22/10

Mark L. Taylor MA LPC SAC is a Wisconsin licensed counselor who works extensively with adolescents and their families. He also founded the RoundRiver Institute LLC, a learning center near Genoa, WI. Permission is granted for personal use of this material. If you pass it on to other individuals please include a link back to this page. If you wish to use it in a newsletter or publication please contact Mark at:

© Mark L. Taylor and RoundRiver Institute LLC