Book Review Taming the Drunken Monkey by William L Mikulas PhD
The Path to Mindfulness, Meditation, and Increased Concentration
Book Review by Dawn Thomas
I love to read meditation books at the end of the year in preparation for the New Year. I have always had a monkey mind, so the title of the book really grabbed my attention. The author describes this book as a user manual for the mind. The book begins with a brief introduction of the skills needed to start meditating. These are the topics covered in this section: Concentration, Awareness, Flexibility, and Breath work. I appreciate the alternative methods of breathing he provides for people with breathing and back problems.
The Level I Novice section discusses the different types of form. I am glad for the reminder of the tongue to the roof of my mouth since I usually forget that. He also reminds of the importance of breathing. The exercises are very easy to follow, and advice is given for when to advance to the next level. The section and test based on lateral thinking by Edward de Bono was very thought provoking. It certainly made me think out of the box and I will begin to use his PMI (plus, minus, and interesting) tools.
The Level II Student goes into more detail of the wild or drunken monkey mind. Before I started meditating last year, my monkey mind was wild. The author explains how best to keep the monkey mind in check using and building on the tools explained in the previous sections. He also recommends stretching and tracking breathing rate. The mental play puzzle continues through this section. I must say the questions really make a person think.
Level III Warrior builds on the previous steps and helps put them into practice. The reader is advised to incorporate new techniques as their experience grows. The author also discusses ways to address pain through awareness. A small sentence in the attitude section spoke volumes to me, "Act with intention." This is a reminder we call should be doing. Recently, I attended a local meditation session and learned different breathing techniques. I was pleased to see them included in this book.
At the Level IV Adept, there are still things to learn. Exercises are provided to help the reader become more aware and increase concentration. There are also questions and exercises that will help to become more self-aware. The group practice incorporates lovingkindness meditation but can be adjusted for individual practice. This section ends with the process of awakening to one's moral and practical guidelines followed by practical guidelines and mental play questions.
In the Level V Master, the monkey mind has been tamed. However, the author warns of not falling into traps. There are descriptions of Jhanas which are levels of absorption along with the sequence to complete them. The author discusses the transpersonal level and how best to help others reach their goals. This section also ends with mental play exercises.