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The Race

Today, as I walked back to my humble abode, I noticed a squirrel on the sidewalk ahead of me. Squirrels are plentiful around the neighbourhood and I enjoy playing games with them. I know a simple man is taken by simple pleasures. Usually, the squirrel hides or tries to hide. I softly say, “I see you” and it scampers further up the tree.

This time I saw something different. A cyclist came along. The squirrel waited purposely for the cyclist to draw even and then it scurried up the walk in a straight line. The cyclist cast a sideward glance much like Usain Bolt might in a 100 metre race. Suddenly, it veered off in the middle of the race presumably drawn to some other target.

I am reminded of the Buddhist concept of ‘monkey mind’ where we cannot hold a thought and flit from one task to the next. Perhaps, in Spokane or Edmonton, I call the same concept ‘squirrel mind’. When I hold my thoughts in this moment, attend to them one at a time, the reward is real. When I flit from place to place, I might finish the task at hand but it seems a more hollow victory.

Locked into imaginary blocks,

Poised at the start line,

He waited.

The race was engaged,

The cyclist broke the imaginary sensor

They were off.

The rider glanced over,

Suddenly, her opponent veered off course

Defaulted the task at hand.

After all, what is more important to a squirrel>

The promise of food?

Or fleeting fame?

To the winner, no time to celebrate

It is a hollow victory

Won by default.


About ivonprefontaine

I completed a PhD at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. Previously, I taught for 20 years and taught for 15 years in a wonderful hybrid school. My dissertation topic and research were how certain teachers experience becoming who teachers. In teaching and leanring, I am a boundary-crosser who understands moving ahead is a leap of faith. Teaching is a calling and vocation to express who I am as a person. Currently, I am waiting and listening to what calls me next. I am an educator, phenomenologist, scholar, boundary-crosser, published poet, author, parent, grandparent, and spouse.

11 responses »

  1. I hadn’t heard of this “monkey mind” concept…and yet I related instantly upon reading your sharing of it. Thank you…for that and for the wonderful poem!! Blessings ~

    • Today, I ran across an article that compares it to the brain being micro-waved. We are acculturated to the convenience of the technology we use and lack the patience our answers had. Thank you and you are welcome Christina.

  2. Swami Vivekananda talked about this monkey mind too. He said that the mind apparently was like a monkey which was additionally bitten by a scorpion! So the flitting around and the dance would be amazing.

    • I suspected it was a concept that was beyond the Buddhist tradition. It is not quite as analogous in North America with no monkeys. I can well imagine the dance after a scorpion bite. Even being stung by a bee or wasp elicits a bit of a dance.

  3. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    They speak of stilling the monkey mind in yoga. It instantly stills me, when I’m reminded. Interesting post, Ivon.

    You’re certainly not “retiring” then! 🙂

    • No, I am not retiring. I am beginning the last leg of the doctoral journey and needed to focus on it. My topic will be on curriculum and technology in schools. I am enjoying the reading I have done the last few days about those two topics.

      I know what you mean about Yoga. I feel much quieter on my mat as well.

  4. I love it as I ride a bicycle too

  5. Since life exists only in the present, giving full attention to the now contributes to a fuller experience of living.


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