Your Monkey Mind Doesn't Have to Control You
The Buddhists use the term Monkey Mind to reference how our minds won’t stop moving. Our thoughts are like a monkey swinging from branch to branch, always in motion. The monkey mind is like a constant knocking on the door demanding our attention, reminding us of the past and overwhelming us with thoughts of the future. Often this engagement in the brain gets to the point where finding stillness in our mind becomes impossible. Synonyms for Monkey Mind include: unsettled; restless; indecisive, and confused. Sound familiar?
Day in and day out we are faced with choices, tasks, and decisions that demand our attention and occupy our mind. intuitively we know we want to move forward, we want to check things off our ever-growing list, and we want to feel good about our accomplishments. hovering on past events and worrying about what is to come, sometimes takes us into self-doubt and worry that becomes unmanageable. We fight against the spinning of our mind to settle on what we need to accomplish and we sink into self-judgment for not being good enough or doing things well enough. As we become controlled by our thoughts, we lose the ability to be in the present. This is the Monkey Mind.
Living in this place can be incredibly challenging. It can be difficult to explain to others the racing thoughts, the obsessive dwelling on past and future, the inability to get what you need because you cannot settle enough do it. Cynics may tell you to just stop worrying, or to write a list, or to manifest what you want instead of worrying about it. Unfortunately, these are not strategies that calm the mind; they only defer the problem or in the case of manifestation make us believe we can think something into being. (For more on manifestation read MISTY SHAKTI LUCAS’ THOUGHTS ON MANIFESTATION and why we actually have to do the hard work.)
To help us manage that jumping monkey in our mind there are tools that we can engage. It is not easy; it does take work. We have to will ourselves to learn and relearn habits and patterns of behaviour and self-deprecating thoughts. Some we can do on our own, some require a guide.
4 Ways to Calm the Monkey Mind
Become Present. Your mind is the master of taking you from the present into the past or future. To become present begin by grounding, or reconnecting with yourself and your surroundings. This can be as simple as feeling your feet on the floor, or focusing your attention on an object that is in your space in that moment. Try taking your shoes off and walking barefoot. Allow your body to feel the earth beneath you. Walk in nature if you can. Listen to the sounds around you or to nothing at all. There is nothing like the song of a bird to bring your attention to the moment.
Learn how to breathe. Breath practices are an excellent tool for calming the mind, relaxing the sympathetic nervous system, and slowing you down. Try a simple inhale for a count of 3 and exhale for a count of 3. As your breath and you become more comfortable extend your inhales and exhales.
Make meditation part of your life. So many people think they cannot meditate because they have this image of a yogi sitting still for hours without moving. This is not everyone’s meditation. Even 5 minutes of stopping and reciting a mantra such as “I am safe, I am present” can be meditation. Meditation is not about controlling your mind; it is about providing you the opportunity to be witness to your thoughts and to observe them in a non-judgmental way. Science shows that meditation can change the neural pathways and circuits and that meditation may be a harmless way to encourage the growth of new neurons as well as building new connections between existing neurons.
Create routines in your life. The monkey mind wants us to be scattered in a million directions. By developing healthy routines we can train our brain to complete a task or something that we enjoy before we move on to the next. A morning routine is a good place to start. It can set the tone for the remainder of your day and provide you a sense of grounding that will allow you to let go of what no longer serves you and invite in what you need to be happy and healthy. The company HABIT NEST has some great resources to help you set up routines in your life.
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