Quieting The Monkey Mind
The “monkey mind” is a term rooted in Buddhism referring to the nature of our human mind. It implies that the human mind is chattering and restless and does not settle. Our mind can be said to be uncontrollable and indecisive. The analogy illustrates a picture of many monkeys swinging from tree to tree. Our minds swing from one thought to the next, grabbing on and holding. With this chattering mind, it seems nearly impossible to quiet the mind and releasing ourselves from its clutches.
Our society today has so many stimuli. It is so easy for the monkeys to swing faster and faster, grabbing on to so many thoughts that we can hardly keep up with them. When we find ourselves rushing from one thing to the next, we are never truly present in the moment. Instead, our mind is already thinking about the next thing. We are often planning, thinking, and living with our minds in a different time and place.
It is possible to train these monkeys! It is possible to calm the overactive mind. In fact, it is vital that we do. Depression, anxiety, and stress are at all-time highs on a global scale. If we do not actively and intentionally use tools to quiet the monkey mind, the monkeys will take over. It will be like Planet of the Apes!
There are many ways to quiet the mind. One tool is the breath. Simply pausing to take three consecutive deep and intentional breaths can be enough for some people when they notice their mind beginning to lose presence and race towards the next task. Another tool is sitting longer in meditation quietly and with stillness. Clearing this space often helps us sort through our thoughts. We notice which ones we are seemingly wasting our energy on and which ones we may be avoiding. We often expend so much energy planning for the future when it is certain to change. We cannot plan every detail like our monkey mind tries to. Instead, we can set our intentions, plan for what is possible, and leave the rest in the hands of the universe. We can trust ourselves that when the time comes, we will have the mental clarity needed to make decisions at the moment. Some decisions should not and need not be made before all the information is available. Some decisions, if not all, require presence.
Yoga practice can help tame and quiet the mind. Focusing our awareness on our breath and creating a union of our mind with our body allows for thoughts to more easily slow down. Using the hormones that are created when we physically exert our body, like in a sun salutation sequence is a Sivananda yoga class, helps to quiet the mind. We take our focus into the body, and we use the breath to anchor our mind.
There are also certain things we can avoid. Alcohol, caffeine, sugar, nicotine, and other stimulants speed up the monkeys. These substances stimulate our brains. This can be very helpful when we need to create a focus, but it often creates the opposite effect. Our mind, already overstimulated by today’s society’s influx of information to sift through, begins to operate at super speed. We become overwhelmed, agitated, and sick.
So, quiet the mind and feed the monkeys some yoga and meditation. Experience the positive effects in your productivity levels, your health, and your overall quality of life.