The Monkey Mind-The Buddha coined this phrase
He imagined our thoughts as branches of a tree and we as monkeys constantly swinging from branch to branch. What will happen tomorrow? Will I have enough money to pay the rent? How will I get my work done next week? How could I have made that mistake last week?
The Monkey Mind keeps us from living in the present moment-always reliving the past or worrying about the future. Forgetting that this moment is all we have. Forgetting that nothing truly exists-except this very moment.
Michel de Montaigne said, “My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never really happened.” How many misfortunes does our Monkey Mind create?
Simple Ways to Calm the Monkey Mind: Do each exercise alone or do a few in sequence
Don’t Fight It
The first step is to become aware that the Monkey Mind exists within us but does not define us. The Monkey Mind wants to be acknowledged. The idea is not to try and control or stop the Monkey Mind but to observe it and make peace with it. Some people even find it helpful to name their Monkey-as silly as that may sound to you (by the way, your Monkey Mind is actually the one who is telling you that it’s silly!). When you name your Monkey, you can acknowledge it’s presence as your thoughts begin to spiral out of control or when you are feeling stressed by your thoughts. Let’s say you name your Monkey Charlie-once you become aware of the huge role Charlie plays in worry, fear and doubt you will recognize him when he appears. You can say hello to Charlie and remind him that everything is fine in this moment. The Monkey always worries that there will not be enough. It worries that we are not good enough or that something will go wrong. Consider this: the future is always uncertain. That is the nature of the world. The only thing we know for certain is that everything changes. Nothing lasts. So what are we to do? How will we be happy?
All the spiritual leaders that ever existed say the same thing: Peace and happiness are found within. In stillness. In surrender. Who are you? You are not your thoughts. You are the thinker. You live in the space which exists between each thought. In the space where one thought ends and just before another begins. In that tiny yet eternal space is the real you. That is your true self. But how can you find that space and connect with your true self?
Only in stillness will we discover our true nature. Not an easy thing to do in these strange times when the Monkey Mind is filled with uncertainty and fear. There is a simple way to practice stillness if you are willing to try:
Sit or lay down in a comfortable position. Thank your Monkey mind for alerting you to all the alarming possibilities that may NEVER exist. Tell Charlie that everything will be okay and that he can take a break. Tell him that you will be taking over for a while. Gently close your eyes. Relax the jaw, release the belly. Mindfully bring your awareness to your breath. Feel the breath-how it flows: Like waves washing up on a beach. Count to 5 for each inhale and count to 5 again for each exhale. Breathe through your nose if you can. If you cannot breathe through your nose, place a hand gently on your abdomen while you breathe through your mouth. Let your thoughts flow without becoming attached to them. Continue the breathing exercise for 1-2 minutes several times per day. Work up to 10 minutes or more.
Keeping your eyes closed; bring your awareness into your heart. Think of all those whom you love and everyone who loves you. This can include your pets. Think of your cat purring; your dog panting. Imagine her wagging tail. Think of a dear one’s smiling face. Hear their laughter in your heart. Let love fill your heart, your chest, your body. Let the love flow through every cell of your body. Return your awareness to your breath. Breathe with your whole body. Exhale love from your entire body into the air around you and then inhale love back into your body.
With your eyes closed bring your attention back into your heart. Feel gratitude in your heart by thinking of everything you are appreciative of in your life. From the air you breathe, to a good book to a warm blanket. Be grateful for your body and all the miraculous things it does. Think of everything you are grateful for. Silently give thanks for all your blessings.
Return your attention into your breath. Feel your chest rise and fall with every breath. Feel your abdomen expand and retract. Count to 5 on the inhale and 5 again on the exhale. Slowly bring movement into your body and open your eyes.
You may notice the things around you look brighter or appear in sharper focus. Have a cool drink of water or a green tea. Drink mindfully. Feel the liquid travel through your body. Remain in this mindful state for as long as time allows before you return to your daily activities.
Everything will be ok.
– Written by: Pina Marino