I had a little bit of Monkey Mind today. A little bit turned into a big Monkey Mind. What is Monkey Mind? Monkey Mind is a Buddhist term meaning unsettled or restless, using the analogy of the busyness of a monkey—chattering away and jumping from branch to branch. Sometimes our mind can feel this way too; distracting us, too loud, moving quickly from thought to thought.
Today my thoughts were scattered. My brain refusing to focus on one thing. I was excited about tasks I wanted to accomplish for the morning but found myself unable to start (and stay) on one particular thing. My thoughts pinged from one task to another, from my work to-do list to my home-life to-do list, from “what are we going to eat for dinner?” to “do I hate yellow as a wall color or just really hate this paint in this space?”, from checking and composing emails to double checking super important things on Google like, “What is the last month that Monarch’s migrate to Mexico?”, because didn’t I just see flit by yesterday?!
I was starting to get a little frustrated. What the heck brain. F-O-C-U-S.
Early this morning I received a call from the hair salon I go to–my stylist was sick and I needed to reschedule. At first, I was a little disappointed as my hair needs a nice refresh, but then I had been super excited to have time to catch up on paperwork (I know; I’m weird).
This was a 3-hour gift from the Universe. Especially after last night when I was lamenting over how busy my week felt. But here I was wasting my extra time because my mind was acting like a complete spaz and jumping from branch to branch.
I told myself, in my best big girl voice, “it’s time to buckle down and get some work done”. And yet that only seemed to frustrate my mind and distract me more. My mental restlessness lead to physical restlessness. And I went searching throughout the house for something to distract me even more from my tasks…just kidding…but that is what happened.
And then I had a thought, “what’s up with my Monkey Mind?”. And then quiet. Or at least a moment of quiet. I knew I had a few more steps to take to calm my Money Mind.
If you can believe it; breathwork, meditation and stillness is the “cure” for my Monkey Mind. It is probably the “cure” for your Monkey Mind too. Just like any new skill it just may take some practice.
Here are my steps to calm my Monkey Mind:
I acknowledged the distracting thoughts: Hello, busy thoughts. 😊 It was like some of the hot air was let out of my mental distraction balloon. As soon as I had the awareness of the distraction; some of my wild thoughts were wrangled in.
I brought my attention to what I was experiencing in the present: Mental chaos, frustration, lack of clarity, the general feeling of ants in the pants.
I shifted out of judgement and criticism mode (AKA stop mentally being a jerk to myself for being unable to get things accomplished): My brain is just doing on of the things it does—it is thinking. This time would have been spent chatting and allowing my mind to wander if I were at the salon. Maybe I was not ready to sit down and do work. Maybe I needed to get all that unfocused energy out of my body and mind. I have not lost the entire morning, there is plenty of time to get into productive mode.
I gave my Monkey Mind something to do: Hey, Monkey Mind, try focusing on my breath. Just pay attention to my inhale and exhale.
And the speed skater relay race of thoughts slowed. My mind shifted focus onto my breathing and my body began to relax.
And then I closed my eyes and gave my Monkey Mind another task: Keep focusing on my breath, but also silently repeat my personal primordial mantra. And when a random thought or distraction (like an itch or dog bark) pops up; acknowledge it, and then return to focusing on my breath and mantra. Just sit like this for a few minutes until stillness shoos you away.
After a few minutes of breathing and sitting in the stillness, I felt ready to take on my first big task. Breakfast.
We cannot “will” away our Monkey Mind with negative or threatening thought, but we can try new strategies to help reduce the mental restlessness when it occurs. Try sitting or lay comfortably, focusing your attention on your breath, and meditating for a few minutes. Notice if anything changes regarding number of thoughts, scatteredness of thoughts or tension in the body…if ANY of those have reduced…keep going for a few more minutes.
Does the thought of going it alone make you not want to try? Calm the Monkey Mind by calming the body with acupuncture, massage, Reiki and Guided Meditation. When the body calms, the mind follows. Does the thought of stillness sound too difficult? Calm the Monkey Mind through movement as well; Tai Chi, QiGong, Yoga, Walking Meditations and sometimes even an amped up workout can help too.
Now go and try to tame your Monkey Mind.
Need support or other strategies for calming your Monkey Mind? Reach out and we can set up a time to chat about your Monkey Mind 😊 firstname.lastname@example.org