Tame your monkey mind
Monkey mind, circus mind and wheels in your head are just a few of the expressions used to describe the fifty thousand separate thoughts we have each day, many of them on the same topic. I’m talking about the worries and fears that we all face in life. But these are irrational fears perhaps that are made to feel real by our own constant attention. “Kapicitta” is a term coined by The Buddha about 2500 years ago to describe this mental state. “Just as a monkey swinging through the trees grabs one branch and lets it go only to seize another, so too, that which is called thought, mind or consciousness arises and disappears continually both day and night.” A fantastic description that’s easy to understand, but what happens when we allow the monkey to take control and run amok with our thoughts? We become unsettled, restless or confused.
The monkey loves stimuli
The monkey feeds on stimuli, and when he does this, it’s difficult to focus on the moment and be present. He’ll make you worry about tomorrow, about your job or about your relationship. He’ll criticize your work and make you feel bad about yourself. Many of the problems we faced when The Buddha was alive continue to trouble us. Despite our numerous technological achievements, we have yet to master just “being” in our world. You see, the monkey mind is the part of our brains that’s most connected to the ego. You remember the ego, right? That’s the little bastard who keeps telling you that you can’t do anything right. Aha, you say, I definitely remember him. But back to the monkey. He prevents you from being creative and makes a hell of a lot of noise, too. So, if you want to get anything done in life, you’ve either got to tell the monkey to shut up, which is easier said than done, or engage the monkey in gentle conversation to calm him down. The latter option is better.
The first thing you can do to calm your monkey mind is to understand that you can. More than likely, you’ve been unable to keep your monkey mind from running wild. Understand that you rule your thoughts, not the other way around. If you remember to be in the here and now, you can become calm and grounded. Practicing mindfulness will help you become present and more aware of how your inner and outer worlds are connected. As I suggested earlier, when your monkey mind is rampaging, take the time to listen to what it’s saying. Calm it with a conversation. Why is it upset? Tell your monkey mind that you’ll allow it a short period of time to run amok every day. Note what you’re thinking, feeling and worried about. Once the time is up, tell your monkey that’s it and that you won’t pay attention to anything else it says until tomorrow!
Control your mind
“Nothing in the world can bother you as much as your mind, I tell you. In fact, others seem to be bothering you, but it is not others, it is your own mind,” according to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a humanitarian and spiritual leader. “…the mind acts like an enemy for those who do not control it,” according to The Bhagavad Gita. Both individuals emphasize the importance of learning to work with the mind and not against it. If you do nothing, you’ll allow negative fears and thoughts to gain control and prevent you from enjoying the present. And you might also get caught up in never-ending what if” scenarios. When you learn to work with your mind instead of against it, you can begin to reap the benefits. You’ll be able to focus better. Your sleep quality will improve. Your stress will decrease. Your mind will become clearer, and you’ll be happier. And finally, you’ll enjoy a sense of calm and wellbeing. Learn to tame your monkey mind. It will transform your life.