The phrase “Monkey Mind” refers to the idea that everyone, for some or most of their lives, has a very active mind that is jumping from subject to subject. This jumping creates undue stress, anxiety, or anger.
You may be driving down the street thinking, “Tina makes me so angry. She never shows up for me. Who does she think she is? Shoot, did I turn off the coffee pot? I think I did. What if it burns down the apartment building? I can’t go back now . . . ugh, I hope work is slow today, I’m so tired. I bet Tina isn’t at work. I’m so hungry. I have to stop and eat. I’ll be late. It doesn’t matter. Wow the car needs a wash and I’m almost out of gas again. Who has time for car washes? I bet Tina is home eating donuts and watching The View. She’s so lazy. Hey! Watch where you’re going idiot!”
Is it any wonder we get stressed? That is a lot for the mind to process on one drive—and each thought has an associated feeling these thoughts are generating. In the above example most of the associated feelings would be of the fearful, angry, anxious brand. Who wouldn’t want to take a pill, a drink, or a toke of something after a full day of these Monkey Mind thoughts? . . . Anything to get that Monkey to shut up.
Meditation is one way to quiet the Monkey Mind. There are many types of mediations: using mantra, affirmations, different hand positions, and guided meditations (check out the app Headspace, www.headspace.com). The simplest meditation is to just pay attention to the breath and watch the Monkey Mind thoughts spin without following them. This helps you stop getting caught up in the Monkey Mind and realize that there is a separate, witnessing part of your consciousness that remains in stillness. As the identification with this witnessing consciousness grows, so does your coinciding peace and focus.
Many people tell me, “I can’t mediate. My mind is too loud.” What they are really saying is that they don’t understand what mediation is. They probably have an idea that meditation is listening to chimes and floating in a peaceful nirvana state on a woodsy mountaintop. While this may be achievable after years of mediation, the more common version is to just sit, breath, and watch the “ Monkey Mind” jump.
A long time meditator gets better at not getting caught up in their Monkey Mind throughout the day when they are driving, working, or dealing with Tina. They learn to come back to the breath, identify with a still point within themselves, and watch the Monkey jump—and let Tina, well, just be Tina.
Check out the video below for a quick overview of the Monkey Mind meditation: