How To Calm Your Monkey Mind

“I am burdened with what the Buddhists call the monkey mind. The thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit and howl. My mind swings wildly through time, touching on dozens of ideas a minute, unharnessed and undisciplined.”
~Elizabeth Gilbert

I’ve had a drunken monkey in my brain this week! Sounds crazy doesn’t it?

I recently read that Buddha imagined the human mind was filled with drunken monkeys who jumped around and were constantly chattering. “We all have monkey minds,” Buddha said. All these monkeys want our attention and steal our energy. They are loud and make you worry about everything that could happen. Buddha showed his students that kind, loving and positive thoughts could transform the monkey mind. The monkeys did not go away, but became calm in your mind. Buddha said this could be done through a quiet time each day in meditation. You focus your breathing on a simple mantra/affirmation to calm the monkeys.

We live in a society where worry, anxiety, stress are commonplace. Most stress is mental. You are what you think. Spring is the crazy time of year for teachers and parents. When I woke up Monday morning, I realized I only have 6 more weeks of school left. And in that six weeks, besides teaching, I’m giving three presentations – two presentations at one conference, one at another. With that, I must update a book and make two powerpoints. Yikes!

All these thoughts set off the crazy monkeys in my mind! It started the anxiety I feel when I’m not sure that I can get everything done. The kind that starts in your stomach and feels like butterflies. You know what I’m talking about? The kind that wakes you up in the middle of the night.

Luckily I have a few tricks I pull out of my hat to calm my “Monkey Mind”:

1. You control your reaction. Often stress is caused by your perception of the problem. Can you solve it? Then do! If you cannot solve it, let go of your attachment to it. I realize that while I can’t control the next few weeks, I can control my reaction. I can be stressed out and thinking of nothing but what needs to be done. Or I can use these tricks. The things to do are still there, but I will feel calmer.

2. Practice Mindfulness. Try to live more in the moment. Let go of the past and don’t think too much about the future. Breathe in the smells of Spring, really taste your food as you eat today, look for beauty around you and feel gratitude for everything and everyone around you.

3. Take a break and let your soul rest. We all do too much and as the Zen Papa reminds me, much of it is self imposed. If you’re too busy because you’ve volunteered for too many things, then you need to take a break and let your soul rest! My husband and I took a walk and watched a movie last night. Yes, I could have worked the evening through, but I needed a break!

4. Positive Affirmations. I just finished reading Wishes Fulfilled: Mastering the Art of Manifesting by Wayne Dyer. All through the book he talks about saying the I AM affirmations. You say the affirmation even if it’s the opposite of what you’re thinking. Strangely enough your brain believes whatever you tell it! Try one of these or make up one of your own:

I AM calm
I AM success
I AM prosperity
I AM stress free
I AM debt free
I AM organized
I AM headache free

By the way, make sure it’s not negative or that it isn’t hurtful to others!!

5. Meditate. According to Buddha and many other people meditation is the key! I’m just getting started in meditation myself. When you’re a busy person meditation must be simple like being quiet with yourself. Or if you can spend a little more time, you can try a guided meditation.

• Try sitting quietly, in a special stress free place, in the sun or you can even meditate on a slow walk. Breathe deeply and say one of the positive affirmations above. The opposite of whatever your “Monkey brain” is telling you.

• Do the 100 Breaths Challenge: Take a deep breath through your belly and breath IN at the nostrils and count in your mind, “One”. Let your breathe flow naturally, go with it’s natural rhythm. Continue from number 1 to 100. If your mind wonders (which it will), simply come back to your count and continue.

• Another way to meditate is through guided meditations. I recently participated in a guided meditation and was surprised at how much I loved it. I am trying more with the ReAwakening guide I just received, created by Angela Artemis and Steve Aitchison. For a free download of one of their guided meditations, click here.

All this takes practice. You can’t get rid of the crazy, drunken monkeys in your mind, but you can calm your Monkey Mind by not worrying so much. As you practice all the tricks above, you will feel calmer in general and find it easier to focus. Which, in turn, will help you become even less stressed!

I’ll end with this image I love!

Source: facebook.com via Betsy on Pinterest

Photo credits:
Crazy Monkey image

Calm Monkey image

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This entry was posted in Exploring Buddhism, Meditation, Mindfulness, Positve Thought, Simplifying Life and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

62 Responses to How To Calm Your Monkey Mind

  1. Vidya Sury says:

    Betsy, you did it again. This past week, my mind has been monkeying around too – I’ve been juggling so many things – all with positive feelings – but fatigue does not choose positive or negative 🙂 And for how long can one live on adrenalin? Errgh. When I tried to slow down, things piled up. And as my Sury says, it is all self-imposed – the pressure from within.

    I tried meditating and that helped, except that my mind would keep wandering. Reminded me so much of Vidur as a 6-month old baby, when we’d hold him and he would try his best to wriggle free. Phew!

    I AM cooling down. I AM trying to take it slower. And of course, the weather is helping – it is so very warm and sweaty here. I AM also proud of the fact that I did not sacrifice any of my regular stuff with family.

    I love this post. And the imagery of monkeys in my mind is quite hilarious.

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Vidya,
    It’s amazing that we are all feeling the same way – even when we’re half way across the world. Even when we live several milleneum before (Buddha). Nothing much changes does it?

    And I, too, am trying to slow down. It’s working but the extra work is still there but my reaction is calm.

    So glad you enjoyed!

    [Reply]

  2. Hi Besty,
    You are busy. Those who will hear you at the conferences are blessed! This post is filled with the way to peace and joy! I do the 100 breaths meditation, I’m currently taking a mindful eating class, and Steve and Angela’s new CDs and books are awesome. I love the quote by Elizabeth!

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Thank you, Tess. I get a little nervous but this is my year to be out of my comfort zone! I’m not surprised you do the 100 breaths meditation!! I’ll be interested to hear about your mindful eating class. I try to do that at every meal.
    Glad you loved the quote and the post!
    Thanks!

    [Reply]

  3. sheila says:

    Oooo nice post! Hope you get rid of your monkeys soon, lol. Very cool analogy. and even funnier is that at this very moment I’m wating a NatGeo show about Chimps. hahahaha. Thank you also for the mention, that was so sweet. 🙂
    6 more weeks then you can relax!
    🙂
    Sheila

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Yes, school is almost over! However, I am one of the lucky ones who really enjoys my job. My pleasure to mention your post. I’m still hoping to write more as the I AM statement is changing the way I see things.
    Cheers!!

    [Reply]

  4. Hi Betsy,

    Love your graphic at the end of your post – perfect. Best of luck in the next six weeks. As my husband always says, “Read your own blog and you’ll be fine.” Your post says it all. I’m sure you will come through with flying colors. You have a great list of tricks for the “Monkey Mind.” I want to add this saying as well – Everything is already OK! Take care.

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Isn’t that the best graphic? I’d seen it before and knew one day it would be in a post. And yes,like your husband says, my blog is always giving myself advice.

    And you are so right… everything is already ok!

    Thanks!

    [Reply]

  5. Great minds think alike on this awesome post! My mindful mind and my monkey mind are frequently at odds with each other. Fortunately, by following lines of thinking like your diagram, my mindful mind can quickly show my monkey mind how absurd his line of thinking really is.

    When I start stressing about all that I have to get done and all that I haven’t yet accomplished, my mindful mind is there to remind me that, if I breathe deeply and simply do the one thing in front of me without worrying or thinking about anything else, it will all get done and I’ll have a lot more energy left over. And it works.

    I also like to slow down the monkey by practicing yoga followed by meditation. I always know how much my mind is racing when I practice yoga. If I’m not present, I fall over a lot. Being mindful of my body and mind during yoga tells me so much more than simply thinking could.

    Thanks for a great post with some great ideas for calming that crazy ape! And good luck with your presentations!

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    I often find we are the same page, Paige! 🙂 I love how you refer to the opposite of your monkey mind to your mindfulness mind. Perfect! I am actually much better at doing yoga than I am meditating. Meditation is something I’m trying make part of my every day routine, even though my monkey mind is telling me that I don’t have time for that nonsense.

    Thanks for your wonderful comment!

    [Reply]

  6. laura says:

    just started following you. this is great! i have 2 small kids and have found myself alot calmer and more mindful since i have been able to get back to being consistent in attending zen practice weekly. it makes a huge difference and i am more automatically our brains need a break in this busy world!

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Hi Laura,
    Welcome to our positive community! So glad you are back in your zen practice. It’s such an important thing when you have kids.
    Looking forward to hearing from you again!!

    [Reply]

  7. Hi Betsy!
    Definitely a reason I have been labeled a “monkey” all my life!! But now I am trying to embrace my inner monkey and have her come out when appropriate (like for humor) but calm her when anxiety riddles me. This time of year, with school and volunteering for an annual kids running club/race is completely crazy for me. I sympathize with you, but also so appreciate your reminder that much of it I can control.

    Enjoy every crazy minute of your next 6 weeks! You bring such value to the world through your teaching, both in and out of the classroom!
    In Harmony,
    Jen ♫

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Hi Jen,
    I love that you are “embracing” your inner monkey! That’s exactly what Buddhism says!! It’s amazing how crazy the spring is, isn’t it? Oh well, it never changes. I am enjoying making handouts and powerpoints now that I’ve calmed my “inner monkey”. I’ll let you know how it goes!!

    [Reply]

  8. Danelle Hill says:

    This was a wonderful post and timely for me. Thank you so much.

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Danelle,
    I’m so glad you liked the post!! And so glad you commented! Thanks so much!!

    [Reply]

  9. I had never heard of Monkey brain before, but I certainly can relate to the feeling and will happily use your label from now on.

    I love the positive affirmations. You make this sound so simple and.. do-able.

    Thank you for sharing and best wishes on all you’ve got going on in your life, it sounds very rewarding!

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Hi Linda,
    So glad you enjoyed and love the positive affirmations. I hope they help you. It’s certainly has worked for me!!
    Thanks so much for commenting!

    [Reply]

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  11. Fran Sorin says:

    Betsy,
    I can literally see that monkey running around my mind sometimes. Your post is filled with humor, great advice, and wisdom. You offer such great ways for us to work on getting our monkeys under control. Meditating, walking meditation and mantras are my M.Os. I used do chanting. I plan on returning to it.

    Three presentations and finishing the school year? YIKES. How lucky your students are to have you for their teacher.
    Thanks for another great post. Fran

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Fran,
    Yes, and I’m one presentation down!! (Hence the latest of my answer!) But amazingly my own post has really helped me stay calm. I’d be very interested to hear about your chanting.Thank you for your wonderful comment!

    [Reply]

  12. Bobbi Emel says:

    Betsy, this is a post chock-full of practical wisdom. Thank you so much for the reminder to keep it simple on the inside. And I love, love, love the closing graphic!

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Thanks Bobby! It’s so hard to be simple though, isn’t it? That is one of favorite graphics, too. Just been waiting for the perfect post! Your blog looks interesting… I’ll head over to read.

    [Reply]

  13. Galen Pearl says:

    Drunken monkeys! I have used the image before of kittens on catnip! Either way, you offer some great techniques for quieting things down in there!

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    I love the image of kittens on catnip, too! These techniques have helped me all week and are even helping me right now as I head towards the next two presentations this Saturday!! Thanks for you comment.

    [Reply]

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  15. Elly says:

    As ususal you hit the nail on the head. Good bye monkeys. Hello Calm! It is simple and do-able. Love ya, Betsy!!!

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Thanks so much Elly! Simple is sometimes hard but I’m staying calm even though I can feel the monkeys ever near. Love you, too!!

    [Reply]

  16. Christie says:

    Do I ever suffer from the monkey mind? And it was bad, bad today. Mindfulness helps me. It also helps me to stop thinking about whatever is rambling around in my mind and just DO something. Take out the garbage, put in a load of laundry, return an email, whatever. Thank you for the practical advice regarding meditation. I struggle with this.

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    So sorry you had a bad monkey mind day. I struggle with the meditation as well. I think I like the guided meditations because it keeps my mind from wondering. Doing something helps me, too.
    Thanks for the comment and I’ll head over to visit your blog.

    [Reply]

  17. Lucy says:

    Yes, dear Zen Mama. I have a monkey mind, too. And I loved these suggestions. Wayne Dyer is one of my favorite authors, too. I may have to buy this book about manifesting..

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Hi Lucy,
    I guess we all have monkey minds to various degrees, huh! So glad you loved these suggestions and Wayne Dyer. Wayne Dyer said my favorite quote of all time, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

    [Reply]

  18. Sounds good to me Betsy,
    Drunker than a barrel full of monkeys at times…I seek ‘the calm mind’
    Thankyou
    be good to yourself
    David

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Hi David,
    Here’s to seeking the calm mind! The world would be a different place if everyone is seeking this, huh? I’ll head over to visit your blog! Thanks for your comment.

    [Reply]

  19. Ellie Smith says:

    Interesting blog, am very glad to have found it as mindfulness and parenting are two of my biggest passions!! 🙂
    I have found, that allowing everything to be exactly as it is is incredibly powerful. Trying to cultivate certain thoughts, be it through affirmations or other positive thinking is still, in my humble opinion, a way of struggling with what is. When we allow everything to be, we come to realize that our thoughts are just like a mirage and no matter how hard we try, we simply cannot hold on to them.

    Like clouds, they float on by, different in size and shape but it is only our labeling of them that gives them any power. Our thoughts are completely unpredictable and we’ve come to believe that they can hurt us somehow but they can’t – they are just the vivid display of our pristine and always present awareness!!
    Peace and love to everyone, Ellie xx

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Hi Ellie,
    So glad you found Zen Mama! Allowing everything to be is so important. I keep reading about non-resistance and it’s so true. That’s what Buddha said about the monkeys. You try to get rid of them, you try to calm them. I so believe that our thoughts make our world, too.

    Thanks so much for your insightful comment. Hope you’ll come by again!!

    [Reply]

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  21. hnMom says:

    Great post and right on time for me after a couple of extra stressful weeks. Thanks for sharing your tips. I especially like #4 and am trying it out right now. Hopefully it will help my monkeys to settle down a bit.
    I also really like the image at the end. Now I can just picture it in my mind when I need it.
    I liked your post so much that I blogged about it so more get to enjoy it.
    Happy Friday!

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Hn Mom – I, too, love these positive affirmations. I have tried several over the last few weeks and they really seem to be working!! Especially the I AM headache free. I had been getting headaches in Feb. for no appearent reason. I tried the I AM headache free and it worked. I’ve rarely had a headache since. And I, too, love the image at the end. So glad to have you here and thanks so much for sharing the link on your website.

    [Reply]

  22. Terri Sonoda says:

    I LOVED this! I need this. Thank you. 🙂

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Yay!! I’m so glad!!

    [Reply]

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  25. Monica says:

    I loved reading this. I was looking over some of your other posts and I would love to subscribe via RSS, but it wont let me read the full posts that way. If it is something you can change that would be great, and I would read more often! Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    I am so happy you enjoyed reading the posts. I’ll look into the RSS feed today, Monica and get back to you. So glad you came by!

    [Reply]

  26. Jodi Chapman says:

    Hi Betsy,
    This is just what I needed to read today. I feel like I have about 100 monkeys running around having a party inside my mind. 🙂
    I LOVE the image and how it all leads back to not worrying. That is key, isn’t it? The only place true happiness can exist is in this moment right now.
    Like Tess, I also have Angela and Steve’s meditation program, which is helping to give my monkeys a bit of a rest.
    So glad I found you!
    🙂
    Jodi

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    Jodi,
    So happy that this post was perfect for you. It’s been one of my most popular posts ever!!
    I, too, love that image. I’ve seen it all over facebook and pinterest but can’t seem to find out where it came from. I love Angela and Steve’s program. I can’t believe it includes so much!

    So glad to have you have you here, Jodi! Looking forward to checking out your blog, too.

    [Reply]

  27. Great post, Betsy. I’m here to catch up and this was the perfect post for me to read today! Thank you!

    [Reply]

    Betsy Reply:

    This is certainly a popular post and I think that’s because we’re all going crazy with the chatter in our heads! Thanks for being here today!!

    [Reply]

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  33. Dave says:

    Thanks so much for letting me know it’s just not me. I have had “monkey brain” my entire life. It affected my behavior and school grades as a child, was tested for ADHD, with negative results…”just needs to learn to focus” and carried on with gusto into adulthood. I was often lauded for my “ability” to multi-task like a pro. Little did they know, I could just not focus on a singular task, I needed, craved, many. Not that I wanted to, my brain did. The worst is at night. No matter how pysicaly exhausted I am…and trust me, you would think, after weekend soccer tournaments, sprinting for 90 minutes 3 times in 3 days, one would find comfort in sleep. Nope. My mind races. If I wake up in the night, it is way ahead of me. I would understand it if Ihad stress in my life, but I am happily retired, keep busy, loving family, fit adn healthy, mortgage free adn no financial woes….but still the monkies come. I have tried meditaion, even more excersise…we live in the stress free country ,and I walk the dog through a delightful forest every day. We have a wonderful cottage on the water, and family from the city tease us with “you are getting away from…?” I even tried prescription meds, but they just made me not care about anything. Any thoughts or ideas are most welcome!

    [Reply]

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  38. The monkey mind is a pathological state that relates to repressed emotions from childhood which ‘leak out’ in this form, energising the mind.
    The Buddha was not Enlightened: the Buddhist corpus was written by others, just as with the Christian Bible.
    Meditation including Mindfulness serves only to strengthen the repression mentioned above. It takes courage to open up and release this emotional reservoir; only done with the support of others.
    This has been my life-experience.
    .

    [Reply]

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