“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.”
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!
Crazy Monkey image
Calm Monkey image