How To Calm Your Monkey Mind

Dear Zen Mama Readers, I’ve had a full month with plenty of “Monkey Mind”. Since I’m still rather busy, I’ve decided to post one of my favorite posts from the past, about that subject of Monkey Mind! It’s one I needed to reread myself and learn once again! Enjoy!

“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 others meditation is the key! I’m just getting started in meditation myself. When you’re a busy person meditation can be simple like just 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. Here’s a very short one by Deepak Chopra on gratitude help you let go of stress:

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!

Photo credits:
Crazy Monkey image

Calm Monkey image

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8 Responses to How To Calm Your Monkey Mind

  1. Elle says:

    Practicing these techniques on a daily basis is what makes the difference for me Betsy. Then when something overwhelming appears to show up, I’m pretty well practiced in the things that ease me back into peace and harmony. Hopefully that’s where you are now.
    e-hugs, Elle


  2. Leslie says:

    Thanks for this very nice contribution and valuable information.
    Using the Law of Attraction may help you further, to achieve
    your heart’s desire.
    Happiness also is a mental condition.


  3. Great suggestions here Betsy, to calm the monkey mind. I know we can all get that mind chatter going and it’s a challenge to rein it in. Meditation is so helpful to let go of feeling fearful and worried. Thanks for the timeless reminder!


  4. Carrie-Anne says:

    Ah, how I love this post! I’ve been practicing meditation for over a year and it’s amazing how much better I feel. When I miss out a few days in a row, it’s almost as if my mind/body start to crave it. I just don’t feel right.

    Thank you for resharing this post. It was a great read and I will pass it along.


  5. Thank you, Betsy. Great post. Good reminders. I can never seem to get my breathing techniques quite right! I try though! I hope the next 6 weeks and those 3 presentations go well – I know they will! 🙂


  6. Evelyn Lim says:

    I enjoy using positive affirmations. However, I prefer leaving negative words such as “stress”, “debt” or “headache” out. My monkey mind is not easy to calm but like you, I have found it helpful to practice mindfulness and meditation sittings. Thank you for your excellent tips!


  7. Great post. Monkey’s in my mind…yes that sounds about right. I feel like I have a whole troop chattering away at high volume and high speed most days, so thanks for the tips on quieting the little fellas down a bit.


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