Understanding Your Monkey Mind and 10 Tips for Taming It
6 minute read
The monkey mind is most closely associated with your ego and it’s constantly sounding the alarm and pointing out all the things that can go wrong. In many cases, it is the fear the holds you back.
Do you ever feel like you are a computer? You’ve got several browser windows open, you’re bouncing from one to the other and you have no idea where the music is coming from? Believe it or not, that’s not an unusual feeling. In fact, that feeling has been around long before computers.
According to Buddhist principles, the monkey mind is exactly that, an unsettled and restless feeling that often comes with confusion. In Buddhist teachings, Buddha describes the human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys who are constantly chattering, bounding around, and screeching. Sound familiar?
Master Your Monkey Mind
If you want to get over that inner voice always begging for attention and preventing you from focusing and doing what you want, then you need to calm the monkeys. There’s no way to get rid of the voice in your head, but there is a way to soothe it and have more control.
The first step is to calm your mind through meditation. A little thoughtful meditation each day will help you be present in the here and now..
The monkeys feed on stimuli, so the more you let your brain bounce around, the more active your monkeys become. They’ll even call more monkeys to the party. But when you are mindful, you block out all the extra noise and focus on what’s important at that moment.
If you know certain things that trigger the monkeys, do what you can to avoid those triggers. If working in a busy coffee shop distracts you from actually getting any work done, then your best bet is to select another place for working.
Once you figure out your triggers, it’s easy to find workaround options.
When thoughts bombard you with emotions, don’t categorize them as bad or good— ask yourself why you’re feeling that way. Have a conversation with your monkeys to see what the causes of your feelings are and then let them play out a little.
Sometimes monkeys are the little voice that protects us, so we must listen. Often. though, they’re just internal fears that have no actual consequence. By understanding them, we can categorize them and move on, monkeys satisfied.
Pranayama is a way to focus on breathing. Because it mimics relaxation breathing, your body is instantly signaled to relax and slow down, calming the monkeys. Then your brain sends messages that reduce your heart rate and lower your blood pressure to match that of your normal relaxed stage.
Qigong takes the breathing principles of pranayama and adds a physical element. It’s a dynamic form of meditation that not only puts a quiet mind into practice, but it adds muscle concentration along with the movement to work on a deeper level.
Start to log your monkeys. When you feel overwhelmed by your brain activity, note where you are, what you’re doing, what’s going on around you, and what particular monkeys are present.
This is another way to note your triggers, so you can then decide what to do about them.
Those monkeys you created in the past can be the loudest. If you find yourself reliving moments you’d like to escape, your best option is to let go of the past.
This is easier said than done. Those mind monkeys have been there a long time and they’ve probably dug in pretty deep. Therapy or counseling might be needed, but eliminating these loud voices can go a long way toward living a better life.
Create your own positive affirmation that works for you. It can be a word or a phrase, for example, you could simply think “breathe” and find that it helps you focus.
Maybe you need a longer phrase like “be present at the moment, let go of the past” to put your mind at rest. But creating your own mantra and repeating it in your head or even out loud will give your mind something to play with and will leave the monkeys at rest.
When you add a positive thought or a message of gratitude to your mind on a daily basis, it takes the place of one of those negative monkeys. You can actually retrain your brain and create new neural pathways that are full of positive and life-affirming moments.
If you’re having a rough day because your mind is all over the place, find something that captivates you and engages fully. Whether that’s working, reading, doing an art or craft project, whatever it is that you love and can focus on will help you push aside distracting thoughts.
The Bottom Line
The idea of a monkey brain is thousands of years old and was first created as a Buddhist concept that explains a hyperactive and distracted thought process. It’s something everyone experiences at some time but to varying degrees.
It is possible to tame this active mind habit and there are several techniques for doing it. Try one and see if it works for you, then try a couple more.
Try different techniques in different situations until you’re able to establish a pattern for yourself that helps you push aside distracting and negative thoughts and focus on the positive and being in the moment.