Our mind can take us both in bright pleasant places, and dark disagreeable places...which depends quite a lot on our monkey mind. Our monkey mind is restlessly looking for new and exciting adventures, looking for bananas while jumping from one thing to the next without giving us any rest. Here we talk about how our monkey mind works and what we can do to help it calm down and stop it’s never ending chase.
The concept of monkey mind comes from buddhist traditions, but is not limited to it. It’s a basic term used to describe a mind that is unsettled, restless, inconstant, confused...uncontrollable. A mind undergoing anxiety, stress, depression or any mental difficulty would easily fill that criteria, a mind that has gone out of control. That mind makes suggestions to us all the time, it gives us thoughts to look at and keeps talking all the time: “I am gonna be late”, “Did I forget to bring my calculator”, “I am so fat”, “He shouldn’t do that!”, “This is unacceptable”...It doesn’t stop and we can’t force it to. Our monkey mind does the thing it knows best, bring thoughts and suggestions; and while we might not be able to stop it, we can listen or not to those opinions of his. To help our monkey mind calm down, we need to become friends with it.
As Mingyur Rinpoche, a well-known buddhist monk says: “Many people tend to misunderstand a little bit what is meditation. Meditation meaning think of nothing, concentrate [laughing]...so [they] push too much...we cannot block thought and emotion, in fact we need thought and emotion. Whether you listen to your monkey mind or not, there’s the issue.”
Instead of making our monkey mind an enemy, we have to befriend it, but giving him a simple banana won’t work. What it needs from us is a job...something to do while we get a bit of rest and peace.
During meditation, when we look at our breath, we tell our monkey mind: “Hey, look at my breath, look at it closely, it changes all the time and it’s nice to look at. There’s a job for you.”
After some time our monkey mind doesn’t like this job anymore, so it goes looking for something else to do, other suggestions to give us. Obviously, when that happens it will trigger many thoughts and emotions...but when we realize that it has wandered from its job, we just tell it to go back to looking at our breath.
Every time we tell our monkey mind to meditate on our breath, we are increasing many mental factors that will help us dissociate from that mind, and learn with time to listen or not to the suggestions that it is giving us. With time and practice, calm, mindfulness and concentration will rise up of their own and you will be more able to see your monkey mind and let it do it’s restless talking while you keep enjoying your life.
From meditation comes more acceptance of thoughts and emotions, and less reaction...less tendency to push them away when they show up. That will help increase your calm and understanding of how your monkey mind works and how beneficial the practice of meditation can be for you.
To look at the breath is really to look at the ever unfolding moments of our reality. Life changes all the time, our breath changes all the time, and by looking at how much it changes we can learn to let go of past experiences and future expectations to focus only on the present moment, where we can live happily.
I meditate and I look at my breath, but everytime my mind wanders I notice it and bring it back to my breath. The more I do this, the more my mind concentrates on the breath, anchors on the breath, and gives me happiness. Concentration comes on its own through practice, there is no need to push it but instead to be patient and wait for it to happen while we look at our breath.
Our monkey mind doesn’t have to be taken care of on our own. To practice meditation with others is a good way to understand it better and find ways to tame it, so we can live more fulfilling lives. Every Friday we offer a free meditation group session, come join us !
14 December 2017