by Kathi Szabo
Have you ever wanted to do something, but a voice in your head told you all the reasons why you couldn’t possibly do it?
For example, maybe you want to hike the Appalachian Trail! It’s actually on my bucket list and has been for quite some time. But then a voice says, “you can’t hike more than 5 miles without your knees bothering you.” And another voice tells you you’re too old. Another voice chimes in, “And when do you have the time to take 3 months or more off of work to do that?” And yet another says, “Yea, right, the first night sleeping in a tent and you’ll give up.”
That’s the Monkey Mind.
The Monkey Mind is the voices that go from one thing to another, usually reinforcing negative thoughts. Other monkeys may not be as negative, but they bop around from one thing to another, always wanting more and these monkeys are never satisfied.
Buddha described the human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys, jumping around, screeching, chattering, carrying on endlessly. Buddha said, “We all have monkey minds, with dozens of monkeys all clamoring for attention.”
If you’re a dog lover, think of it this way, when the monkey mind is active, your dog is taking you for a walk. Leading you wherever he wants to go. Taming the monkey – well that’s taking control and taking the dog for a walk.
A Hostile Universe
Einstein once said, “the most important decision you make is whether you live in a friendly Universe, or a hostile one.” If you decide you live in a hostile universe, you are going to have a lot of monkeys showing you every reason that is true. If you decide you live in a hostile universe, you find fault with everyone. You honestly believe the world is out to get you. And the monkeys, will find you proof even if at first you don’t see it.
The Monkeys are that part of the mind that stops us from doing things either because it tells us we can’t, or it points out that someone else does it better or a host of other reasons. It brings up fear and doubt in our selves. It reinforces our belief in a hostile universe.
But if you decide you live in a friendly universe, you find you have less monkeys. You still have a monkey mind, but because you believe the universe is always working for you, there is a bit less chattering to deal with.
Worry and Overwhelm
The monkey mind really kicks in when we are feeling overwhelmed or worried. For example, a number of years ago my knee was in pain like all the time due to a torn meniscus. The doctor sent me to PT and said if that didn’t work I would need surgery. Before I made it home my monkeys had already told me, “Just have the surgery.”
“You won’t keep up with the exercises.”
“Well there goes hiking the Appalachian trail or going to Machu Pichu.”
“You might as well face it, you’ll be needing a cane just like your mom in a few years.”
Yep, all those thoughts just on the drive home.
And then when Mark and I found ourselves on a somewhat challenging trail ( we kept losing the markers and it was quite rocky) in Acadia National Park, right at sunset, I freaked out! My monkey mind went wild. “You’re never going to make it back.”
“We’re going to land up spending the night in the woods.”
OMG what were you thinking hiking with my bad knee!“
Have you been there? Have you let your monkey mind control your thoughts, make you crazy worried and thinking irrationally? Those monkeys can put us right into Fight Flight or freeze! And then we land up doing nothing or reacting in a way that really does us no good.
So with all those monkey’s in our heads, how do we calm them, get them to slow down, because I haven’t found anyone that has completely gotten rid of them?
Mindfulness and Meditation
If you are thinking Meditation is this yogi thing of sitting in a cross-legged position and being all Zen, it’s not! At least not my experience!
I see mediation and mindfulness as workouts for your brain.
You probably don’t think anything of being told to be in better physical health to get out and move your body more. You know, to work it out! Maybe you need upper body strength, so your trainer or friend at the gym says do so pushups. Maybe you’re like me and need some core strength, so the PT has you do some crunches or planks. We accept that to keep our bodies in shape or sometimes too keep the working, we have to do some physical workouts!
Why is it such a surprise that in order to strengthen our mindset, reduce the chatter of the monkey mind, we need to be more mindful and to meditate?
If you want better health, it starts with the right mindset. If you want a better job, its starts with the right mindset. If you want better relationships, it starts with the right mindset. There is nothing you desire that doesn’t start with your mindset!
But the right mindset means controlling those monkeys and not letting them control you!
If you have a meditation practice – Awesome! Keep it up!
If you don’t, and those monkeys start their unwanted conversations in your head, how do you tame them?
Notice the chatter and then just breathe. This one simple technique is the foundation of a mediation and something I’m sure you’ve been told before.
“Take a breath.”
“Count to 10 and breathe.”
When we can focus on our breath, we stop the chatter. When we stop the chatter, we stop the monkey mind from controlling our thoughts. We can then think clearly, more rationally, and we can become more in tune with our authentic self and our authentic thoughts!
Learn more about meditation and the different techniques by joining one of our 3 mindset classes.
Mind Work on Monday’s at 6pm with Amy. This is a 30-minute class designed to reset your thoughts through a variety of mind exercises.
Mind Rest on Wednesday’s at 7:30pm with yours truly! Based on the traditional practice of Yoga Nidra, this class helps to reduce anxiety, heal trauma, improve sleep and to fully relax, becoming more receptive to new thought patterns.
And finally end the week on Friday at 7pm with Rest and Renew with our own Marshmallow Queen, Julie! Here you take a pause with a Restorative Yoga class where you will rest and calm both the body and the mind!
If you are an Essentials Member or Coaching Client, these classes can be accessed live or recorded through or exclusive membership site.
Whether it’s with us, an app, or your own meditation practice, take control of your monkey mind!
Reduce the chatter! And start consciously creating a life you love!