Last time I started with the most basic step: close your eyes and meditation for a minute or two.
That’s pretty easy, no matter how much “monkey mind” you have. Monkey mind is that crazy blur of thoughts that jump all over inside your head when you try to meditate. Today we’re going to talk about monkey mind – and how to deal with it.
You might be tempted to say that you want to learn how to ignore monkey mind. But that’s counter-productive. Working to ignore something really means that you are giving it a lot of your attention. You need to learn to calm your mind. You need to slow down the flood of thoughts. Then you can acknowledge the thoughts but choose not to address them at this time.
Try the basic exercise from Part 1: Sit quietly, close your eyes, and try to clear your mind – for about a minute or two.
Notice that something rushes into your mind as soon as you close your eyes? It might be a worry, a bill, a memory. Whatever it is, you can choose to focus on it or to acknowledge it and set it aside. Imagine that you are taking your hand and picking it up. You might even imagine that you’re removing it from your forehead and moving it to the side. Put it down.
Now another thought enters your mind. Take note, then pick it up and put it to the side.
This is a wonderful strategy when thoughts come to you one at a time. But with monkey mind, you have dozens or hundreds of thoughts rushing in on you. It can be hard to dismiss them all. You can’t even acknowledge them all. Your focus is taken to the overwhelming list of things that need your attention.
Trust me. Everyone who meditates has to go through this. It comes and goes, but it never goes away forever. Here are some tips for addressing monkey mind. Practice them to see what works for you.
1) Acknowledge your busy mind. That is, your first step is to watch all those thoughts go by. Again, don’t try to fix anything or spend time on these thoughts, but do take stock. What does your mind want to bring to your consciousness?
Think of it like this: You’ve wanted to meet a famous person all your life. Now you’ve suddenly been given five minutes with that person. You start blabbering like an idiot, talking a mile a minute, and telling them everything you’ve ever thought about them. Your mind is doing the same thing. You finally sit down to listen to it and it’s going crazy with all the things it wants you to hear.
Acknowledge the thoughts. Take stock. See what you’re mind’s up to. Once it relaxes and understands that you’re going to do this again, the flood of thoughts will slow down.
2) Find something else to focus on. This is a key piece of mindfulness meditation. Pick a thing to focus on instead of the monkey chatter. The easiest thing to focus on is your breath. After all, you’re going to be breathing during your entire meditation! You can focus on the air moving in and out of your nose. Or focus on the movement of you chest and stomach.
When you fill your mind with something to focus on, it is easier to see the wandering thoughts as something other than the object you’re focusing on. That, in turn, makes it easier for you to pick up the thoughts and place them to the side.
3) Be mindful of the speed of thoughts wandering into your mind. When you start, the flood of thoughts is overwhelming. But after a few minutes, the flood will naturally slow down. It’s like when a water dam opens. At first, there’s a rush of water. But it slows down after the initial rush.
Your thoughts will flood your mind at first. But as you pay attention, you’ll notice that there are individual thoughts. Eventually, you’ll notice that there are spaces between the thoughts. Eventually, you’ll notice that there are more spaces than there are thoughts. Focus on the space.
Someday, if you keep practicing meditation, you will see thoughts before they are formed. In other words, you’ll learn what it feels like to begin forming a thought. As a result, you’ll be able to simply hold it off so that it never forms. As you train your mind to recognize the thinking process, it will become easier and easier to keep the monkey from chattering.
For the next week, increase your meditation by one or two minutes per day. If you want to start at one minute, that’s fine. You’ll end the week meditating for eight minutes every day. If you start at five minutes, you might finish the week meditating fifteen minutes every day.
As strange as it sounds, don’t over-do it. Don’t set yourself a goal of meditating 30-60 minutes per day as a beginner. That will be discouraging.
One minute per day is all you need.
Do what feels right for you.
You can’t meditate wrong.