Minding the Monkey Mind
The term "monkey mind" stems from multiple meditative traditions and describes the uncontrollable, unsettled, whimsical, wild nature of our flow of thoughts and the way in which our focus can easily be distracted. Imagine a little monkey one moment eating a banana, the next swatting a pesky fly, the next chasing another monkey, the next sitting down to rest, the next - well you get the idea!
When we practice mindfulness we get the opportunity to take a step back and observe the constant churning of our thoughts and emotions. Picture your thoughts as a mountain creek of water flowing, gurgling, rushing, bubbling, eddying. For most of our lives we are right in the center of the movement of the water, experiencing all of the ebbs and flows. Now picture yourself climbing out of the water, sitting up on the bank and looking back down at the creek. Although you notice the peaceful eddies and the rushing rapids, no longer are you swept into them; you maintain your grounded state as the water continues its movement.
Although we will never fully stop the movement of the monkey mind, we can give it direction and train our focus. The breath is one of the easiest tools to practice with. It is as simple as taking a moment to notice your body automatically inhaling and exhaling, or using a breathing technique where you are controlling the intake and release of air. These moments of observation and awareness give us the ability to center ourselves. From a centered place we can powerfully step into the world and take on all the many complexities of our lives with patience and grace.
Mind the monkey mind!