“Monkey Mind” refers to the unsettled or restless state that we find ourselves in – it’s a mind that jumps from thought to thought, similar to the way a monkey jumps from tree branch to tree branch. Instead of being present in the moment, it feels as though your mind is flooded with uncontrollable thoughts which insist on being heard. This creates distractions and makes it difficult to be productive and stay focused. If this sounds familiar then meditation may be worth giving a try…
I first heard of the term ‘monkey mind’ while taking a yoga class. At the end of the class the instructor led the class through a 5 minute meditation. The instructor had us take a few cleansing breaths to draw our attention into our breathing and rid us of any ‘monkey mind’. I struggled to keep my mind from wandering even in a quick five minute meditation (which felt like forever!!). This term really put into words something I have experienced not only yoga class but in classes, at work, within relationships and when I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed – they are thoughts that are all over the place and make it challenging to be in the here and now. Sometimes these thoughts can even turn negative and become an inner critic that create feelings of fears, anger or guilt.
Establishing a interconnectedness between your inner and outer worlds through mindfulness is the tricky part… you have to figure out what works for you. It takes a lot of self control and self awareness to recognize when you’re in this monkey mind state and to then take proactive steps to be grounded and present in the moment. Meditation is one tactic that has helped me overcome this challenge.
Mediation was difficult for me at first. Initially I felt like I was doing it wrong because my mind was still racing. I couldn’t stop random thoughts from coming in. A couple misconception that I had (that I think many people have) was that the goal was to stop thoughts from happening. This is not the case. Thoughts cannot simply just be turned on and off. When a thoughts arise “during meditation, it provides a chance to cultivate skills to work with the energies of thinking. Without pulling the thought in or pushing it away, your job is to simply notice its existence. Observe the thought, and stay present with any judgments that arise. Then, gently guide your attention back to your point of focus. That might be your breath, a mantra, or whatever guided meditation you’re listening to”(Well+Good, Kait Hurley). The ultimate goal is to be fully present, allowing your thoughts to slow down.
Headspace and Calm are a couple apps I have tried in the past that have hundreds of guided meditations, mini meditations, sleep sounds, nature sounds and breathing exercises for someone just getting into meditation or someone well rehearsed in meditation. They both offer free trials I believe, which is always great! The Mayo Clinic has some awesome suggestions on how to begin meditating and ways to build your meditation skills.
I think everyone could benefit from slowing down and being a bit more present. Like most things I think it takes practice and it’s important to not be judgmental about how it goes. The apps are a great place to start for either guided sessions or mini sessions. Meditation is something that I’m definitely interested in and I believe there are a lot of benefits that can help you being in the present and managing stress with upcoming midterms, projects, work, etc. Meditation may or may not be the way that helps you handle stress during these overwhelming times, but it’s definitely worth trying!