Consider this image in your mind; a monkey swinging from tree to tree, constantly moving and on the go, unable to concentrate on one thing at a time.
Like a monkey, our minds work in the same way, hence the expression “Monkey mind.” Zen Buddhists use this term to describe the mind chatter, the constant state of distraction, and feelings of being unsettled or restless.
Consider that we humans have thousands of separate thoughts each day. If you could imagine that each thought is like a branch, and the attention of your conscious mind is like a monkey, swinging from thought-branch to thought-branch.
All. Day. Long.
Perhaps, the image of the monkey jumping from tree to tree sounds like fun, but our minds are complex and for the most part our thoughts often reflect our fears, anxieties, regrets from the past, concerns for the future, and the pressures of every day life.
We live in a world of excessive stimuli. It is in our very nature to give our attention to numerous things at once. We are constantly on the go, rushing from one appointment to the next, and we so easily forget how important it is to slow down and pause. We constantly focus on what we did and what we are going to do, as opposed to what we are doing in the NOW. This is when the Monkey Mind can take over. It feeds on the mind chatter and instigates the stories that we create in our minds, leaving us feeling anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed.
We all have a Monkey Mind, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. We cannot simply fight the Monkey nor make it go away completely, but we can learn to observe it, understand it, tame it and live in harmony with it. What we need to do is create space and time to PAUSE.
Let’s try it! Take a deep inhale and exhale and say the word P-A-U-S-E out loud. Feel the vibration of the letter sounds in the back of your throat. (Calming, isn’t it?). There you go! You just settled your mind and practised 5 seconds of Mindfulness.
Just how we have the ability to jump from thought to thought, we also have the ability to slow down and focus. Mindfulness practises can inspire and encourage us to take mental breaks during the day. Finding the time to P-A-U-S-E is easy when you can do it on the spur of the moment, while you do any random act during the day. You do not need to meditate for hours, nor force yourself to sit still in an uncomfortable position for an excessive period of time. You’re not pushing away thoughts, you are actually embracing what comes up. It’s simple. You’re focusing your mind and using your senses to bring awareness to whatever it is that you are doing, seeing, feeling, listening to, and smelling in any given moment, whether that be watching the sunset, smelling hand soap, listening to birds chirping, chopping vegetables, etc.
The mind is like a muscle. It needs to be trained to slow down and ‘un-think.’ We can motivate that muscle by setting the intention to practise Mindfulness during our day. Perhaps, we begin with one Mindful moment then create space for more of these moments as we become more observant and conscious of the importance of pausing embracing the now. A Mindfulness moment can happen even only 30 seconds to a minute!
Want to learn how you can integrate these short, meaningful moments into your day? Download my free Daily Mindfulness Checklist and Check-In template.