It seems my monkey mind wants to keep swinging.
I try to focus but it just doesn’t stop thinking!
Some days are worse than others, but I would have to say, most days I’m planning, reviewing, worrying, reminiscing, focusing everywhere else except in the present moment.
I can be walking through the supermarket focused on my list when I’ll find myself singing to the tune being played over the internal audio system.
I am immediately transported back in time. Music has an amazing ability to lodge us in time and place.
It seems they often play songs from my adolescence. I am transported back to being 16 again. My step gets a bit lighter, and a smile comes to my face as I notice myself humming, then singing along.
Ahh to be 16 again! My friend Karen and I had so much to talk about. We would go to each other’s houses and just talk and talk. Eggs, cereal, ♪la, la, la ♪…♪ I’m not in love♪ … must remember toothpaste.
Everything blurs into one. I remember Karen’s father was a builder, oh yes I remember his van he used to drive with the ladder on top……………oh dear! I must call the builder…………oh and pick up the dry cleaning…………and I’m off pin-balling from past memories into my ‘to do’ list and getting wound up in what needs to be done …………and the monkey continues to swing!
Even during my sitting meditation practice, some days I feel I have good focus with few thoughts swinging through and then some past dream comes up and I am caught up in trying to work out its relevance.
Or, I replay a scene from a television show or movie I may have seen recently – absolutely of no value to my life ………….. why does this happen, over and over again?
It seems that the mind gets bored easily with the present moment, which is what we are focusing on in mindfulness meditation. Unless we are fully engaged, in ‘flow’ as they call it, where we lose time and everything else is irrelevant, the mind can get bored very quickly. The monkey mind likes to jump around excessively ruminating on old wounds, pain, hopes, dreams, worries, everything gets recycled.
How to stop it? Well I think it is more a taming than stopping, and that’s where mindfulness and meditation teach us so much about our monkey minds.
Living more mindfully and developing a sitting meditation practice we learn the skills to focus even when the monkey wants to nibble at the past or swing towards the future. It takes practice, patience and compassion.
Of course noticing the monkey and looking to let go of its wandering can bring up lots of emotions. Some people can experience fear and anxiety because they are letting go of what they have trusted and a feeling of being in control, even though constant and compulsive thinking can be the cause of anxiety in the first place. This can be a real ‘catch 22’ situation, one that is difficult but worth persevering through to develop a different, calmer and more productive relationship with thinking and emotion.
Practice by formally sitting in meditation for about 10mins each day, makes a BIG difference. You require perseverance and a growth mindset not to get disillusioned by self-doubt – “I can’t do this” or “I’m no good at meditating, I just think too much to stop”.
You need patience to hang in there, because it does get easier. Compassion helps to not be so hard on myself because the monkey is swinging and “I should be able to do this”. Compassion towards old wounds, not dismissing another person’s actions and not condoning them, but coming to the realisation that they are past, and I need to be here in the present, fully here, in order to move forward into a productive and happier future.
Acceptance that the compulsive monkey swinging is there, and not struggling to change or get rid of it is vital. Acceptance acknowledges that this is what the human mind does and so letting go of struggling with the monkey takes its power away.
My monkey can swing gently and quietly in the background now because I know how to be present, not all the time of course, but I now know when I’m not.
I know when I’m planning, I’m planning, and I don’t need to keep reminding myself of things to be done.
Such a relief, but being a monkey tamer takes time – I wonder if I can add it to my CV???