As a meditation teacher I hear people say all the time how they would love to meditate, but they can't. Their mind is too active, they can stop thinking, the monkey mind takes over. The idea that meditation involves freeing the mind of all thought seems to be an all too familiar one. Let's look into this monkey mind of ours and just what we can do to help ourselves during meditation.
What Is The Monkey Mind?
The monkey mind is a Buddhist term meaning that the mind is ‘unsettled, restless, uncontrollable. It's the mind in a state of overthinking, it refuses to be quiet.
This animal metaphor has been coined because of the monkeys' erratic behavior as they fly through trees, flowing freely, as the mind so often does. Our minds race, more and more these days it seems, mimicking the monkeys' behavior.
The Human Mind
The human mind is a brilliant thing. The capacity it has, the capability it has is just phenomenal, and to be honest, I really believe we are only scratching the surface when it comes to the mind and its potentiality. This mind of ours races fast, thoughts coming in and out at speed. We as humans have around 70,000 thoughts a day. So as you can imagine at times switching off doesn't come easily to us.
The Good News
Well , the good news is meditation isn't about stopping the mind thinking, contrary to popular belief. With so many thoughts racing through our mind it's literally impossible to stop it. The human mind isn't designed to not have thought, we are always going to be thinking. With the right tools however we can begin to slow it down, we can manage the thoughts better, and over time the thoughts racing at a million miles per hour can and will slow down.
So What Can We Do?
The first thing I suggest doing before a meditation is to begin with connecting to the breath. By consciously breathing and focusing on the breath you slow the nervous system down. The parasympathetic nervous system is immediately calmed, this then alters the internal state of the body, bringing you into a state of calmness, which leads to a calmer mind. By focusing on the breath coming in and out of the body, you are directing your thoughts away from the chatter, bringing the mind into focus.
The second thing is to repeat a mantra during meditation. This is a brilliant tool I find.. By redirecting the mind consciously to repeating a short sentence or word you are able to switch off a lot of the noise running through the mind. The mantra can be all kinds of things, an affirmation, a Sanskrit mantra, or something simple such as ‘I am breathing in, I am breathing out’ Its not important what the words are, its important that the mind has a point of focus.
You will find your mind wanders off through the process, and this is OK. Your mind will probably trail off more than once or twice, it's perfectly fine, all you do is keep returning to the mantra. Just keep returning to the mantra however many times you need.
Finally keeping a journal nearby is a great thing to have whilst meditating. To observe the mind is really fundamental in meditation. When we become the observers we are able to question just what exactly it is that is stopping us from sitting in stillness with ease. Questioning what is, and self reflection plays a big part. Once we begin to understand the mind, and journal what is coming up we can look within and find answers. A repetitive thought once understood can be released.
Be Kind To Yourself
The journey into meditation is a journey. The road is long and never ending. We begin and we keep walking. Where I am now in my practice is not where I was several years ago. We have to meditate with patience and kindness to ourselves.
Every meditation is a different experience and it's very important we remember that. The more you practice the deeper the experience becomes.
I say to my students consistency is key, keep showing up. There is no wrong way to meditate, but as time goes the practice changes, you change, and you develop. The beautiful part is we all continue to develop in this practice, walking further and further into a space of serenity.
If you would like to know more about meditation, and deepen your practice with ease, check out my course below. A course designed to help you understand meditation, packed with tips and tools to help you practice, plus guided meditations to take you from 8 minutes to 21 minutes over 21 days, alongside breathwork practices to ease you into the meditation space.