Meditation 101 – The Monkey Mind
What do you get when you combine a toddler and an eight-ball of top-notch Colombian cocaine? My mind during meditation.
At least that’s how it feels the moment my “don’t be a wuss, get up & meditate” alarm goes off and it’s time to hit the cushion. There’s a Pavlovian response in me that tells my thoughts to come alive when any meditation session begins. It’s similar to how my dog Lucas knows when I’m sitting in silence with my legs crossed and eyes closed it’s time for him to lay down near me and furiously slurp his junk. Thanks, buddy.
It feels like every thought I’ve ever wanted to have for the past six months but haven’t has now come out of the woodwork to occupy my brain at the same time. It’s the ego’s way of sitting up and screaming, “I will not be ignored! I will not go quietly into that good night. ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME? NO? OKAY, HOW ABOUT WE WONDER WHAT YOUR EX IS DOING RIGHT NOW?”
Welcome to the Monkey Mind.
This is the battle. This is why we meditate. Not to kill the monkey, but to learn to live with him. To learn he can be made to stay at a respectable distance and his voice can have less and less power over us with each day of practice.
Many People Believe They Are Meditating Incorrectly
The Monkey Mind is the number one destroyer of meditation practices. It scares people away from meditating completely or leads them to quit within the first few sessions.
Often when people experience this Monkey Mind they believe they are meditating “incorrectly” or that the goal of meditation is to not have this experience. To “not think” is the goal of it all, right? Not at all.
Telling your brain to not think is akin to sitting down on the meditation mat and saying, “Okay lungs, for the next twenty minutes I want you guys to not breathe.” Best of luck with that one. Feel free to comment when you’re done passing out. Your brain thinks. That’s what it does. Just as your lungs expand and contract to bring oxygen and blood to your body. Haters gonna hate, brains gonna think. This is the way of the world.
Meditation Is Not About Stopping Your Thoughts
Understanding that our Monkey Minds are just part of the deal and not something to be avoided takes much of the pressure out of our meditation practices. It allows us to go from “I’m not doing this correctly” to “this is simply part of the deal so let’s keep at it.” One of those statements is empowering. The other ends with you thinking you’re part of the vast list of meditation rejects.
Listen to what your Monkey Mind is yelling at you. Learn from him. Is he angry? Sad? Depressed? Fearful? Arrogant? Let him yell, then let him go. You don’t have to follow his screams with thoughts of your own. Simply observe and release.
Ever stay at a friend’s house and spend the night wide awake because of an unfamiliar sound that they don’t even recognize anymore? When you stick with the practice, with patience on the challenging days, and a warrior spirit on the days when the monkey’s gotten into the Redbull, eventually your little monkey will fade further and further into the background allowing the true gems of your meditation practice to reveal themselves. Insight, peace, and calmness are well worth the time and energy you’re putting into yourself. Believe in meditation, and believe in yourself.
One Day Stronger Action Steps:
1. At the end of each sit, make a quick note of what’s inside of you and trying to bubble forth. Is there anger that needs to be let go of? Hurt that needs to be healed? Take notice of your internal dialogue as it’s yours after all. Examine it and see where in your emotional garden you need to do some watering, weeding, and fertilizing.
2. Make friends with your Monkey Mind. Realize there are gifts in the messages coming forward. Just like an angry child is trying to communicate in the only way he or she knows how by throwing themselves on the ground and screaming, so is your internal self. The language of the heart and the ego may come out in ways that need some deciphering, so spend some time with yourself after your meditation sessions and listen.