Calming the Monkey in Your Mind

So you have settled down into your comfortable chair to relax and meditate.  You have the candles lit, the perfect new age music playing in the background.  The incense you spent an hour picking out at the local metaphysical bookstore, is lit and enhancing the air with a lovely mystical scent.  Everything is perfect and you now just need to settle down, breathe deep and...."You don't have time for this you need to be washing the car!"  says some tiny annoying voice from somewhere in your own head.

"That can wait" you say to yourself.  Now it's time to relax and..."Did you remember to pick up the potatoes for dinner?"  "I can do that later!"  You tell yourself again... 

Now just to take a deep breath and... "The basketball jersey...did you wash the basketball jersey?!" 

"AUGH!"
   Then you lose it! 

"This is pointless! Why even bother trying to meditate if I can't even do the simplest little thing of calming my mind?"
you say to yourself.  What was supposed to be a relaxing spiritual mini retreat has turned into world war three inside your head. 

This restless mind thing is known as 'Monkey Mind' or 'Mind Monkey' in Buddhist traditions.  Everyone has it and there are lots of different ways to try to tame him and make him go away.  Goodness knows I certainly had an awful time with this little fella. There are always things that need to be done.  The idea of sitting down for a few minutes or longer to meditate can feel like such a selfish thing to do.  It is not selfish it is self care.  Big difference! 

How did I deal with him?  I gave him a banana, told him to go play for awhile and I'd be back in ten or fifteen minutes.  Well, not really but that is the metaphorical idea.  I finally told myself that Mister Monkey was going to be messing around in the back of my head and that it was OK.  I am capable of thinking of more than one thing at a time, I just needed to shift where my focus was directed for a few minutes a day.  I acknowledged that, yes I have other things to do, but that it is OK to take this time of meditation for myself.  It is OK if my mind wants to try to plan and organize things while I'm meditating I just don't have focus on that particular train of thought while I'm doing it.

The result of not resisting my monkey mind was that after awhile, he quietly went away.  I no longer noticed him at all.  I'm sure he was still somewhere in the back of my head making to-do lists for me but he was doing it quietly in the far room of my mind instead of on the front stage right before my third eye.  

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