Turning The Monkey
Mind Into A Pussy Cat
Monkey mind refers to the incessant chatter that goes on in our heads which, if unchecked, can drive us nuts (excuse the pun!)
Like a restless monkey jumping from branch to branch, the mind is always on the move, producing up to 100,000 thoughts per day (astonishing, isn't it!)! it is little wonder that peace can seem difficult to find. Nowadays, there are more distractions than ever and the modern monkey mind is more like King Kong crashing through the jungle on amphetamines.
It is estimated that our brains are bombarded with seven times as much stimuli as our grandparents experienced. Add to this the longer working hours, the traffic jams and the rising stress levels and it is amazing we cope at all.
The good news, however, is that, no matter how busy the mind is and how distant the prospect of finding inner peace seems, it is always there, right under our noses.
Finding happiness and peace is an uncovering process. When we strip away that which is covering it up, (the main thing being our addiction to thinking) we discover that what we are seeking has been there all along.
My days used to go something like this. i would finish eating breakfast without noticing the food because monkey mind was already thinking about the days schedule. I would then arrive at work with no recollection of getting there. At work, I was busy planning the weekend. My mind was never where my body was. I was rarely present in the here and now (which is the only place where peace and joy are to be found.)
I remember taking my daughter to the park when she was about three years old. She pointed to the sky and excitedly squealed "airplane". I hadn't even noticed the park - which is pretty amusing but also tragic at the same time!
This is why children experience so much joy. Being free of mental chatter, they are absolutely present in the Here and Now. Monkey mind hasn't developed yet. Happiness never goes anywhere. We are simply unaware of the happiness which is always there because we are constantly distracted by our monkey minds. We can only notice the wonder and the beauty that surrounds us when we are present.
Everyone has had what are called peak experiences. I will never forget a visit to The Shetland Islands many years ago. I was fortunate enough to witness what many of the locals described as the most spectacular display of the Northern Lights they had seen in years. Just for a moment, as I gazed upon the spectacle, my mind was stunned into silence. A profound feeling of connection and well-being swept over me. In that perfect moment I felt utterly at peace with no sense of anything missing. A moment later, a thought appeared "I must phone my partner and tell her. As I re-engaged with monkey mind, the experience was gone. And that is how it works. In the absence of thinking, the bliss which is our true nature is experienced. It is still there when we are lost in thought but we are simply too distracted to notice it.
So how do we tame the monkey mind?
I'll answer with a story. There was a village in India which was infested with monkeys. They were a real problem. They were not afraid of the villagers and would go into the houses looking for for food and occasionally attack people.
All the villagers carried long sticks with them which they used to beat the monkeys and try to chase them away. This only annoyed the monkeys more. They tried everything.
They boarded up the doors and windows to keep the monkeys out. Sometimes they would catch one in a net and take it out of the village but they would always return looking for food. The villagers were at their wits end.
One day a holy man entered the village and observed what was going on. He laughed and said "I have another solution. Why don't you try planting a banana plantation on the outskirts of the village and see what happens."
The villagers followed his advice. And it worked. The monkeys were more interested in the delicious bananas and happily rested in the trees, leaving the villagers in peace.
What You Resist Persists
You may have heard the expression "What you resist persists." As long as we fight against the monkey mind we give it more energy and make it stronger. As long as we try to beat our thoughts away with sticks we make them bigger.
In my work as a coach, I have met so many people who have tried one therapy after another to find a solution to their depression, anxiety or unhappiness. Five years can pass with little change. This is because focusing on the problem only makes it bigger. It is a paradox that by trying to find happiness we only push it further away.
I have also seen people cured of lifelong depression in a one-hour session ...simply through seeing that the mind is not the problem, rather our relationship to it.
So, what is the solution?
Awareness is the key! Through understanding how the mind works, our relationship with monkey mind changes and we become free of the influence of thinking.