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What is Monkey Mind?

Have you ever noticed that there is a constant stream of chatter in your head? Research confirms that we have somewhere between 60,000-80,000 thoughts per day. Zen Buddhism calls this phenomenon "Monkey Mind"... as the non-stop motion of the mind is akin to the frenetic behavior observed in monkeys as they swing from branch to branch, agitated and chattering wildly.

What is even more surprising than the quantity of daily thoughts we have, is the fact that 90% of them are repetitive. Our minds recycle the same concepts over and over without us being aware of the process, or the impact this ruminating has on us. These thoughts are generally related to fear, regret and self-judgement and many of them we have replayed for decades. They wind their way through our neural pathways, complete with emotion, visceral images and traumatic memories. If we don't slow down and observe this toxic medley of thoughts, we may feel discomfort and unhappiness without even understanding why. The background noise can be so pervasive and long-standing, that we have no awareness of the damage it may be causing. It is often said that "The mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master".

Fortunately, there are many ways to tame Monkey Mind using some simple steps of mindfulness:

  1. Recognition: Slow down and see if you can observe that your mind is running on auto-pilot. Once you identify the chaotic activity, you instantly defuse the power and begin to move consciously into the present.

  2. Become Present: There are many ways to achieve this state of awareness, and one of the easiest is to breathe in deeply from your belly while counting 1-2-3-4, hold the breath to the count of 4, and release your breath slowly to the count of 8. Repeat this a few times as you allow yourself relax into the calmness. Use this exercise as often as needed and it will become more effective over time.

At this week's meditation group I will speak about other techniques for recognizing and taming Monkey Mind. Please RSVP on the home page if you plan to attend.

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