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Taming our Monkey Minds

May 29th, 2012

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For my US readers, I hope you've had a lovely Memorial Day Holiday!

Many of you have probably heard the expression: "Monkey Mind," especially if you meditate or practice yoga. A monkey mind refers to the endless stream of fragmented thoughts that we have in a day. In average, human beings produce about 60.000 to 80.000 thoughts a day! Which means the talk in our heads is pretty much constant and incessant.

monkey mind

The problem with having a monkey mind is that only a tiny part of all the thoughts in our head is relevant to the present moment (which is the only thing that is true and real). On top of it, the vast majority of our thoughts are nonsense, we often dwell in the past or the future, we obsess about mistakes we might have made, we battle our guilt, we plan ahead, we worry, etc.

Also, a great percentage of these thoughts are negative, often based in fear of the future, resentment of the past and so on. We are often drifting into fantasy, negativity and fiction, which means, we are constantly missing the point of life: being fully present each and every moment.

In short, most of these thoughts do little to help us live and function well but rather the opposite, they slow us down, make us less alert and less present, and in many cases can bring negative outcomes into our life.

Most people don't even consider taming their monkey minds, because they think that this constant mind chatter is "normal," and even if they think otherwise, they do not know or believe that they have the power to change it, the power to quiet their minds down!

The great news is that all of us CAN quiet down our minds and we must do so! because by doing it, we will be more alert, more present, less stressed, calmer, happier, etc... the benefits are endless!

Both, the quality and the quantity of our thoughts are very important!
My very first newsletter back in February 2011: Paying Attention to your Thoughts, will give you a little glimpse on the importance of the quality of our thoughts.
As for this particular posting, I would like to focus on the quantity of our thoughts.

The overwhelming amount of thoughts we have leave little room for true clarity and presence, so, by lowering the "amount" of our thoughts and quieting our minds we can start to see positive changes in our life. Why should we do this? Well, because, if we don't control our mind, it controls US! and the results are never glorious.

I once heard a very nice analogy that compared the untamed mind to a wild horse. Imagine riding a wild horse, a horse you don't control at all... you will be at its mercy and most likely shaken until it throws you to the ground. In contrast, if you ride a tamed horse, you hold the reins, you are in control and you can choose the pace.

How do we quiet our minds?
It is a process, but the very first step is to become AWARE of our monkey mind, if we are aware that our mind is out of control (which in most cases it is) we are one step ahead, then we have to believe that we can change it. The process may take more or less time depending on every individual and their own level of awareness.

I would like to share some things that have helped me, quiet my mind:

First and foremost, the practice of meditation
Meditation is one of the best tools you can use to quiet your mind.
If you wish to read a little more on this, I wrote about this in my posting: Meditation, an incredible tool

For some people meditation may seem daunting at first and hard to understand. It is possible, however, to start by using other approaches until you feel ready to give meditation a serious try.

The practice of Yoga or another eastern discipline like Tai Chi
The idea of these disciplines is that focusing the mind solely on the movements of the body helps to bring about a state of mental calm and clarity that you can then apply to your everyday life.

Developing awareness of your senses
By tuning into our senses we can be more present. The more our senses become heightened, the more we can really feel, smell, taste, see and listen to what life is telling us in every little moment. I had a posting on this recently too: Your Senses, a Gateway to the Present Moment

Mindful activities
Another good exercise to quiet your mind is really concentrating in small tasks that we usually do automatically. For instance, next time you are cooking, walking to work, etc. try to breath deeply as you do what you are doing and solely focus on the task at hand and your surroundings.
Let's take the example of cooking: feel the vegetables in your hands, smell the garlic you are using, look at all the colors of the ingredients, immerse yourself fully in what you are doing.

Watch your thoughts
If anything, you can start by "watching" your thoughts, do not judge them or elaborate on them, just witness them as if you are an observer that acknowledges the thoughts but does not get involved with them.

Have a great week!

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