I’ve got a little problem that Zen Buddhists call “Monkey Mind”. It’s basically where my brain bubbles along to new thoughts so fast, that I have a hard time relaxing and focusing. It’s been quite the struggle for me. I’m not a very hyper person, but my mind has some sort of anti-meditation ADD.
Do you know of any techniques or books that might help?
I’m not a Buddist, but some years ago I did read the book “Monkey Mind” and basically it just talked about writing it all out. Forget punctuation, correct spelling, margins, etc and just write…write…write…to control the impulsive nature of your mind. I hope that technique may help you.
New Age music helps me with that problem.
Pick a spot on the wall, one that’s easy too look at and doesn’t require any effort of the neck. Just stare at it. Now just breath. Eventually you will close your eyes and have no thought.
Here is how I was taught to release thoughts while meditating. Start by trying to keep your mind solely focused on your breath as you inhale and exhale. Really focus on what is going on in your body so that this occupies your mind. When you notice your mind wandering then refocus on concentrating on your breathing. Try not to feel upset or judgmental that your mind has wandered as its natural just note that you have noticed your mind wandering and return your focus to your breathing. In meditation you practice “letting go” of all thoughts but I find this really helpful in life. Of course in everyday life we need our thoughts but if I notice I’m experience a really negative emotion or having an unproductive or helpful thought I can use this skill to just let that go in life.
Observe your thoughts without judgment. Name them….’house’…’job’…………..’car keys’…’3 o’clock staff meeting’. See them as objects and notice how you are not your thoughts. The worse thing that you can do is fight with your thoughts. Notice them without judgment and gently return to the breath. Practice this with patience and diligence, it will get easier.
This is a simple technique for meditation. light a candle , stare into the flame , imagine yourself being consumed by the flame . Relax and concentrate on nothing but the flame . In the flame you will find your koan .
Welcome to your mind. Seriously!
Nearly everyone who sits down to meditate experiences “monkey mind.” It doesn’t matter whether we just began meditation practice or whether we’ve been sitting consistently for 20 years.
We all experience this because the mind’s function is to chatter and bubble along.
The problem is that we approach meditation with an expectation that it will somehow make our mind quiet. And sometimes it does — for a period. But the mind inevitably reverts back to its natural monkey state.
So the real “solution” to your “problem” is to become fully acquainted with your mind.
As you practice, you will see how much of your thinking is habitual (I can’t tell you how many mountain cabins I’ve built while on meditation retreat!). And as you recognize your habits, the energy that sustains them will simply drain away.
Thoughts will continue to appear, but you will no longer get “hooked” by them. When this happens, you will experience the peace that we all so desperately seek — and which is always right at hand.
I truly wish I could give you a shortcut to this — some clever technique or wise book. But for the past 1,500 years, Zen masters have simply asked us to sit down, be quiet, and pay attention. These masters have known from their own experience that this is the shortest, quickest way. I’m sorry I can’t offer you more…
Welcome to the club! As P’ang rightly suggests, there is no such thing as “not-monkey-mind”. After nearly 30 years of meditation, my monkey mind is still… same old monkey mind! Okay, so we’ve made friends, but he’s still bouncing off the walls like always. I just don’t bounce with him, that’s all.
The attempt to still the mind can become just more monkey mind, as one gets into a loop of self-criticism and tension: “oh why won’t you stop all that chatter! I want to focus!” That there’s more monkey mind!
We think that the whole purpose to sitting is to still the mind, but again, as P’ang rightly says, it’s really to learn about and to study the mind and its relation to that which is not-mind. The stillness comes eventually with the understanding.
Here are a couple of suggestions:
Allow yourself to sit in meditation for a few weeks just letting your mind go. Just let it do whatever it wants. Don’t judge it, just let it rip. (I know this sounds like heresy, because after all, you’re supposed to be meditating when you’re meditating, right? So don’t tell you’re teacher you’re doing this… 😉 ) Anyways, just let it churn along, without judgment or criticism or saying “oh you’re so noisy – why won’t you let me meditate?” After a week or so of doing this, you’ll certainly start to see repeating patterns and you can start labeling these like Shawn B suggests. There’s that car thought again, there’s that self-critical thought again. It’s all just repeating patterns and starts appearing quite mechanical – which it is! At this point, a subtle and felt contradiction should present itself between the mechanical nature of your monkey mind and what could be called “the next level up” of consciousness – your awareness – which feels much less mechanical. It’s that awareness which you want to gently allow to grow, to dwell with – not requiring it or commanding it, but just being neighborly with it. That gentle neighborliness will gradually blossom into the stillness you have heard about.
Anyways, here’s some other specific suggestions. We are very much what we eat, and diet can have an enormous effect on the mind. That’s a no-brainer, of course – drink coffee and it sets the mind off like a cannon, right? But more subtly, things like onions, garlic, hot peppers, meat and eggs can have the same effect. You might want to try experimenting with your diet a bit and see if removing certain foods helps.
The best way to do this is rather drastic: for at least one month, commit to eating a whole foods vegetarian diet with no alcohol or caffeine or any of the above mentioned items. Then after the month is over, go off the diet and watch what happens. See if you notice any differences in the volume of monkey-mindedness and in your moods in general. Like I say, it’s kind of a drastic program, but if you’re in a situation where you can comfortably do the experiment you’ll likely find the results interesting…
Other things to keep out of the body: nicotine or any other drugs. I don’t mean this in a critical way or anything – these are personal choices – but they are choices which affect the mind. Simple cause and effect.
Final suggestion: make sure you are not sleepy when you try to meditate and try to get a good night’s sleep in general. The monkey mind REALLY takes off when you’re struggling to stay awake…