Basics of the Monkey Mind, Fear, and Anxiety

According to Buddhist principles, the “monkey mind” is a term that refers to being unsettled, restless, or confused.

The first step…is to become grounded and calm the mind—that is, remember to be in the here and now. Being present in this way is called mindfulness.  Being mindful encompasses awareness, and interconnectedness between your inner and outer worlds.

When considering how to quiet your mind, try to sit still for a minute and think about what calms you. Contemplate how you can incorporate these activities into your daily life. Even just a few minutes of a walking meditation or mindful breathing can bring you into the present moment.

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Zen Buddhists refer to the constant chatter of the mind as the monkey mind.

The Buddha held that the human mind is filled with drunken monkeys flinging themselves from tree branches, jumping around, and chattering nonstop. He meant that our minds are in constant motion. Typical mind chatter sounds like the following:

  • Your mind reading off a laundry list of to-do items.
  • Your mind listing its fears, both real and imaginary.
  • Your mind recalling hurtful things that have happened in the past.
  • Your mind judging the present.
  • Your mind creating catastrophic “what-if” scenarios of the future.

1. Know that Your Monkey Mind Can Be Tamed.

2. Talk to Your Monkey Mind.

3. Establish a Journaling Practice.

4. Meditate.

5. Practice the A-B-C Technique.

Here’s how it works:

  • A is for “activating event”. That is, something happens.
  • B is for “beliefs”. Your monkey mind starts interpreting what’s happening based on your beliefs.
  • C is for “consequences”. As a consequence of the thoughts that you’re having about what just happened, you feel certain emotions.

6. Stop Assigning Meaning.

7. Recite a Mantra.

8. Play a Game of Fives.

One way to bring your mind back to the present is by playing the Game of Fives. Pause your train of thought and notice five things in your environment. It can be five things you see, hear, or smell. Then, fully experience the sight, sound, or smell. You can do this by pretending that it’s the first time you’ve ever experienced that sight, sound, or smell, and by adopting a sense of awe.

9. Engage Your Mind.

10. Try Breathing Exercises.

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Taming Your Monkey

The problem is, you cannot fight the Monkey or castigate it into submission. But you can, understand it, tame it and live in harmony with your furry companion.

The Buddhist perspective recommends quiet meditation. Through understanding of the Monkey Mind, the monkey feels like he is being listened to, and understood.

If his fears (your fears) are slowly reasoned with, when your mind is calm through meditative techniques, it turns out that the terrible consequences of not being enough are actually not that terrible.

The future is always uncertain; none of us know what is coming tomorrow. We all have plans, dreams and goals we are working towards.

Approaching the new day with anxiousness inhibits our ability to be in the moment and truly love the journey that we are undertaking.

Other techniques that can be used to harmonise with your monkey include moving meditations such as Qigong, Yoga and Tai Chi.

After all, sitting quietly and not thinking is hard for us to do at first.

With the focus relocated to the body from the mind, these internal arts allow us to use our physical forms to cultivate the intrinsic stillness of the soul.

The endorphin rush of physical exercise such as running similarly quietens the Monkey Mind.

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