• Kris

Monkey Mind

I've been doing a lot of yin yoga lately. If you've never done yin yoga, it has a much smaller set of poses with long holds in each one. Some people confuse it for restorative, which also has long holds on just a few poses. The difference is that in restorative yoga, you use props, blankets, pillows, etc to help make your poses as comfortable and relaxing as possible. When doing Yin yoga, you use props only to help you achieve the desired sensation by bringing the ground to you, or lifting your hips, etc. Yin is NOT a passive yoga. The long holds require a lot of mental and physical endurance.


That being said: I have been doing a lot of Yin yoga lately. When doing the long holds, you are forced into a meditative place...at least that's what usually happens. Yesterday, not so much. Since I write my own flows, I can control them and change them as needed. Usually I hold each pose in Yin for 3 minutes before moving on to the next pose. Yesterday, I decided to try to go up to 5 minute holds...I couldn't calm my mind enough to even hold for 1 minute. I was distracted by everything! And I mean everything. If you've ever seen those cartoons where the person is trying to concentrate on something but somehow hears even the ants outside, then you know how I was. I could hear the wind from the fan, the breath of my cat asleep in the other room through the closed door. My Monkey Mind was screeching for attention.


What is the Monkey Mind you ask?


In Buddhist teachings, which I admit I am not fully versed even with extensive study, the monkey mind is the part of the mind that fills you with anxiety. It is the self doubt part of the mind. It is the part of the mind that fills your mind with the "what if" scenarios that don't help you at all but cause panic and worry. It is the part of the mind that jumps from one thought to the next like a monkey jumping from branch to branch. The monkey mind is closely tied to ego.



The best way to calm the monkey mind is to interact with your monkey mind through meditation. You don't try to ignore it, because just like a drunken friend, or a monkey, the more you try to ignore it, the louder it is going to get.


For me, personally, I can usually focus inward and allow the monkey mind to do it's thing and eventually it gets bored and I get focused. USUALLY


It hasn't always been this way. When I first started meditating, my monkey mind would screech so loudly that I would feel like I was being driven mad. Back when I first started meditating and was under the incorrect perception that the idea of meditation was to completely ignore all thoughts and "empty my mind". I have come a long way since then. I now understand that when you meditate you don't "stop thinking" you just allow the thoughts to wander through your mind without focusing on them. That makes a huge difference. The monkey mind feels seen and you end up processing thoughts you don't know you have and tap into a different area of your brain. Notice the shift in terminology. There is actual scientific data that meditation activates different regions of your BRAIN, not MIND.



Yesterday, though, no matter how hard I tried or how I didn't try, my monkey mind was not going to be quiet. It didn't want peace, it didn't want focus, it wanted to be let out. It was tired of being cooped up in my house, which to be clear is large enough to in fact not be "cooped up" in. It wanted to wander. It needed stimulation outside of the house. It needed to go somewhere and see something it hadn't seen every day for what feels like a lifetime. I took it out. My husband and I went to a local gathering area. We grabbed a drink and just sat there and chatted and watched other people that felt that desperate need to be anywhere but home be out. When I got home, from doing nothing in particular, I was EXHAUSTED. My monkey mind was satisfied and I needed sleep.



You might be wondering why I am telling you all of this. Well, honestly, I think that sometimes media and other practitioners portray mindfulness, yoga, and meditation as something that gets easier with time. As something that at some point you "master" and it becomes natural. To be clear, usually, it is easier with practice and time. Usually, it becomes second nature. However, as yesterday did for me, some days it just isn't there, and that is okay, too. Sometimes, our monkey mind, filled with needless worry and self doubt, actually knows what it is screeching about. Sometimes, it is trying to warn you about a real and present danger.


With that, I am going to end this blog and go back to my day.


Peace, love and light to everyone,

Kris


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