Monkey Mind

Monkey Mind isn’t the latest, mosquito-borne, tropical virus, but it’s certainly an epidemic in our society right now. Constant busy-ness, overscheduling, that feeling that we can never relax, calm down, tune out, or shut our minds off, even to sleep — that’s what Buddhism calls Monkey Mind. It’s a fitting description, because when we suffer from Money Mind, it feels like our brains have been invaded by packs of wild primates.

There’s good news, though. Monkey Mind is totally curable. We don’t need dramatic lifestyle changes, toxic medications, or high-priced, dubious fixes to stop living a scene straight out of Jumanji. With a few simple tools, and easy behavioral switches, every single one of us has the power to literally rewire our brains and stop “feeding the monkeys.”

We’ve all seen the images of exotic destinations throughout the world where monkeys roam free to accost unsuspecting tourists, looking for food. There are signs everywhere warning people not to feed the monkeys, and why not? When we feed the monkeys, more and more of them keep coming. They don’t leave us alone. This is exactly what happens in our minds. When we learn to stop feeding our monkey minds, our racing thoughts will calm, our bodies will find stillness, and our spirits can reconnect with our inner source of peace, presence and gratitude.

One of the many ways we can do this is through meditation. Meditation doesn’t require a large investment of time or money. It’s not about religion, and it doesn’t have to incorporate spirituality. The beauty of a meditation practice is that it can be customized to every individual’s needs. You don’t have to be a robed guru chanting alone on a mountaintop. In fact, most of the world’s most successful people, from CEOs, to celebrities, to athletes, credit their achievements to a consistent meditation practice.

Meditation literally changes the structure of our brains so that we become happier and more focused. This helps us make better choices. When we gain that mental clarity to make the right decisions, abundance and bliss will follow in all areas of our lives.

Your monkey mind may be speaking up right now. It might be telling you that you can’t do this, that meditation is weird, difficult, or not for you. The monkeys may try to convince you that you don’t have enough time. Don’t listen.

In only sixteen seconds from now you can feel much more centered by trying this quick breathing exercise. I call it “Sweet Sixteen,” and it’s great because you can use it in your everyday life whenever you feel stressed or anxious. Here’s all you do:

  1. With your mouth closed, inhale slowly through your nose for a count of 4-3-2-1.
  2. Hold the breath for a count of 4-3-2-1.
  3. With your mouth closed, exhale slowly through the nose for a count of 4,3,2,1.
  4. Hold the breath again for a count of 4,3,2,1.

Repeat this sixteen-second breath as many times as you want or need, until you feel your mind and body start to settle down. When you’ve finished, you may want to take a moment to reflect, and ask yourself: Was I able to dwell on anything in the past, or worry about something in the future? The answer will almost surely be no.