Eastern philosophy and teachings describe the endless chatter of the mind as the monkey mind – it just won’t get off your back. The non-stop commentary can become very tiresome as you start to become more aware of the fact you aren’t your mind – which is simply an aspect of your personality built from learned brain tracks. But how do you get that monkey mind off your back? It’s easier said than done.
This is why practices such as meditation are so important – you learn to watch those thoughts as they drift into your awareness and to let them pass by just as clouds in a summer sky pass by. Then you begin the process of applying your meditation techniques to your daily living.
It really is a matter of becoming aware of thoughts as they arise and catching them mid-stream. You learn to become ‘the observer’. I like the term ‘rat catcher’ which I wrote about here. The visualization of myself with a net in hand, catching thoughts and yelling “gotcha” seems to really help to separate those thoughts from the real me.
And who is the real me?
Well of course that is the $64 million dollar question. You find this out by letting go of that which isn’t you, those pesky non-stop thoughts (the monkey mind) that run your life for the most part. Until they don’t. In the process you come to understand that you are NOT the monkey mind, that you are something indefinable, an awesome aspect of Life Itself. And that since you aren’t the monkey mind, you can stop believing it. It’s a truly amazing feeling when it dawns on you that something you have thought to be true all your life, isn’t. There’s an unimaginable freedom.
How to let go of the monkey mind?
Here are a few suggestions that have worked well for me over the years.
Byron Katie of The Work provides a simple yet deeply effective technique for helping to separate out thinking that isn’t working for you, from who you really are. You learn to ask Is that true, is that really true? You discover how that thinking has been affecting your life in ways you hadn’t realized, and you learn who you are if you don’t think that thought. You can download her worksheet at http://thework.com/en
Michael Singer’s work I have also found to be excellent for identifying thoughts as they arise in the moment and learning to neither RE-act or suppress, but rather to just let them be there – and in doing so they dissolve back into the illusion from whence they came, since they are learned brain tracks in the first place. What is left as you practice this, is more and more of who you really are. But you have to practice the letting go to discover for yourself through experience.
Eckhart Tolle’s consistent and persistent reminders of living in the now are life-changing with regard to that monkey mind. When focus is in the now, living in and from Presence, the monkey mind doesn’t exist. Eckhart’s books – The Power of Now and A New Earth have impacted my life in profound ways and his ongoing work continues to do so.
Will it ever go away?
I have become very frustrated and overwhelmed at times by this mind stuff. It just seems like it has you by the tail and will never give up. And indeed, that’s what it wants you to think. It knows at some level that your becoming aware and letting go of the thinking that really isn’t who you are, means its demise. Sometimes it can feel as though that is what it is fighting for – its life. And it is.
Then you have those experiences where you know you are in the right place at the right time and all is well in your world. It may be a magnificent sunset, a walk in an amazing forest filled with birds and flowers. It may be the light in a loved ones eye, a brilliant idea you see manifest successfully in your business world. These are the experiences to remember – not the actual experience so much, rather the essence of them which is what tells you more about your true nature.
Immerse Yourself in Presence / Life Itself
I recall Eckhart Tolle saying something about the process of writing along the lines of – don’t sit and look at a blank page and say ‘what will I write? Rather sit in presence and as you do, you will be moved to write from that place instead of your mind. Sometimes I find it easy to tell the difference between writing from my mind and presence and other times when my mind has a stronger hold, it is more difficult and hence the importance of developing the ability to relax and let go of whatever is in front of me.
It can be so challenging when I am too caught up in my monkey mind and so wonderfully rewarding when I am able to let go of that mind, sit still in the essence of Life Itself, and allow the writing to be written through me, through an open mind, free of the excess baggage and confusion of the monkey mind.
How could you apply this to your life?
Maybe not to writing specifically, but you can apply this to absolutely anything you do throughout your day, from dealing with the morning rush to get kids off to school and yourself off to work, to your work itself, to sharing with colleagues, to a walk in the woods or a session at the gym.
Good questions are How does today want to be lived through me? Or How does this moment want to be lived through me?
Experiment with some of these situations and leave your comments below on how it has worked for you.