Our minds move a mile a minute and jump from one thought to the next without reason. Some teachers and religious practices refer to this constant movement of the mind as the Monkey Mind.
It’s responsible for that laundry list of things to do that creeps in while you’re trying to fall asleep. It’s responsible for the anxiety or worry about the future that creeps in while you’re having a nice hot shower. It’s responsible for the judgment that creeps in while you’re on the yoga mat waiting for the next cue from your teacher that’s ‘moving too slowly.’
How Meditation Can Help
Meditation is a wonderful way to tame this monkey mind, or overactive mind. But it can be intimidating because of many misconceptions—you have to sit a certain way, wear a certain thing, think of nothing or block all emotion from your mind.
None of this is true. You can meditate anywhere, at anytime, for any length of time.
Your mind does NOT need to be free from thought. On the contrary, your monkey mind is completely natural. Often in the very first moments of meditation, your thoughts run rampant. Emotions wash over you. Anxieties creep in. This is actually a good thing because this means your mind is clear and calm.
You can now recognize these thoughts, emotions, anxieties. Once your are conscious of your deepest thoughts and feelings, you can work with them, become one with them.
An old teacher of mine use to say, through meditation you can ‘make friends with the monkey mind.’ I love this idea. So don’t judge yourself for your monkey mind. Embrace it, make friends with it. Here are my 3 best meditation practices to tame that monkey mind.
1. Awareness Meditation
Give your monkey mind something to do. Have it focus on the breath. Simply be aware of breathing in, then breathing out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.
All of a sudden, monkey mind will come back. That’s ok. Don’t block emotions or thoughts from coming. Let them pop in and they’ll pop back out as soon as you bring your awareness back to the breath. You can do this for as short as a minute, or as long as you’d like.
2. Yoga Nidra
Another great way to tame an overactive mind is through yoga nidra or deep, effortless, body relaxation. It’s also referred to as yogic sleep.
It takes you to a state of consciousness between sleep and awake. While it’s often found at the end of asana, yoga nidra can also be practiced on its own. It’s a fantastic way to calm the mind and clear your head. It’s a beautiful journey of sensory awareness around your physical body.
3. Nadi Shodana
Nadi Shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing, is another great way to calm the overactive mind. While it technically is a pranayama technique, I’m including it in this list anyway. Please forgive the blurring of lines as it’s such a great way to calm the mind—anywhere and at any time.
It can serve as a quick pick me up in the middle of a stressful day at work, or as a morning ritual to get the day going, or even as a way to calm down in the middle of a busy airport this holiday season.
Take your right hand into Vishnu mudra by placing the tips of the index and middle fingers down into the palm of the hand, at the base of the thumb. Throughout this breathing technique, you will use the right thumb to close the right nostril, and the right ring and pinky fingers to close the left nostril as you alternate rounds of inhalations and exhalations.
We we could go on and on about each of these techniques as there is so much to say about each one, but wanted to provide you with a short list that can make their way into your life when you need to tame that monkey mind. Let us know which one you like best!