Is Your Mind Like a Drunken Monkey? How Meditation Can Calm Your Mind
Photo: Courtesy of Ed and Deb Shapiro
When you're busy juggling your schedule—and everybody else's too—it's difficult to focus on the here and now. Ed and Deb Shapiro have ideas to help you live in the moment through meditation.Have you ever felt as if your mind was driving you crazy? Does the chatter in your head go on endlessly? Meditation appears to be a simple answer to this: Just calm the mind and pay attention to the present. But why isn't it that easy? "My thoughts are driving me mad! My mind will not be quiet! I can't relax!" Sound familiar?
The mind is notoriously resistant to being quiet, so as soon as you sit still, it seems to do everything it can to distract you. Habitual thinking kicks in, and within a few minutes, an internal dialog takes over, the body starts to fidget and trivial things that need to be done suddenly appear vitally important. The mind has often been compared to a "drunken monkey bitten by a scorpion." Just as a monkey leaps from tree to tree, so the mind leaps from one drama to another, constantly distracted.
When you start to meditate, you'll find all of this chaotic activity going on. It seems so noisy that you believe you cannot possibly be still. Actually, it is simply because you are now becoming aware of the noise, whereas before you were so immersed in it, you were unaware that such chatter was so constant.
In our book Be the Change, professor Robert Thurman writes: "The first step is to try to focus our mind on something, like counting the breath. When we do, we see all these runaway thoughts that race through the mind, like I wonder when my car will be ready, is my parking meter overdue, will I get a ticket, is my girlfriend happy? Our minds are filled with these preoccupations, and we do not even realize it. But we can just let them go and bring the mind back to something we do want to focus on. This is a beginning, calming, waking-up step. But more important is to choose positive thoughts to focus on, such as I want to be more loving to that person who annoys me, I want to be more content, I want to be more friendly, peaceful, happy, and I no longer need to suffer."
Having a busy mind is very normal. Someone once estimated that in any one 30-minute session of meditation, you may have upward of 300 thoughts. After years of distraction, the mind is not always so ready to be quiet. You cannot suddenly turn your thinking off; that would be like trying to catch the wind. But having a busy mind does not mean you cannot meditate, it just means you are like everyone else. What you can do is make friends with your mind, thereby changing it from being an enemy to your ally.
Quiet your mind with this breath awareness meditation