We live in an unprecedented period of history, where speed and frenzy rule the day. Everything is moving fast, whether it is cars whizzing through traffic, images constantly appearing and disappearing on our black mirrors, or our thoughts, which are often uncontrollable and the source of the stress that drags us into utter frustration. We find ourselves constantly tired and exhausted, even if we have a chance to stop, we are still restless because the monkey mind does not stop, it continues with its cumbersome thoughts. It makes little difference whether the thoughts concern work, the emotional sphere, or one's social or private life. The constant is always the same - a mind that never stops, a thought that sprouts and shortly after becomes a crazy train ready to derail. Our mind is like a crazy monkey.
We constantly go from one thought to another worrying only about the past or the future without ever fully experiencing the present.
That is why we are constantly unhappy, sad, and unmotivated. We are letting the crazy monkey play with us.
So even a restoring moment such as the one before sleep becomes a time of wear and tear and great suffering.
“We are dying from overthinking. We are slowly killing ourselves by thinking about everything. Think. Think. Think. You can never trust the human mind anyway. It's a death trap”. - Anthony Hopkins
THE MENTAL CONFUSION THAT MAKES THE WESTERN WORLD UNHAPPY
Westerners ask different kinds of questions, but there is one that is repeated again and again, i.e. How can I be happy?
There was a time when Buddhist monks were shocked at this question. They wondered how it was possible that a healthy, wealthy person with a life full of opportunities could not be happy.
The monks - who were accustomed to living in close contact with the local poor and sick, yet positive and smiling people - wondered for a long time why the Westerners who, on paper, had everything one could long for were unhappy.
Eventually, they came to the conclusion that Western man's unhappiness lies in a kind of mental confusion due to excessive well-being (too many things, deadlines, activities, ultimately too many thoughts), an excess that fuels crises and existential doubts in a perpetual loop.
But what do Buddhist monks mean by mental confusion?
The continuous switching from one thought to another in a frantic, almost compulsive manner, without pausing and reflecting on any one of them in particular.
To explain this concept in the simplest way possible, Buddhist monks often resort to the monkey metaphor.
THE MONKEY METAPHOR
According to Buddhism, the human mind is like a monkey jumping from branch to branch, here and there and never staying still in one place.
Monkeys are the most emotional animals in nature and are able to experience the same feelings as humans - pain, joy, elation, sadness, fear, anxiety, and even nostalgia.
The monkey is not always in the same emotional state, sometimes it will be happy, and other times it will be unhappy.
The human mind functions in the same way, except that each individual can decide to intervene in his or her own "monkey" that is, his or her own mind.
This is the monkey metaphor; if we do not educate our mind, we will find ourselves with a mind gone mad, unable to focus on a single thought, but always on the move and without the ability to become aware of all aspects of our lives and fully experience them.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT YOUR CRAZY MONKEY? EDUCATE IT
We cannot subdue the monkey or stop it, but we can understand it, educate it, and live in harmony with it.
The Buddhist perspective recommends quiet and mindfulness meditation.
Living in a state of tranquillity allows us to focus on accepting only positive thoughts and letting go of things we cannot control.
Slowing down, if not even stopping, is considered a luxury nowadays, and yet, it is essential to face life more lightly, with more joy, and also to be able to make sense of our entire journey.
MEDITATION TO CALM AND EDUCATE THE RESTLESS MIND
Meditation is a great tool for calming and educating the restless mind, as it reduces its incessant bustle.
Focusing on breathing is much easier than we think and allows us to have a deeper awareness of stillness.
With practice and persistence, we can develop the ability to find tranquillity through meditation, regardless of what is going on around us.
Learning to meditate will enable us to calm our minds at work, on public transportation, in a stressful situation, or in any other circumstance.
However, many people think that meditation can only be done by sitting in one place with closed eyes while focusing on the breath, but there is nothing further from the truth.
Meditation can be practiced while walking; or while doing some work.
In a nutshell, the real meaning of meditation is that whatever you are doing you are so engrossed in that activity that your mind won’t jump from one thought to another as usual.
We don’t need anything else to calm and educate our minds, we just need to completely lose ourselves in whatever we are doing.
Bring attention to a single activity at a time; any will do.
We know with certainty that if our mind focuses on a single thing at a time then it is freed from the frenzy of thoughts.
Whether you are doing the dishes, listening to a friend, or eating - try to be mindful of what you are doing. One single thing at a time.
Be so engrossed in your activities that your activities become your meditation and in turn, there will be no room for your monkey mind to jump from branch to branch.
Meditation, which you can start practicing for 5 mins each day, helps not only to live in the present moment and not be distracted by an endless stream of thoughts; but also to develop a positive attitude towards life.
Training our minds in meditation not only calms our minds making us less stressed, anxious, or depressed, but also helps us see clearly firsthand our own monkey minds in action.
Although the crazy monkey mind lives inside us, if we are aware of its presence and are committed to educating it, it will cease to control us.
Through reading this post, you have already taken the first step toward educating your wild monkey and taking control of your life.
"Let your mind serve you versus rule you". - Robin Sharma
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