I recently became aware of the term “monkey mind” and I really love it. I know, I’m late to that party. I’m sure the definition varies from person to person but it’s a simple way to describe some important things we know about how the brain works.
In the Healthy Dimensions book we talk about the “primal mind.”
It’s a very old part of your brain that reacts quickly and is always looking for danger, or seeing things from a negative perspective. In the past it worked to keep us safe. We see this influence often when we evaluate ourselves critically and decide whether or not we’re good enough at any particular moment.
It’s human nature to be this way; it’s not just you. We all do it, all the time. Humans are programmed to look for the worst from way back. Monkey mind fits here, I think.
Another aspect of the brain that could fall under this heading is what we refer to as “the nag.” It’s that voice in your head that never shuts up.
It reminds you of tasks to finish or to straighten out an issue with someone. It tells you tragic stories about your past. It criticizes people and has imaginary arguments with them. All while you’re driving, or cleaning, or taking a shower. On and on and on.
I think monkey mind applies here as well. I see monkeys jumping all over the trees in a frenzy, chattering constantly.
Achieving peace of mind is an important tool for staying committed to your personal nutrition and lifestyle plan. It reduces stress and all the cortisol that comes along with it. Cortisol makes us more likely to store fat, and other nasty things.
To me, a big part of finding this peaceful place is getting rid of the nag, quieting the monkey mind.
The easiest way to do this is just focus on the task at hand, whatever it is, put your attention on the present moment. As Ram Das says, be here now. That’s why we practice focus, especially in the Alpha brainwave state. We can literally grow those areas in the brain and make it easier! We just direct our focus, even if it’s just washing dishes, because when we do, the nag is silenced.
It doesn’t have to be a big deal, simply practice focus as you’re going to sleep. You naturally enter the Alpha state just before you fall asleep every single night. Choose a word, or count or even watching the lights flash behind your eyelids. Just keep coming back when your mind wanders. You’ll grow your abilities and they’ll be sharp when you really need them to silence the nag.
In normal waking life, sometimes it’s nice to have a little mantra to say when you notice those pesky brain-generated thoughts that you want to deflect and ignore. Why not say “That’s just monkey mind.” It covers pretty much all of the garbage we’re trying to discard in this journey to multi-dimensional health.
The next edition of the Healthy Dimensions book will probably include the term monkey mind somewhere. It works for me.