How to tame a monkey mind

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I was (and probably still am) one of those people with a very active mind.  Constantly on overdrive, loading up with random thoughts, internal dialogues with myself, feelings and emotions, stress, and worries all jumbled into one chaotic mess, cramped inside my poor head. I used to feel so overwhelmed that I would picture my brain burst like an over-inflated balloon!  So I guess it would be an understatement to say that I could benefit from a bit of meditation. But I had no idea that meditation could be soooooo frustrating!!

I’m guessing that for most people, the word, meditation, often conjures up feelings of tranquility, calm, and relaxation. Those were also my initial expectations but my first experience with meditation was none of those things. Instead, I felt impatient, anxious, and frustrated.  A few minutes felt like an eternity. I became anxious as my never-ending list of thoughts raced through my mind. I progressively grew more restless as I tried to justify why I was wasting my time lying there when I still had so many things I needed to get done before day’s end. Then my anxiety turned into frustration at myself for failing at quietening my busy brain.  I came out of my meditation so tensed that I wondered why I’d bothered in the first place! So how do you tame a monkey mind?

Here are some great advice from my wonderful teacher trainer, Tracey Eccleston, that really helped me to finally find some peace and comfort in my meditation practice.

Any meditation you do is a good meditation! 

Let go of any preconceptions of how meditation should be. Stop worrying about whether you are meditating ‘properly’. Instead, focus on how great it is that you are just doing it! So what if your mind is not in a serene state?  Who cares if you still have thoughts running around your head? Don’t beat yourself up about it. Just be aware of them and observe them as they manifest. Try not to get too caught up in your thoughts, just let them be. Maybe you can slowly pull your attention away and focus on your breath instead. Meditation is not always easy, especially for a newbie. Over time, you can train your mind to become more focused and meditation will gradually become easier and more enjoyable.

Set yourself sensible goals

If you are trying it out for the first time (or even the second, third, or fourth…) don’t expect to be able to meditate for hours on end! For some, even setting a goal of meditating a few minutes each day may prove to be a challenge. Wherever you are at, set intentions that are realistic. This will maximize your chances of making this a regular exercise, rather than a two week experiment. As with anything, consistency and practice is key. Once your body and mind start reaping the benefits of meditation, there’ll be no stopping you!

Find a meditation that works for you

There are so many different types of meditation, you don’t have to stick to a particular one, especially if it is not working for you. If you find it extremely difficult to sit still for even a few minutes, why not try a walking meditation or a colouring meditation? If you like to relax sitting or lying down but just can’t seem to still your mind, maybe a mindfulness meditation where you could focus your attention to your breath, or a guided meditation is for you. Don’t limit yourself. Even if there is a particular type of meditation that you love, it’s nice to change things up once in a while.

Personally, I think I’ve made a lot of progress in my practice since my first meditation attempt but I still have some way to go. Having said that, in trying to further my meditation practice, I have discovered that the means to a better practice also helped me find a more positive and fulfilling way of living life in general. I have become more patient and kind with myself. I understand that I am just beginning my journey in meditation and I need to take things one step at a time. This mentality has transferred to other aspects of my life outside of my meditation practice. I have also learnt not to dwell on my thoughts, especially negative thoughts during meditation. Instead, allowing my mind to roam free without trying overly hard (and thereby causing myself frustration) to control my mind. I simply try to observe without attaching to any one thought. Smiling is also a great tool. It is amazing how the simple act of smiling could diminish any negative thoughts that pop up in your mind, whether during or outside of meditation. Lastly, I know that I’ll get better at this with time, and there is no rush to get to a certain place right now. This mindset also helped to keep me more present in my everyday life.

The busier you are and the less time you think you have to meditate, the more likely you are in need of it. Instead of stressing out, take some time, even a few minutes, to step away from what you’re doing and calm your mind. Allow it to regroup and focus. You’ll most likely work more efficiently and effectively if you take this time for yourself.

Whatever your goals are for meditation, don’t overthink it. Just let it happen. You’ll be surprised where it takes you.  =)

What are some of your experiences with meditation? I would love to hear from you!

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