I used to suffer from the dreaded Monkey Brain.
My mind would race constantly with thoughts, ideas, to-do’s, past grievances and future concerns. We aren’t born with it, but as we go through life, we all see and suffer from things that eventually, ultimately find their way back into our thoughts. And I think for me, being an entrepreneur and thinking multi-tasking was a good thing also helped clutter my brain with way too much noise.
I think too that as we get older, we relive things more. And you also reach periods in your life where maybe it’s not where you want to be and so you look for other things to blame or deflect. And yes, the world does become more complicated as we age. So what do we do with all of these concepts, we think about them, constantly.
I am someone who thinks alot. And I mean alot. I have no idea if this is common with other people, but for me, I can remember always being consumed with my thoughts. And it was ALWAYS a struggle to control those thoughts and quiet my mind.
Thoughts of past grievances or reliving times of suffering and hardships. Thoughts of people who I felt had been unkind to me. Thoughts of worrying about the future and therefore constantly dwelling on the uncertainties of life.
Over the past few years, as I have embarked on a quest to find meaning, spirituality, peace and tranquility in my life, I have come to fully embrace Buddhism, Mindfulness, Yoga and Meditation. There are incredible similarities and synergies in all of these practices that I rely on daily. Mostly, they teach me to be present in the here and now, to embrace all of life’s uncertainties, to see opportunities in my daily struggles and to lead a life of compassion and authenticity. And most of the time when in full “practice” mode I find myself completely at peace and in love with the miracle of life on a moment to moment basis.
It’s what I practice in yoga. It’s what I practice when I meditate. It’s what I practice when I chant. To let the thoughts come and go. And not be attached to any of them.
And yet, in my quiet moments alone, I find my mind wandering back and forth, the past and the future. I actually commit to my solitude time regularly as I am blessed to have a few special places I love where I go, unwind, disconnect and be at one with my thoughts. But you can also find time to be by yourself and in your thoughts. It’s very easy to do actually. In your car. On a walk. Just find a quiet place to just be still. For me, nature presents the best place to listen and observe to my thoughts.
And in those moments of solitude, I often find my mind wandering. For me, the biggest challenge I continually face is in these moments when I am alone and isolated. But I force myself to do this for it is often when my greatest teaching moments happen. And it’s when I can really put my practice to the test.
I believe that solitude is something everyone can benefit from. For me, I am not looking to get “away”, I am looking to get “inside”. Here is a great read on the benefits and power of solitude.
I love the Dalai Lama as a man of peace and a man of unbreakable conviction. While in my own Buddhist practice we don’t worship any one person more than any other, I still have great reverence and respect for the Dalai Lama as a humanitarian.
Many of his quotes offer great inspiration and wisdom for me. And in particular, this one is my favorite and has helped me a great deal tame my previously untamed mind…
For me, embracing these words helps to center me back to the moment I am in when my thoughts seem to wander back and forth from the past and to the future. And when I am in my solitude, I remember this quote. I settles me. It focuses me. It calms me. I have used it many, many times in those moments.
I see now that my entire practice of embracing zen is all about these challenges that I fully embrace on a daily basis. I accept the fact that my mind will wander, but that if I continue to flex my memory and teaching muscles, I will be able to control my mind when I sense my thoughts getting away from me.
And so like an athlete, I train. I put myself into the situations that I know will challenge me. And being alone in my thoughts is one of the most importing training exercises I embrace.
Sure it would be easy to accept that my daily meditation and chanting practices are all the investments I need to make in controlling my thoughts. But that would be telling myself a lie. It’s not enough. I need to continue to work harder and embrace the things that force me to grow and evolve. I need to put myself in those moments where I am not relying on my practice but I allow my “monkey brain” to revisit me. And the more often I do it, the less often my mind wanders.
I hope you, too, can learn to let go of the past, surrender to the uncertainties of the future and live in the present state. I wish you would commit to moments of isolation when you can really get to know your thoughts and not rely on your meditation practice or other tools.
When you do this and you learn to let go and embrace the current moment, you become overwhelmed with the joys and miracles happening all around you. Perhaps you, too, will use the wonderful quote by the Dalai Lama as a source of inspiration. It helps me every day.