Did you know that the average person has between 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day? That’s at least 35 thoughts per minute! Can you imagine if we each believed every thought we had? We would swing from one thought to the next every two seconds, and attempt to determine our states of being and potential action steps over 50,000 times a day. Sounds crazy, right? There’s a reason why Buddha called this “monkey mind”!
Buddhists believe that if we tame the “drunken monkeys” or racing thoughts in our mind, we will achieve more inner peace. The monkeys cause irritation, upset and feelings of confusion and mental clutter; it makes sense that taming them will have the opposite effect. Here are 3 simple ways to calm your overactive (monkey) mind:
1. Notice: What thoughts come up? What are the recurring themes? Simply take an inventory of the kinds of thoughts you are having. Notice your tendency to believe them, to judge them, or to have a certain feeling about them. Take a moment to sit quietly and observe what you are thinking.
2. Allow (Don’t Resist): You’ve heard the saying, “what you resist, persists.” Allowing your thoughts to gently glide through your mind like a slow moving, quiet train moves the thought along through your mind. There is no chance to get attached or attracted to any one thought and therefore distracted or mentally hijacked by it. Allowing your thoughts to pass through gives them space to come in and then out of your mind. They are coming in regardless– you might as well give them the space they need.
3. Be Non-Judgmental: Judging your thoughts is often where the problems begin. We judge ourselves for having certain thoughts. We believe them, even if some are just random thoughts and not the truth or factual. Did you ever try something new and weren’t very good at it on the first attempt? Your resulting thoughts might sound something like, “I stink,” “I am not good at anything,” or “I will never be good at this or anything else.” As you can hear, your judgments are not based in fact and are very likely to dampen your mood. Work on taking a non-judgmental stance with your thoughts to avoid this pattern.
Monkey mind and mental clutter are actually a habit, a repeated pattern of thinking, swinging and believing that we allow ourselves to do. Imagine if you started slowing this process down right now by following the steps above. One thought at a time, you can reduce your mental clutter and improve your mood. Ahhh, peace of mind.