Monkey mind. That’s when your thoughts are bouncing around in your head like a pack of apes, careening off every curve and corner inside your skull. It’s when you can’t sit still or focus. Your emotions are usually muddled and painful. Your mind is building desperate future disaster fantasies, “what-iffing” itself to death. Your thoughts and emotions feel completely out of control.
But you have within you a way to “rein in” monkey mind using your observer self. This is the part of your mind that watches your own thoughts. The observer self is already part of you. Use these easy mindfulness skills to strengthen the observer and release the strangling grip of monkey mind:
- Observe:Without reacting emotionally, simply notice. Notice what you’re experiencing right now. Notice what comes through your senses. Let thoughts and feelings come in and slip then slip right out. This is called having a “Teflon mind”. Don’t cling to or push away any part of your experience. Control your attention but not the situation.
- Describe: Describe what’s happening. Put words on the experience. When a feeling or thought arises, acknowledge it. For example, say in your mind, “I’m feeling very anxious right now”, or “I’m upset.”
Label your thoughts in this same way. Say, “I notice I’m having a thought that says things are hopeless.” Label a thought as just a thought and do the same for feelings.
- Participate: Enter fully and completely into your experiences. Get lost in the moment. Become one with your experience, forgetting yourself completely. Let go of ruminating and act from intuition.
Do these skills until they become part of you. Practice until you do them without self-consciousness. Practice changing harmful situations and your harmful responses to them. Accept yourself and situations as they are.
All these mindfulness skills develop your observer self. Looking at yourself from the point of your inner observer decreases your emotional reactivity. This allows you to detach somewhat and experience less fear and anxiety. Anxiety is what drives out of control monkey mind in the first place.
These skills also help you control your thoughts by labelling them as thoughts. Knowing you’re having a thought means you’re less attached to it. You see it for what it really is: just a thought. You don’t have to react to every one that goes through your head.
That’s what monkey mind really is. It’s an over-reaction to our own thoughts and feelings. Fortunately, you can tame this beast with regular application of easy mindfulness skill like these.