Stilling the monkey mind

I sit to meditate every day, images of the perfect meditation in mind:The reality many days is more like this:

Seem familiar? So you’re human too! Yogis refer to the mind as a monkey mind, jumping from one thought to the next as if swinging from the trees. Some yogis say that most people only achieve 1/8th of a second of true meditation; when we transcend our so called reality and lose identification with our bodies, minds and are able to become the witness of our experiences with detachment. 1/8th of a second, that’s nothing! If you’re able to get any noticeable time you’re doing great. It’s important not to beat yourself up when you aren’t able to completely calm the mind. The more you berate yourself, the more stress you’ll feel and that’s counterproductive to what you are trying to accomplish.

There are some tools and tips that can be used to aid in meditating. Try them out and see if they help:

  • Have a regular time, place and practice: regularity will condition the mind to slow down
  • If possible, have a separate space to meditate, even if it’s a separate corner of a room that you only use for meditating. Your mind will become accustomed to slowing when you enter that space
  • Regulate your breath. Take a few inhalations and exhalations that are counted - say 3 seconds each- to bring a rhythm to your breathing. As you come deeper into your meditation you’ll find that the breath becomes slower and shallower and could actually stop for several seconds. This is normal, there’s no need to worry!
  • At first, allow the mind to wander and just be an observer of your thoughts. Eventually it will quiet down. You can imagine your thoughts floating by like clouds.
  • Don’t try to force the mind to be still. This will set into motion additional brain waves which hinders meditation. Keep observing the mind, and try to dissociate from it like you’re watching a movie.
  • Japa meditation- using a mantra. I wrote a post that goes into mantras in more detail
  • Japa Mala (meditation beads) - To use them, you mentally repeat your mantra as you touch each bead in sequence. Using a japa mala helps you to stay alert.
  • Counting- count your steps as you walk, count your breaths, count heartbeats- anything with rhythm. This keeps your mind on a specific task and keeps it from wandering. Eventually you would just let go of the counting and your mind would be still.

Remember that meditation is a lifelong practice. The more you do of it, the more moments of transcendence you’ll have. Regardless of how many of those moments you end up having, you’ll get physiological and mental benefits from practicing; as long as you aren’t using it as an opportunity to remind yourself that you aren’t perfect. If you have further tips please feel free to post them in the comments.