Lately, I’ve been struggling with staying focused.
I have that restless, scattered, can’t-shut-off-my-thoughts feeling that is keeping me from focusing for long periods of time.
Buddhists refer to this constant chatter of the mind as “monkey mind.”
It’s been said that the Buddha described the human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys, jumping around, screeching, chattering, carrying on endlessly…all clamoring for attention.
After a week of scattered thoughts, restless nights, and overall lack of progress, I decided it was time to tame the monkeys. They were seriously interfering with my work!
Start with mindfulness. What is my mind trying to tell me? What am I worried about? What are my current fears? Acknowledge what is going on. Become more aware.
Write it down. I grabbed a journal and let my monkey mind run free for about 10 minutes. For just those 10 minutes, I let my mind wonder about everything I was worried about. Getting it out of my mind was helpful. I could then move on to what I needed to get done.
Breathe. I noticed that my breathing was shallow, short and erratic. I would sometimes hold my breath and then “whew” blow it out. Now that I was aware that I was doing this, I could stop and do some deep breathing exercises to calm the monkeys down.
Do a breathwalk. I learned the technique of “breathwalking” during one of my stays at Miraval Resort and Spa. It gives me the benefits of meditation and exercise together. Basically, breathwalking is rhythmic, four count breathing timed to your steps. I take four breaths in while I walk four steps and then four breaths out with the next four steps. I added a four count positive affirmation to keep the monkey mind away – “I - love - my - life.”
Meditate. I have to admit; I’ve never been successful in creating a mediation practice. Yes, there are times that I try meditation – but usually I’ll choose a guided 21-day Mediation Experience from Deepak Chopra. Then I’ll stop trying. However, if you have a meditation practice or want to give it a try, it is the best way to train your mind to become still.
Fully engage your mind. Get fully involved in a book, a movie, writing (like this blog), or a game – any activity that can draw you in completely so that all of your attention is placed on what you are doing. Last night I downloaded the app Elevate and exercised my brain a little. There was no attention left to listen to the monkey mind.
Bottom line, don’t let your monkey run wild. You can tame your monkey mind. Your thoughts don’t rule you, you rule your thoughts.