Overcoming the Monkey Mind in Meditation

July 1, 2016

Many people ask me ”How can I quiet the chatter in my mind when I meditate?” Quieting the mind is not an easy thing to do for most people. The continual battle for the quiet mind is frustrating, and attempts to reign in the mind often induces more anxiety and mental chatter. In the end this battle for control during meditation often ends any future attempts to continue to meditate.

My recommendation for overcoming the monkey-mind is to give your mind something to do. This response may seem counter intuitive, yet the human mind is habituated to endless thoughts infused with emotion. By giving your mind a simple task you begin training it to return to a single point of focus when it begins to wander, or when the emotions begin to boil up. I have two favorite mental training tools.

1. Learn to focus your attention on your body and your breathing.
When you begin your meditation focus your attention on your breathing. Follow your breath as it moves in and out of your body. At the same time focus your attention on your heart or third eye region (between your brows) of your body. Again, simply focus on your body and breath.

2. Memorize a single mantra (a prayer, or phrase of invocation, or a positive affirmation). This will be your comfort go-to mantra.
Examples of mantra:
“Om mani padme hum”. A Tibetan Buddhist mantra to invoke powerful benevolent attention and blessing through the embodiment of compassion.
“Give me compassion and humility in my heart. Let me be kind, gentle, generous, loving, giving and forgiving where I ever may go.” A Christian prayer of compassion.

Now when you meditate and find your mind begins to chatter, don’t reprimand yourself. Your mind is simply doing what it always does, you are simply more aware of it in this moment. Calmly take note where your thoughts and emotions are going. These may provide you with important insight regarding aspects of yourself and your life that you may need to address at a later time. After acknowledging your insight, release it. Then re-focus on your breathing, following your breath as it moves in and out of your body. If your mind and emotions remain chaotic begin reciting your mantra repeatedly. Focus your attention on what you are saying until the mind is completely focused on the words and your emotions are calm once again. Then resume your meditation or go back to simply breathing and focusing on a point in your body.

Some days your entire meditation may simply be focused on feeling your breath and reciting your mantra. That is perfectly alright - we all have days like that. The blessing on these days is that mantras have a beneficial power all their own, as does breathe. In addition, in time you will find you have longer and longer periods of mental and emotional peace. This strategy is also a great quick stress reduction technique during your day.

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