One of the most common questions I receive is about dealing with the thinking mind. When we sit down to meditate, the mind continues its normal thinking. Concentration may be difficult, as the mind continually wanders. Often referred to as “monkey mind,” this is an experience which many meditators have. Some people allow it to prevent them from meditating, believing they cannot meditate or are “bad meditators.”
Monkey mind is something we all deal with. The mind thinks; it is the mind’s function. What we can do is learn to respond differently. The mind does what it does, and we practice not buying into the thoughts. There are a couple different practices that can be useful in working with monkey mind. A concentration practice can help us build the ability to focus on a single object and not become enveloped in the thinking mind. By resting our attention on the breath, we cultivate the quality of concentration, allowing the thoughts to go and continually returning to the breath. The practice of concentration allows us to focus without becoming distracted by the thoughts so easily.
We may also practice mindfulness with the thinking mind. Rather than focusing on the breath and ignoring the thoughts, we simply observe what the mind does. This is a practice in getting to know the “monkey mind,” in observing it with kindness rather than pushing it away. When we resist the thinking mind and tighten up around it, we aren’t making anything better. By looking at the mind and observing, we are cultivating compassion and wisdom rather than aversion and ill-will.
I also offer Beginner’s Tips on my podcast “Dharma Talk.” Listen to a friend and me talk about these tips in more depth at www.EasierSofter.com/DharmaTalk.