You have 18,000 things running through your head, you’re stressed about work and family and friends and weddings and babies and budgets and car maintenance and bills and – shoot! You have to go to that really important thing that’s been on your mind for the past four days even though it’s happening tonight and you’re going to be late because you need to clean the dishes first and why isn’t anyone helping, crap the dog needs to go out, and forget working out tonight because it’s too cold and dark and you should probably just get dinner prepped for tomorrow anyways…
Yeah, you need to meditate.
Slow the monkey mind
In Buddhism, the term “monkey mind” is used to describe an unmanaged mind. Much like the first paragraph of this article, unmanaged minds are filled with rampant, ceaseless thoughts that ultimately influence our stress levels and overall sense of well-being.
You can think of the mind like a monkey jumping from tree to tree, or you can think of the mind like a habitat for a thousand monkeys making that “ooo-ooo-ah-ah!” sound constantly as they swing and jump all over the place, potentially throwing feces at each other and flapping their lips around to show their teeth.
Scattered, rampant thoughts lead to chaos in our minds. And chaos in our minds leads to stress, fatigue, confusion, and physical discomfort.
Calm the waters
Not diggin’ on the monkeys? How about an ocean analogy:
Meditation can help calm the rough seas in our minds.
Our thoughts can be turbulent with strong conflicting currents. Crashing waves, foaming rips, with ominous clouds overhead and impending storms.
But there’s always a way to break the sky blanket and let the sunlight beam through. And there’s always a way to still the water.
You know how you need to take rest days between workouts to give your muscles a break? Well, meditation flatlines our thoughts so that our minds can take a break from all the chaos.
Our minds can feel so tight, compact, and immovable. Like a boulder firmly planted in our skulls.
Meditation granulates the boulder and creates space between the grains.
The space frees our captive stress and allows positive energy to pass through. And it provides a pathway for oxygen, which our brains needs so badly to function.
But do not mistake space as something that needs to be filled.
No, more often than not, space needs to remain as space – an unfilled area in our minds that separates thoughts and provides a cushion for bumpy mental rollercoaster rides.
Meditate when it’s inconvenient
Though it is very useful to carve out time in our busy schedules to meditate (much like we do with workouts), it is also crucial that we take pause to meditate in the heat of the moment.
Meditation is extremely helpful during the high stress, high intensity moments in our lives. It’s probably the last thing we think of at the time, but the most necessary.
The heat of the moment – the middle of the chaos, the darkest part of the storm, right before the monkey throws what appears to be another monkey’s…eww… – is the perfect time to stop, drop, and silence the mind.
Taking just a few minutes of deliberate thought clearing helps us regain our composure, reorient our thinking, and approach any situation with a calm acceptance.
Yes, meditation is an action. It is something we do.
Next time you’re feeling the stress pile up, take five minutes – yep, just five – to practice your meditation skills. Or you can just practice right now. I’m sure you’re feeling at least a small percentage of stress anyways.
For some helpful tips, check out Practical Meditation Part 2: How To Meditate.