I love monkeys. A lot.
I love them because they’re probably a distant relative, they’re incredibly curious, mischievous and over the monkey moon cute. We also have a lot in common – outside of our cuteness…we both love bananas and love to swing in trees. As a totem they symbolize “airy playfulness”and send us a reminder to laugh, be happy, be naughty and play! Another thing we share is what Buddhists call “the monkey mind” – a state of being unsettled, restless, indecisive, confused and out of control. Yikers!
We’ve all been there, focused on one or a dozen obsessive thoughts, going over and over and over it, sometimes even blurting out loud what’s happening in your head (cue monkey screech). Buddha described it as the human mind being filled with drunken monkeys, jumping around, screeching, chattering and carrying on endlessly. He also identified fear as being an especially loud ferocious monkey banging on a frying pan sounding the alarm to point out all the things that we should be scared of and everything that could possibly go wrong. Sometimes these monkeys get so out of control, they go on a bender for days and weeks and trigger a really yucky feeling of monkey madness or anxiety. Been there done that.
Now this Buddha dude was so smart and he also must have really liked monkeys because he knew it there was no point in fighting with the monkeys or even trying to tell them to split the scene – in fact he said we had to make friends with them, give them some space and give them something else to do in order for them to calm the fuck down. (My words, not Buddha’s). His trick was to simply spend some time each day being still in quiet meditation and tell those rambunctious monkeys to focus on your breathing (instead of obsessing about bananas) and over time the monkeys would become more tame. Awe monkey Zen. Easy peasy right!? NOT! Trust me… take this from a Type A energizer bunny that would schedule her first meditation class as TIME TO FUCKING RELAX and proceeded to twitch her way in a Tourette-like fit over the 20 minutes of tortuous OM. Learning to be still, to breathe and train my monkey mind was probably one of the most difficult lessons I embarked upon…but I stuck with it because taking a breath beats the bullets of anxiety.
Now I am a breathing machine! I make it part of my every day, I take it with me wherever I go…on the way to the bus stop, in a crowed store or during a stressful day at work. Anytime, anywhere I can take just a few minutes with my monkeys and breathe. I still love my monkeys…they keep me playful and engaged… but sometimes you just need to get them off your back. Take a breath … just in and out – it will change your health, calm your mind and ease your spirit.