A few days ago I was trying to do a short mediation before practicing Tai Chi for the day. My mind would not focus. It wasn’t all over the place. It just kept on wandering back to things I had done earlier in the day. While I certainly could have practiced the form like that, I would not have benefited as much as I would have were my mind more focused. I was reminded of the term monkey mind. My mind was like a monkey that kept on picking up objects as he walked to his destination, annoying but not too harmful.
Monkey mind isn’t always so benign. I am reminded of the chimpanzee in the news a few weeks ago who tore off a woman’s face. Obsessing about bad things can cause depression, anxiety, heart disease, and even cancer. Thoughts of jealousy can lead to domestic violence, as we too often see in the news. Run away fear by consumers is leading to worsening economic problems in the United States.
The solution for monkey mind begins with awareness. Is the way we are thinking contributing to our health and happiness? If not, we need to ask ourselves what we want to be thinking?” So often I have no intention as I go about my day. In the case of my daily Tai Chi practice, my intention has slowly changed over the years and even from day to day. At first I just wanted to practice what we learned in class. Lately, I want to focus in on one particular principle, such as having my body in alignment. Some days what I want is to use the practice to get grounded after having an upsetting experience. In another example, today when I walked to the mailbox I wanted to be thinking about my love for the people to whom I was sending St. Patrick’s Day as well as about using the walk to keep my body healthy. I found that my posture improved by focusing my mind, and I am sure I looked a lot more friendly.
We can use the visual reminder of monkey mind to change our behavior and to be a little bit happier from day to day.