Ha – bet you’re wondering about that title.
Well, the experience goes back about a year, but I was reminded of it recently during a conversation with someone – we were talking about what to do with annoying mind-chatter during mindfulness practices like meditation or yoga.
I love Hatha Yoga – have been practicing for many, many years and find it grounding, calming and energizing.
One morning last Spring, I was standing on my mat considering my intention for the day – and up popped a negative thought, and then another, and then another. These thoughts were all about one issue (something I was worrying about). I did my best to brush them away; mentally swatting at them. Now that I say that, it sounds pretty funny, but at the time, it was very frustrating and aggravating. I thought, ‘Grrrrrrr – go away, go away. I can’t be present and focus on my yoga because I’m flailing around at these thoughts. My attention is being pulled away and now I’m mad at myself for letting this happen.’
The mental image that came to me was a little monkey – one of those little capuchin monkeys with long tails and inquisitive faces (they also make incessant little chirps). That’s what those thoughts were to me. My head was filled with that with no room for anything else.
The more I mentally tried to brush the monkey away – shoo it, chase it, yell at it….. the more it poked at me, becoming even more frantic. It was on the left, then the right, then under me, above me – I was getting poked at from every angle.
After a few more minutes of these mental gymnastics, I’d had enough. Exasperated, I finally gave up and stopped flailing and said, “OK – Enough – What is it? What do you need?”
Immediately, it felt like he’d stopped poking me. He calmed down and then asked for a banana. I remember laughing out loud and then imagined giving him what he asked for. What a relief. He took it and hopped up into a tree and sat there the rest of the time, while I enjoyed my entire yoga flow in peace.
OK – so what does that mean? It may sound kooky, but the instant I stopped denying the thoughts and fighting them – when I surrendered and really paid attention and acknowledged those feelings, there was a sense of relief and I could let them go. The monkey got what it needed and was free. I got what I needed – peace – and was then able to be present and focus on what I really wanted to do.
Our mind-chatter can sometimes feel like that little monkey – jittering, chattering, relentless, poking – pulling our focus away, wearing us down. Instead of denying it and pushing it away, consider noticing it and then letting it go.
No matter where you are or what you’re doing – if you find that the mind-chatter is taking you away from what you really want to do or would rather think about, consider giving yourself a moment to stop and ask yourself – ‘Ok, what is it? What do I need right now to feel better?’ Sometimes we don’t know until we ask. This can take practice, but consider the benefits. And, heck, if you really want to go back to those old thoughts, you can do that later. You might even find that giving yourself a chance to let them go for a few moments gives you a fresh perspective.