Monkey mind or mind monkey, from Chinese xinyuan and Sino-Japanese shin’en 心猿 [lit. “heart-/mind–monkey“], is a Buddhist term meaning “unsettled; restless; capricious; whimsical; fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable”.
The yoga practices of pranayama and asana and meditation are methods that we can use to train the mind to focus on the present. This is desirable because the monkey mind is in an agitated state. It dreads something that may occur in the future or fixates on something that happened in the past. It jumps around, resting briefly on one of the many thoughts that pop up before moving on to something else.
When you do an asana practice, you become entirely focused on what your body is doing. It can be all-consuming in such a way that you only realize later that several minutes have passed in which you haven’t engaged in thought. This break from the mind’s activity is one of the asana’s great revelations. Pranayama can work in a similar way. When all your attention is focused on your breath, there is no room for background chatter. This leads us to meditation, in which we learn to sustain this state of mental tranquility.
These practices are helpful because they (first) show us an alternative to the frenetic activity in the mind that we may not have been aware of before and (second) give us outlets through which to access this more peaceful state. In fact, this ability to quiet the mind might even be the whole purpose of yoga, according to the ancient Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The oft-quoted second sutra, yoga chitta vritti nirodha, is translated as “yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.”
Here is a quick list compiled by Forbes Magazine: you can read more by going to the post.
- CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- practice mindfulness
- color, count, recite, run
- talk to a person or write
- get outside yourself and help others
- defuse the rhetoric