Even in the quiet of the night as I try to wind down to some much-needed restful sleep my Monkey Mind is tricky, it can be many things - pleasure-seeking, distracted, bored, obsessive, worried-stressed, angry, fearful, nervous, excited, or even inspired. It flits from one half or whole thought to another as if possessing a life of its own. It can run rampant and physically manifest itself in tensing muscles, stiffness, chemicals like adrenaline being released, uncomfortable postures, and negative emotions. Or sometimes my Monkey Mind is like a baby chimpanzee haphazardly looking for easy satisfaction by picking up one toy after the next and quickly discarding the one in hand in favour of the next, complaining that whatever satisfaction it finds is fleeting and shallow.
Much of the time we don’t even realise that the Monkey Mind is not really “us” its images play across the cinema screen of our minds and our emotions and bodies associate themselves accordingly. Some people read, some people pray, some escape by drinking, talking, watching TV, surfing the net, taking prescribed or other types of drugs, etc, etc. I’m a physical person and need more physically engrossing, simple, types of mindful activity so my drug of choice is Taiji.
Gradually I tame my Monkey Mind not through force or denial but by guiding my juvenile Chimpanzee’s attention with some more attractive propositions - just like offering him some ripe, delicious bananas. Starting in a standing stationary posture I gently lead his focus away to the warm feelings in the soles of my feet - how the contact with the ground feels. After a few times it begins to feel good. But my Monkey Mind is predictable, it stubbornly refuses to let go of his chatter so I persist in gently guiding his attention to focus on the feelings in my joints and muscles, or to the alignment of my upper and lower body....relaxing and aligning them feels good. His attention may last for a few brief seconds before he turns up the volume again on his chatter.
I know from experience not to give up and I have a few different techniques and strategies I rely on to tempt my Monkey according to his mood, but if he is very dominant, I move into Master Huang’s famous stationary loosening exercises. The deliberate, delicate, slow, releasing, turning, sinking, expanding and aligning movements from the various parts of my body soon begin to captivate my Monkey. Resistance is futile, with each moving repetition my Monkey Mind soon begins to forget what he was blabbing about, his shouting has lowered to a conversational volume and now his tone is more calm and conciliatory.
Without conscious awareness of time passing by, his chatter begins to disappear and soon is replaced by my own awareness - guided by my intention. Just like magic my body responds by releasing my hidden tension and my movements and postures feel more at ease and aligned. My body and limbs open, close, turn, move, and arrive in a synchronized fashion and I leverage the natural force of gravity. My awareness becomes more heightened and appreciative of the relaxed warmth that feels pleasurable, vital and healthy. My Monkey Mind is gone and so is the tension, stiffness or stressful thoughts, now I am assured of a peaceful journey into sound sleep. Why didn’t I stop procrastinating and do this earlier?