With all the buzz on being mindful lately it’s easy to think we need to be mindful all the time. But let me tell you now from one human being to another, that is completely unrealistic.
You see, we aren’t on a spiritual journey over decades with a vow of silence. Most of us a normal Western world people juggling work, relationships, kids and trying to look after ourselves, we don’t even know how to slow down most days.
We meditate for 10 to 20-minutes per day using our favourite meditation app which tells us to continue being mindful throughout the day.
Walk mindfully, commute mindfully, shower mindfully, brush your teeth mindfully, work mindfully, load the dishwasher mindfully. Is there any limit to the number of things you “need” to do mindfully?
But the thing is, you don’t need to do all of these things mindfully. As you engage with others at work, you’re already being mindful. As you engage with your kids after school you’re already being mindful.
These other things are just common scenarios we get lost in thought due to mundane autonomous tasks, and we all know an idle mind is the devil’s playground.
And when the devil appears, in the form of negative intrusions about not being good enough, or you should be doing more, or this and that, it’s simply because of the nature of mind.
So that is why it can be beneficial to attempt to be mindful in these situations. But don’t stress over perfection, you simply can’t be mindful all the time. Just do the best you can.
Monkey mind chatters. You notice with your new found awareness and say “ah monkey mind is bored, I’ll give monkey mind a job to do”. Focus on whatever you’re doing, the environment around you, the interaction or even just focus on the breath.
But don’t stress or get frustrated with high expectations. That’s just another instance of an idle mind at work, take it too, as an opportunity to try and be more mindful.
How to Tame the Monkey Mind
Like everything, how active your monkey mind is, is based on a whole range of factors including genetic makeup and conditioning, but regardless of this, you can tame the monkey mind and practice being just a little bit more mindful.
The first step is taming the monkey mind is being aware of the monkey minds existence. Once we know this, we can lighten up and relax. It’s just what the human mind does, no big deal.
Talk to Your Monkey Mind
Ask your monkey mind why it is chattering away. Is there some real problem at hand or is it the case of unfounded worry at play. Generally, if it can’t be problem solved then it’s not worth worrying around.
While journaling isn’t for everyone, it can be a way to start the day (or end the day) with a fresh mind. For example, morning pages is a practice for getting all the crap in your head out onto paper with the theory being that once it’s out, it’s out.
If you’re having trouble focusing on the task at hand, or there isn’t a task at hand you can always go find a quiet place, load up Headspace and practice a guided meditation. Sitting down to a formal practice can often be a good way to get into the mindful zone.
Last but not least, practice self-compassion. You’re human and your mind is human, so accept this fact and practice being kind to yourself just as you would your best friend.
Remember that you can’t be mindful all the time, but you can be mindful for moments at a time, even if only for a second between the monkey mind chattering away.
Mindfulness and meditation are all about attitude, when frustration or doubt or any other emotion shows up, just acknowledge and accept them with a light heart.