Getting Past the “Monkey Mind”

I’ve been trying to meditate more often.  Or at least more consistently.  And I find myself falling into one of several methods of meditation, all of them quite specific.  I was emailing a friend of mine last week, and she asked me something like, “What exactly do you DO to meditate?” and I was off and running.  When it was all said and done, it was the LONGEST EMAIL EVER. 

But I can’t be the only one (well, one of the only 2 if you count my friend) who can’t make my mind SHUT UP long enough to sit still for even 10 minutes.  I actually took a class in meditation a couple of years ago, and found that it really helped.  So the specific things that helped me are the ones I’m posting. 

The instructor I took from was the first meditation teacher I’d listened to (because I’d listened to some CDs) that didn’t annoy the hell out of me with breathy talk of puppies and kittens and Feeling the Love.  Her name is Michele Meiche and she has a website.  My favorite CD is called “Meditation for Everyday Living” (at the bottom of that page) – it’s not annoying, and I think the longest meditation is something like 7 minutes.  Most are around 4 minutes, so that’s EVEN BETTER.  😉  So you should definitely check her out if you’d like to start meditating.


The first thing I learned was to slow my breath down.  Literally,  I think that to myself: “Slooooow your breath down.  Sloooooow your breath down.”  That has an immediate effect on my mind, my heart rate, my anxiety levels, etc.

Once you’ve done that a few times, try to make one breath longer than another.  Inhale for 3 counts, exhale for 4.  Repeat that a few times, then switch so the inhale is longer than the exhale.  (FYI, the former will relax you; the latter will energize you.)

Now make your breaths even: the same number of counts in and out.

Now hold your breath LIGHTLY between the inhale and the exhale for the same counts.  So, 3 counts in, lightly hold for 3 counts, 3 counts out. 

If you find your mind wandering, just mark it – “put a pin in it,” as they say – and say to yourself, “thought.”  If any feelings come up, mark those, too: “feelings.”  Then bring your attention back to your breath.  If something itches, scratch it.  (Don’t think you can ignore it; it will just take over your mind, as you probably already know.)  If you hear something outside, just acknowledge it, and then bring your attention back to your breath.

Some days, none of that is enough to shut my mind up.  On those days, I use this trick: find the fleeting moment between your inhale and exhale, between your exhale and inhale, where you’re NOT BREATHING.  Don’t HOLD your breath; just look for that microspace between the inhale/exhale or exhale/inhale. 

That last one works for me 99.9% of the time, when nothing else will.  Partly it’s because it keeps my brain TOTALLY FOCUSED.  Partly it works because in a effort to find that moment, my breathing slows naturally.  Partly it’s because whatever part of my brain that might wander from TOTAL FOCUS gets wrapped up in reminding me not to hold my breath.  (“There!  You’re holding!  Just breathe!  OK . . . here we go . . . . get ready to look for it . . . THERE!  RIGHTTHERERIGHTHERE! . . . Oh, wait . . . I think I was holding again . . . slow down the breathing . . . get reeeeeeaaaaadyyyyyyy . . . THERE!  Was that it?  I couldn’t tell, it was too fast . . . . try again . . .  ”  And so forth.  ;))

Finally?  Set a timer.  It’s not really the “right” way to come out of meditation, with a timer going off in your ear – you’re supposed to come out lightly and peacefully and all that, but I figure with a timer, I actually MEDITATE (or at least try) for 10 minutes.  Without a timer, I keep checking the clock to see if my time is up.  I don’t really have time to make an effort at meditating because I’m too busy wondering if I’m done yet.  Know what I mean?

So there you go.  That’s how I do it.  Um.  WHEN I do it, that’s how I do it.  😉


6 responses to “Getting Past the “Monkey Mind”

  1. I loved the last line.
    “WHEN I do it, that’s how I do it.”
    Got enough monkeys for all the world’s zoos.

  2. My therapist tried to show me how to do some relaxtion breathing techniques once. Strangely enough it’s hard to relax when you’re off your head on too much medication, so it never really got me anywhere. And the sounds from the tape of trickling water just made me need the loo….

    I’ve always been a bit suspicious of meditation, filing it under yoga and green tea in my head. But I like this, it seems a non nonsense approach.

    Lola x


    Im trying now to imagine my cranium filled with air like a big *empty* balloon.


  4. this is great! just what I need . . . thanks babe.

  5. Great post! Thanks for the recommendation – I’m pretty tired of my few podcasts… I will def. try the “not breathing” trick next time I meditate!

  6. Well, POD, I figured I should at least be honest, you know? 😀

    Lola, it cracks me up to hear you file it under “yoga and green tea!” I have to admit, I had the best strength of my LIFE doing yoga. I took it up when I couldn’t run (knee injury) and did it 5 days a week for about 3 months. When I went back to running, I WAS FASTER THAN WHEN I QUIT. Even though I was out of practice. CRAZY.

    *giggle* Miz, I think that’s my natural state: filled with air. But it doesn’t seem to stop the chattering in there. 😉

    Hope it helps, Sarah.

    Charlotte, I’d be interested to know if it works for you. It’s sort of my last resort one, because it keeps my mind more active than the others, but at the same time, I get so focused that it still calms me down. Does that make sense?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s