I recently wrote about how to keep calm in the face of danger, which was basically about silencing the mind so that it does not distract you too much when you really need it to stay calm. Shortly after that my Sensei, Paul Mitchell, started talking about the “monkey mind” in one of his classes.
Now maybe I’m insecure, but I wondered if he meant me at first!
However, it is an old Chinese phrase for when the mind wonders, or when you are trying to silence it and random thoughts keep popping in to say hello. Like a mischievous monkey, the mind cannot be properly controlled. It can be very difficult to stop those random thoughts coming in, not matter how hard you try.
Don’t you just love Chinese phraseology. As discussed in my previous posting, giving the mind something else to focus on is one of the best ways to deal with this monkey mind and help to banish these random thoughts. This can be kata/patterns/forms etc. It is easier in the beginning to focus the mind with movement. Doing it when you are still, as in meditation (moksu) for example is much harder. However, when we do get to this stage, we start by focus on our breathing. When we can focus on breathing to the exclusion of the random thoughts, then we can start to even cut out the focus on breathing and just let it happen. This is when we start to develop a tranquil mind.
Do the Chinese have a phrase for this? Of course they do. You feed your monkey mind a banana!