Self-care is something that doesn’t come easily for many of us.
We race from one goal to the next, multitasking, multi-screening and telling ourselves that doing more somehow equals being more. ‘I’m soooo busy’ is the modern mantra. There’s a sense of status in implying you barely have time to sleep these days. So, in a world of ‘busy-ness’, you’d think we would realise it’s even more important to learn the art of stillness.
Yet recent research shows that many of us are so turned off by the idea of sitting quietly in the presence of our own thoughts that we’d rather receive an electric shock! Amazingly, participants in 11 studies felt so uncomfortable about the experience, that 67% of the men and 25% of the women opted to self administer the shock rather than sit with no distractions for just 15 minutes.
But we shouldn’t be so surprised. The human brain has evolved to interact with the outer world; to detect threats and opportunities. In fact, it was the hyper-vigilant chimps who were the ones that survived long enough to reproduce and allow evolution to take us to where we are today; not so much survival of the fittest as survival of the jumpiest you might say J
Training your ‘monkey mind’
On edge, looking over your shoulder like a jumpy chimp is an uncomfortable way to live; and largely not necessary in today’s developed world. In fact, we do have the innate ability to switch off, even if our first instinct is to resist.
Buddhist monk, Mingyur Rinpoche says we over complicate things. In his short film on YouTube, called ‘How to train your monkey mind’, he says ‘You can meditate anywhere, anytime; when walking, when eating, even in a meeting. Most people think they’ve got to stop thinking altogether to be meditating. They say to themselves think of nothing and they force it too much. But we need our thoughts. The monkey mind is always giving its opinion. It’s our choice whether or not we listen to it!’
Actually, making friends with your inner chimp couldn’t be simpler. Just give it something to do, like focusing on the breath. Mingyur says, ‘Just breathe in and breathe out. Thoughts come and go. As long as you don’t forget the breath, everything is ok; even one breath or two breaths, then you can meditate anywhere, anytime.’
So, try jumping off the merry-go-round for just a few minutes to focus on something like your breathing and every time your mind wanders (as it will) simply notice and return your attention to your breath.
Every time you do that, you are practising mindfulness.
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