Guest contribution by Wendy Quan
Do you have a busy mind? If you said yes, congratulations, you have a typical human mind!
The mindfulness concept of the ‘monkey mind’ is the name given to your busy mind. You know that one I’m talking about — you have so much going on in your life, that your mind jumps around like an agitated monkey. Most people generally are not too aware of it, and when you do notice it, it can increase your stress when you notice the monkey mind.
Perhaps you recognize your busy monkey mind and have tried to calm it down. Maybe you have tried meditation on your own by reading a book or trying to learn by listening to recordings. Did you find this successful? If not, it’s likely that you got frustrated because your monkey mind just won’t ‘shut down’ and stay calm.
Having thoughts is normal – it’s human. As you practice meditation, you will notice an increase in your focus and concentration. You will be increasingly more capable of focusing in the object of your meditation, such as your breath, a visualization, or a silent mantra. It is very common to expect a completely calm mind when meditating but the reality is that this should not be expected of meditation.
Here’s the key: Meditation is not about achieving a totally blank or calm mind throughout the entire meditation. Meditation is about focusing, and then when your mind does wander (and it will!), your job is to notice when it has wandered, then re-focus on the object of your meditation.
A great tip is to change how you regard your wandering mind – instead of getting frustrated and disappointed when this happens, congratulate yourself for noticing when your mind has strayed. Feel good that you’ve noticed! Feel good that you are self-aware! See your growing awareness as a positive, not a negative.
Every time you notice your mind has wandered, know that you are doing a good job in meditation!
Doesn’t that change your perspective on the wandering mind? When I teach this perspective in class, people feel relief and start to enjoy meditation so much more.
Wendy Quan will be teaching a three-week summer ‘Learn To Meditate’ class for beginners at UBC. Join her for a wonderful introduction to mindfulness and meditation, and leave feeling confident to start your personal practice. Program cost is $35 and sessions run July 11, 18, 25 from 12:00-1:00pm. Sign up here.
Wendy Quan is a certified organizational change manager who has created an innovative way to build personal and organizational change resiliency through meditation and mindfulness. Wendy has two published papers on this subject with the worldwide Association of Change Management Professionals, speaks at conferences, and has taught at UC Berkeley. Wendy is a leader in the change management community and founded the Vancouver Change Management Practitioner’s community of practice. Her career has also included management in human resources, organizational development, coaching and information technology.