I remember when I would experience a mind that felt like it was racing, jumbled, like I couldn’t quite get a hold of the activity inside of me. It always left me feeling a bit out of breath and wondering if I had accidentally drank too much coffee.
It wasn’t just the experience of a busy mind that left me feeling stressed. We all have minds that are busy. In mindfulness training, they call this the “monkey mind”. Like monkeys swinging from tree to tree, unpredictable, full, catching us a bit off guard at times. This is totally normal.
But often, in my pre-mindfulness practice days - that busy mind also felt tangled. The jumble of activity was intertwined with anxiety, un-felt feelings and ignored sensations. The lack of focus, clarity and awareness left me feeling really disconnected from my body, rushing in my behavior and expressing a short temper to be honest.
Since beginning mindfulness training, my mind has quieted enough that the experience of a busy tangled mind just doesn’t seem to happen anymore. I of course, still have a busy mind on many days - but that added layer of a lack of clarity around it has ceased. My focus and concentration has improved so that when the mind is busy, I’m at least able to see that it is busy, rather than succumbing to its dominance. My mind, body and heart just seem to be more integrated, clear and focused.
If you are able to turn toward your busy mind with mindfulness, you can say, “wow there is a lot of thought going on”… and simply acknowledge the feelings and sensations that accompany them with some kindness.
If you are able to notice a tangle of thoughts that feels unclear and jumbled, you can drop your attention into your body and connect with your breath. And guess what, you don’t have to figure it out - just bringing some mindfulness in, concentrating on the breath and pausing can help slow you down enough to acknowledge what you're experiencing in that moment. Often that is enough to begin to loosen the tangle of knots.
It's the noticing in the moment that is often challenging though. My best advice for how to notice would be to start meditating formally - even for just a few minutes a day. Meditating gives us the skills to be able to notice. It is the exercise that fuels our awareness.
Recently I came across a helpful analogy. A musician has to practice scales and their material over and over to be able to perform a song. A skilled musician would not just show up on stage to perform without ever having this background practice. Same goes for athletes. Mindfulness works much the same. It's a start to say, "I'll just weave mindfulness practice into my life" and never meditate. Surely, with this intention, you can be more conscious of some things. But to experience the benefits and allow mindfulness to become your default habit, practicing it in meditation is required.
This month I'm running a coaching special to help those of you who want mindfulness to become integrated into your life. Through the end of December a three month package will be 40% off. Learn more here.
Let us know how mindfulness has impacted how you relate to your thoughts in the comments!
Wishing you all some slow moments this December,