Finding the MONK in My "Monkey Mind"
How I Use Music to Meditate Like a Beast
I used to get really irritated by (read: jealous of) people who can effortlessly meditate. They sit there all calm and quiet with their perfect posture and pretzeled legs and all “one with the universe” n’ stuff… ugh (eye-roll) SO annoying! (read: lucky)
I know I’m not alone in my struggles with meditation. A lot of people find it difficult to sit still in silence and focus when the brain doesn’t want to cooperate. It races, rants, raves, and rebels against the desire to be calm, relaxed and “zen.”
Buddhists have a term for when your brain is “unsettled, restless, capricious, whimsical, fanciful, inconstant, confused, indecisive, and uncontrollable" at the same damn time. It’s called “Monkey Mind.”
About ten years ago, I was diagnosed with Adult ADHD. So I experience Monkey Mind all day, everyday… 24/7—365. The “H” part for me is not hyperactivity, it’s anxiety. It was recommended I try my hand at meditation to cope with my constant Monkey Mind and the occasional meltdowns that could accompany it.
Needless to say, it wasn’t easy at first. For someone whose mind is involuntarily constantly chasing squirrels, it can be nearly impossible. Living with Adult ADHD means I have to be creative with how I get things done… including how I practice self-care.
For me, meditation is a way to drown out the chaos of my mind. Since the traditional way of meditating was very difficult, I taught myself to do it with music.
Many many moons ago, I was a dancer/choreographer and that practice caused me to listen to music differently. I don’t just hear a song. I feel it. I pick it apart piece by piece… hearing every single instrument and harmony. I start with the bassline and end with the lyrics… listening to each by itself and then together. I wrap my senses around it to see if it will move me. I don’t dance anymore, but I still listen to music the same way.
Music soothes the savage beast…
My Monkey Mind is definitely savage and definitely a beast… it seems logical to use my unique way of listening to music to soothe her.
Here’s how I do it…
First, I pick a song that makes me feel good. The genre varies. Songs that soothe me are rarely mellow or slow.
Next, I get comfortable… either in a chair or on the floor.
Then, I take a couple of deep, cleansing breaths, and press play.
As the music starts, I find one aspect or instrument in the song to focus on. For the duration, I allow myself to only hear that one thing… and… I breathe.
I resist the urge to sing or dance or get into other parts of the song (especially my “favorite parts”).
As with traditional meditation, I get distracted… by the song or by my thoughts… just like everyone else. I just gently bring my mind back to the “one thing” and try to remain focused on it from start to finish.
Can this really be considered meditation?
Meditate: (verb) 1. To think deeply or focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation. 2. To think deeply or carefully about (something)
I believe my technique follows the basic principles of the definition. Being it’s my meditation practice, I should do it in a way that works best for me and achieves the desired results. As I said, I have to be creative in the ways I get things done and stay sane these days!
Give meditation a second (or third) chance.
I basically wrote this for those who are skeptical about meditation or simply think you “can’t do it.” Maybe the reason why you think you can’t is that you’re trying to do it like “other people” instead of like yourself.
If you really want to give meditation a chance to work its magic, read the definition again and think of an activity you like to do that can also function as a way to relax or, at the very least, get you to focus on something other than the chaos inside and/or around you for a few minutes.
Do you have a unique way of soothing your inner savage beast? I’d love to hear about it!