Have you ever been to the zoo and watched the monkeys swinging from one area to another, making the sounds as they do. On the one hand, it is fascinating to watch, at the same time after a while you need to move on, well at least I do. it is hard for me to stay focused with so much distraction. Perhaps that is why so many people have trouble meditating. Our minds are like monkeys swinging from one tree to the next, moving from one idea to another, from thinking about one thing going on in our life to another. Periodically, our minds might stop, but then we are off to swinging through ideas again.
The two problems people seem to have the most is claiming the time to meditate and silencing those monkeys. There seems to be a belief that meditation takes hours or that you need to be in a spiritual place to meditate. It does not and you do not. Even the busiest of people can meditate for a few minutes here and there and you can meditate just about anywhere. My wife laughs at me because so often while I go to the washroom, she will knock on the door and ask me if I fell in. It is just that I began meditating and lost track of time. Many who have survived imprisonment have written about how they meditated during their time of imprisonment. Meditation is not about the physical space, but the ability to silence the mind and descend into the heart.
Silencing the monkeys in order to do that can be like trying to take a toy away from a child without them throwing a temper tantrum. I remember as a child, my mother would silence me by sitting me somewhere with a pot and a spoon and have me stir an amazing thing we were going to have for dinner (it was the best and most loved pot of water you ever had). I was still active, but focused.
When I first began meditating, I found that I could stay focused in my meditation for a few minutes and then my mind would start to swing from thought to thought. It was as if they were trying to gain my attention and not allow me my quiet time. One day, I had this epiphany while watching a friend interact with her kids. She very quietly said, yes I know you are here and I love you, but it is quiet playtime right now and I will be back with you soon. Leaning to take a similar approach with my ideas seemed to work for me. As I would set myself down to meditate, I would say to my mind, I know you have many things you want to think about and discuss with me, but right now is our quiet playtime. I love you and want to hear all you have to say to me, however, we will do that after quiet time is over. As I would do this, I could almost hear this voice say ok and then there would be silence. There was something about reassuring that part of me that I would be back, that I was not going to abandon them, which was comforting.
These days my monkeys stay quiet longer and allow me more quiet time and for that I am grateful. However, in part I think it has to do with trust and control. I trust my mind to know I will not be in a constant state of meditation and my conscious mind trusts that I will be fully present and listen to all of the ideas that float through my head.
You can silence a few other monkeys quite easily. They are the television, radio, cell phone, computer, and external noises over which we have control. Those we can silence by turning them off.
One last monkey that is important to listen to is your body. It is hard to meditate when your body is saying I am not comfortable. So listen to your body, get comfortable, clothes your eyes, and relax. Tell the monkeys you will be back and then focus on your breathing or your mantra or whatever helps you to descend within to that quiet space. Over time, you will find your monkeys staying silent longer and longer.