Have you suffered from monkey mind? I have! I want my thoughts to settle down, be still, and allow me to concentrate on something I may be reading, but my mind refuses to quiet itself. We are all busy, and sometimes, unfortunately, our days are even hectic and hurried. In this digital universe in which we live, how do we focus our thoughts, and how do we help our children to focus and attend?
Tricia McCary Rhodes, PhD, first introduced the idea of monkey mind to me in her book, The Wired Soul. The idea originated, though, with Thomas Newkirk. Concerning monkey mind, Dr. Rhodes stated, “I love the image this phrase conjures up: a bunch of undisciplined thoughts jumping around in my brain like monkeys in their element… Newkirk describes this as our ‘tendency of mind to be inconstant, capricious and unsettled.’”
While discussing my vision of a monkey mind with my husband, he stated, “Great analogy! Sometimes I must have a ‘barrel of monkeys’ in my mind!” I had to laugh because I could relate to his comment. How do we quiet our monkey minds? How do we help our children to quiet their monkey minds?
The following practical ideas were gleaned from Dr. Rhodes as well as Charlotte Mason and a few other authors I respect. I’m hoping these ideas will guide you to tame and train the monkey minds in your home.
Spend time in nature.
Using distance vision relieves strain on the eyes and the nervous system, and the best place for distance vision is outdoors. “A love for nature develops a child’s sense of beauty, elevates the child’s thoughts to approve what is excellent, and moves him to perceive he is a small part of a much larger universe.” Time in nature calms the mind and enhances mental acuity.
Invest time to read a book slowly.
Concerning slowly reading a book, Dr. Rhodes said, “…it doesn’t come naturally, particularly to those of us whose hours in front of electronic screens have wired us for perpetual motion, our eyes ever darting about for some new stimuli.” The energy that may be required to focus attention as you slowly read a book is worth the effort. The more you do it, the better your brain becomes at quieting itself and concentrating on the task at hand.
Take time to be.
Everyone needs unplanned, unscheduled time, even children, especially children. Adults need time to reflect on the encounters they experience, the ideas about which they are learning, or time to unwind and find joy in their day. They need time to just be, putting aside all the doing that is required throughout the day, and just being for a while. Children are the same; they need time to choose something they would like to do, to focus their attention on something that interests them. They also need a quiet time to allow all the brain connections that have formed in their minds that day to solidify and become secure. If these three simple practices become a habit in your life, and in the lives of your children, monkey mind will harass you less often, and you will gain the ability to truly focus your attention on what you are reading or on the task at hand. You can take control of those unruly thoughts and hone in on what it important to you.