The Power of Now: How Meditation Calms the Monkey Mind
The Monkey Mind, The Power Of Now, & Meditation
Life unfolds in the present.
The problem is, whether it's ruminating over the past or worrying about the future, the human mind does everything it can to avoid being present.
Like a monkey swinging from tree branch to tree branch, the human mind's tendency to constantly jump from thought to thought has made us lose touch with the "now."
With millions of copies sold in over 30 languages, the massive popularity of Eckhart Tolle's 1997 book "The Power of Now" illustrates the grand scale of the problem.
And that was over twenty years ago. Since then, the greatest "attention hogging" device ever conceived has burrowed its way into everyone's pocket — turning our present moment "mole hill" into "Mt. Killiman-JOY-o." You might be reading this article on one right now. The smartphone.
We Touch, Tap, & Swipe Our Phones 2,617 Times Per Day
With the average person touching, tapping, and swiping their smartphone 2,617 times per day (!), walking around with an always connected device means that our mental monkeys now have infinite tree branches from which to grab and swing.
With depression and anxiety statistics up 800% (!) from what they were 50 years ago, many scientists now blame modern man's mental health deficiencies on our always connected devices. On the trend, Dr. Harsh Trivedi told CBSNews,"The difficulty now is you can't really turn things off. We don't necessarily have downtimes to recharge and get our bearings straight again."
If we don't inoculate ourselves to this epidemic, the present moment will soon be but a glimmer in Grandma and Grandpa's eye.
"Mindful" Versus "Mindless" Smartphone Use
"The internet has spread knowledge like nothing the world has ever seen. How do I know if it's my mind monkeys playing with my phone instead of my insatiable quest for wisdom?"
Here is a little exercise. The next time you are touching, tapping, and swiping your phone, pay attention to your posture, breathing, heart rate, and whether you feel "in control" of your actions.
If your breathing is shallow, if you feel tense, and/or if you feel a little "mindless" or impulsive with your actions, then it's likely the monkeys doing their thing. If you don't even have the presence of mind to "check-in" on yourself to complete this exercise, then the monkeys own you.
"I think the mind monkeys have me wrapped around their grubby little fingers. Should I throw my phone in the trash, move to the forest, and become a hermit? I saw "Into The Wild," I know how this movie ends!"
You don't need to give up on modern life or any of its wonderful gadgetry. The goal is to feel calm, in-control, and highly mindful when using your smartphone. That's what meditation brings to the table.
How Meditation Tames The Mind Monkeys
To understand how meditation masterfully tames the monkeys, we must go to their playground. The human brain.
When the brain has nothing to do, it's "Default Mode Network (DMN)" switches on. This "idle mode" is like giving the mind monkeys a bag full of Halloween candy and letting them out for recess.
If we don't give them some kind of a toy, then they will screech and holler (with epic annoyance), yank us every which way, throw banana peels at our feet, "act a fool" to the 8th degree, and so on.
Most of us will do anything to keep the mind monkeys appeased. These days, the easiest solution is to simply hand them our smartphone.
Whether it's apps, social media, news, or games, our always connected devices offer a never-ending supply of amusement.
"I'm Bored": The Default Mode Network (DMN) & The Posterior Cingulate Cortex (PCC)
Rounding up the monkey troop starts with their master, an area near our brain's midline called the "Posterior Cingulate Cortex (PCC)." Think Jane Goodall.
As the brain region directly linked to our "I'm bored let's play with my phone" Default Mode Network (DMN), strengthening this chunk of our noggin is the secret to making our mind monkeys docile, gentle, and submissive.
Luckily, that's exactly what meditation does! Among four key brain regions, Harvard University researchers (2011, Hölzel et al) discovered that meditation dramatically increases the Posterior Cingulate Cortex's "gray matter concentration."
What does this mean? In essence, by strengthening the brain's "present moment" discipline center (PCC) into a bona-fide "Full Metal Jacket" drill sergeant, meditation ships the whole monkey troop off to boot camp.
And when they return, the rambunctious, impulsive, and rowdy mind monkeys have miraculously transformed into benevolent, peaceful, and docile little angels. This mindful "leashing" of the monkeys restores order to the courtroom of our mind.
Meditation Transforms The Mind Monkeys, Restores The Power Of "Now"
When we train our mind monkeys to not need constant amusement (i.e. smartphone), we nourish our consciousness with the power of "now." As a result, we become much calmer, happier people.
And no, meditation will not have you trashing your phone or living the rest of your days as a forest hermit. Mindfulness simply untethers anxiety, tension, and impulsivity when using your beloved device. In this way, you control your phone instead of it controlling you. And if you cut down on your daily 2,617 touches, taps, and swipes, then all the better!
Own technology without it owning you. Unleash the present moment. Discover meditation.
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