Why it's better to tame rather than fight the monkey in the mind


When does it get easier? When does it stop? These are questions that frequently arise when we start out on a path of self-discovery or self-help (really the same thing), often with yoga and meditation.

The answer may at first sound bleak and despairing: it doesn't, it won't. But the suffering does ease off, the waves in the mind do subside, and the noise of the chattering committee who seem to occupy our minds does quieten down and become less disturbing.

It's the nature of the mind to oscillate wildly, the curse of human consciousness to wrap itself up in knots. We're not trying to stop things. That would be futile. Turbulence, flux, motion and transformation are the stuff of every life form, from stars to cells to plants to the shift from night to day. That's something we cannot change.

What we can do is develop the tools to accept, tolerate and live with this reality, to go with the flow, in that time honoured phrase. To ride the waves and not go under. To feel in our bodies that things shift and change. To accept in our minds that this is it, instead of wrestling in a futile battle.

Like clouds passing in the sky, the mental chatter is a shape-shifting veil, a translucent albeit sometimes heavy covering, underneath which is the serenity of the blue sky.

Hence why Stocics, Taoists, Buddhists, Yogis and many other deep thinkers encourage us to look up, to gain some perspective and see that all that is happening in our minds may be painful and frustrating, but it doesn't have to rule over us. We can, using consciousness as a gift rather than experiencing it as a curse, shift our attention and in doing so, give ourselves a rest.

The body is a tool that can aid this shift. In yoga, as we continually rein in the mind to focus on the matter, the muscle, the movement, those waves cease to shove us around and we regain control.

With every experience of release and relief, we learn to linger longer each time, and we begin to see that when life does get noisy again, inside or out, there's a place of quietness inside that we've discovered we can reach.