The Buddhist Monkey Mind Ritual

The untrained mind is what zen buddhists would call “Monkey Mind”. This constant swirl and chatter of our daily thoughts is chaotic, unbalancing and disorientating. The Buddha held that the mind is full of drunken monkeys, chattering incessantly, jumping around and flinging themselves from branches. As a result of our monkey minds, it can be almost impossible to slow down and enjoy the present without experiencing any one or more of the following

  • Your mind constructing catastrophic “what if” scenarios of the future
  • You mind judging the present, rather than allowing you to be in that moment
  • Your mind recalling hurtful, embarrassing or sad moments from your memory
  • You mind reading from a list of to-do’s that seems endless

In addition to stopping us from enjoying small moments of perfection in the present, the negative chatter impacts our mood, making us anxious, angry, restless and even unhappy. It stops us from concentrating and has a negative impact on our behaviour and our interactions with others.

Does this sound familiar?

The good news is that you can take control and tame your monkey brain through meditation, enabling you to block out the negative chatter and take back control of your thoughts and allowing yourself to just enjoy the moment.

This ritual can be used as a simple visual aid and introduction to meditation and a demonstration of how easily the mind wanders and returns to the chatter. It helps us to visualise the impact of chaos on the mind and clarity of our thoughts

What you’ll need:

  • 1 clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, filled with water
  • 1 spoonful of earth

The Monkey Mind Ritual

The first step is to observe the clarity of the water. It’s pure, clean and clear, with nothing to muddy, discolour or taint it. This represents your mind in its purest form.

Next, add a spoonful of earth to the water, this is representative of your thoughts, feelings, worries and even fears. Tighten the lid of the jar and shake vigorously, demonstrating how our thoughts are in constant motion.

Hold the jar up to a light and look at the water. Notice its state and condition - is it cloudy, distorted, unclear, murky and swirling? Take time to reflect on how the movement of the earth in the jar is reflective of your worries, thoughts and endless chatter of the mind.

Breathe slowly and fully, expanding your lungs and feeling the skin on your back tighten. Focus on the settling earth in the jar and your breathing. This is your focal point as you fall into relaxation and settle your mind.

Each time a thought or emotion hijacks your mind, pick up the jar and shake it again. Go back to your focal point and concentrate on your breathing. Whenever any thought takes you away from your focus and peace, shake the jar. This will help you to learn to clear your mind for extended periods of time, teaching you self-discipline and the importance of clearing your mind from the chatter.

Continue this exercise for 11 minutes, or until the earth has fully settled in the jar. You can repeat this ritual whenever you feel in a state of chaos and in need of clarity, calm and inner peace.