In eastern philosophy, due to its restless nature, human mind has often been compared to both a monkey and a wild horse, and it is not without much reason, as in some sense our mind resembles both.
In its ability of jumping effortlessly from one thought to another, our mind resembles a monkey that jumps from one branch to another, and in its ability of running out of control in whichever direction it pleases, it resembles a wild horse. The worst part about the mind is that it is impossible to get rid of. It is always there. Even when we are asleep, the mind is there. And it doesn’t just stay there. It continuously feeds on the distractions that keep on making it more uncontrollable than ever.
How distractions work
We can never imagine a monkey in a desert. It is always in a jungle, where it has many trees it can climb on, and many fruits it can eat. It is not directed to one particular thing as it already has what it needs.
In modern times, we live just like the monkey. Thanks to the internet, nowadays, we get much more information and entertainment than we need. The availability of distractions is so high that for a person who is not watchful enough, it is impossible not to get distracted.
For example, you are looking for something particular, say some informational video on YouTube. First, you search for it, and amongst the search results, you see not what you are looking for, but the most popular videos, one of which might easily lead you astray.
Next, when you are looking at the video that distracted you, many other tempting videos are there in your suggestions, which have the tendency of leading you even farther from your aim. What started as a quest for finding the limitations of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity ended up with Top-100 career plays of Lionel Messi.
Monkey vs. Camel
If distractions lead us astray, does this mean that we were better off when there were no distractions? Were people healthier and happier before the advent of the internet or even the television? Well, not quite.
The mind has been distracting us since the dawn of humanity. But, when you look at it, this distractibility of mind does give us some joy. With it, we are like monkeys, but without it we would be like camels.
With a mind that is unable to get distracted, we would wade through our lives like a camel that is looking for nothing better than just food and water, and that doesn’t even mind going without them. Though the camel is tenacious and focused, it is also dull and boring. It cannot enjoy anything, even when it gets a chance to do so. Compared to it, the monkey mind is much better. The only thing it needs is to get rid of that unnecessary restlessness and that mental noise.
Ways of taming the mind
Even though it might seem otherwise, it is not that difficult to quiet the monkey. You just need to steer away from distraction, and that’s all. Taming your mind requires effort only in initial stages. Once you are done with that, it becomes a habit. Here are three simple methods that would definitely help you in stopping brain chatter:
1. Define what is distraction for you
Is there a difference between harmless entertainment and distraction? Yes, entertainment is entertainment only when it does not hinder you from doing something that you consider as important. If you have been planning to read some important book for long, and the only reason you can’t read it is that you spend too much time on Facebook and Instagram, then social media is certainly a distraction for you. However, on the other hand, if you are progressing steadily with the book, and using social media sometimes just to propagate your opinion and just to know what’s happening around you, then it is not a distraction.
Easiest way of finding out whether something is distracting your or not is by abstaining from it. Delete your social media apps for a while. Don’t log in to your Facebook and Instagram accounts for a week, and observe what happens with you. If you feel a craving to log in and to check, they are distractions. If you can stay without them for a week without any craving, you are the one in control and they are not distractions.
2. Find out what is important for you
Remember, the less cluttered your surroundings are lesser would be the distraction. To find out what exactly is a distraction, you need to know what it is that you want. Sometimes even something you consider as informative can be a distraction if it is not helping you in progressing or in bringing a change into your life. There is no dearth of people who are addicted to reading newspapers and who think that newspapers cannot be distractions.
Therefore, in both your work and in your life, find out what you want and always keep it in front of your eyes. Your aim could be as simple as helping others, or just being more productive in your work. You should never let it fade from your eyes. Write it on a page and post it on some wall, or make it the wallpaper of your cellphone. It might prove to be the rope that pulls you out every time you are losing yourself to distractions.
3. Practice mindfulness or some other behavioral therapy
If stopping brain chatter is all you want, you need not even do much on your own part. There are many therapies that are designed to quiet the monkey. All you need to do is to find some trusted outlets offering these therapies and to get yourself enrolled. Some of the most popular therapies designed for eliminating the mental noise are mindfulness meditation and cognitive behavior therapy. Taming your mind could be a piece of cake if you take professional help for it.