In Zen Buddhism, there is a concept known as ‘monkey mind’, which describes the constant background chatter in our minds as our consciousness swings from thought to thought just as a monkey would swing from tree to tree. I have been struck recently by the capricious nature of my own monkey mind, particularly when it comes to my writing.
In short, I’ve been thinking. And this is not always a good thing. I tend to think a lot, and sometimes it ends up getting me into a rut of sorts. I overanalyze, and this turns into worry, which in turn becomes fear about the future. I write one piece that doesn’t meet my exacting standards, and pretty soon, I have decided that I am no good at anything at all and might as well despair because I’ll never amount to anything anyway.
Fear is a funny emotion. When it grips you, it becomes all encompassing and shuts out all light. For me, it manifests itself as a tightening in my chest and stomach. In addition, my attention narrows until it includes only what I am afraid of. I become tunnel visioned and my heart contracts until I feel small and as though I have nothing to offer the world. It is, in summary, a party-pooper of an emotion.
But there are antidotes to fear. In my mind, the most powerful antidotes to fear are gratitude and humor. When I realize that I am afraid, and that I am blowing things out of proportion, I can take a moment to laugh at the antics of my monkey mind. Then, I bring my attention back to the present moment, and the many blessings in my life that I am grateful for. And most of the time, it helps. A lot.
So today, on this Christmas Eve, I am taking a moment to breathe deeply, laugh a little, and express gratitude for all the myriad blessings in my life. I hope that anyone reading this has a beautiful and merry holiday season surrounded by their loved ones, with plenty to eat and lots to feel grateful for. Merry Christmas.