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Monkey Mind and Silence Just Don't Go Together

June 23, 2015

I find it increasingly harder to find silence in our modern life monkey mind lifestyle. Monkey mind is Buddhist term describing what we get when our minds jump from one thing to the next, not being able to rest anywhere too long before being distracted again. It is a go-go-go kind of brain, unsettled, restless and confused. Our minds are distracted and cluttered from the time we wake up and hear the morning news, to the demands of our days and the constant presence of phones, tablets, physical and mental noise until we go to sleep at night. Even then, monkey brains keep us away from sleep, the outside noise becomes our inner noise and confusion. Do you feel overwhelmed by the noise in your life and in your mind? Maybe you do, I also think that we become addicted to constant noise. Recently, I sat with a couple of teenagers who were with a group of loved ones, yet they couldn't put down their phones, had music playing in one ear as people around them vied for their attention and conversation. I see our noise-filled lives as an addiction, a numbing of ourselves and of God's voice that cannot break through our cluttered monkey minds. I am guilty of it myself. How often to do you feel compelled to check your email every hour or see what social media was doing while you were taking a shower? It is increasingly harder and harder to drown out the outside voices, to sit in silence and to enjoy it. We are loosing our ability to be silent, it makes us uncomfortable, we are addicted to the distraction of noise. Being overly busy and the forever-on-the-go lifestyle are another form of noisy distraction. 

Silence is a sacred space, it is not just the absence of physical noise, it is rather the inner attitude that our minds and souls enter into in order to encounter God. It can also be a scary and difficult place to be in. If we are silent, we may have to face our thoughts and feelings, we may have to listen to ourselves. What will we hear? So we do our best to avoid it and distract our minds away from it. Ironically, that is when we need silence the most, to reconnect our hearts and minds with ourselves and with God. It is only while we are in this sacred, inner silence that we can let go of our distractions and be truly present to God's transforming work in our lives. 

Lately, I have been consciously practicing the art of silence, not getting on my phone or computer when I feel compelled to do so in order to reduce my outside noise. I find that I have more time for inner silence if I reduce such distractions. I have also been practicing inner silence by being more present to those around me, listening more and saying less—hard to do for a talker like me! I look for silent moments where I can find them, I turn off the music in my car and drive in silence or work in my garden. How about you? How do you enter into your inner silence? If you would like to know more about how to practice the art of silence, the book Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God's Transforming Presence by Ruth Haley Barton is a wonderful resource for all who seek to find inner peace and God's voice in the practice of silence. 

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