Conversations At The Sanctuary: Taming The Mental Chatter With Meditation
A growing body of neuroscience research points to meditation as an effective technique for taming the “monkey mind”. Here’s how it’s done
Left to run amok, a restless “monkey mind” can create havoc on our well-being with its constantly chattering thoughts, jumping from branch to branch like a bunch of wild monkeys. The cause of much unease, these disorderly thoughts often fill us with anxiety as they sway randomly from fear to desire, and everything else in between. Rie Komiya, a Kundalini Yoga teacher who teaches meditation at The Yoga School, shares the secret to regaining power and control over our thoughts.
Q: What are the benefits of meditation?
RIE: Meditation is the process of cleansing the mind. It connects us with your mind, and creates communication between our mind and body. Meditation is deeply woven into the practice of Kundalini Yoga and its health benefits are countless! Stress reduction, improved quality of sleep, and the management of chronic pain or disease, are just some of them. Meditation also promotes an overall sense of well-being, inner peace, stability and calmness. This opens us up to other areas in our lives, such as personal growth, increased creativity and sharper intuition.
Q: Many of us struggle with meditation because of what’s often referred to as our “monkey mind”. How can we overcome this?
RIE: Researchers say that the average person has about 70,000 thoughts per day, so it’s normal to experience mental chatter during mediation. Often times, we catch these thoughts, hold on to them, examine them, and keep expanding on them! But the more we try to stop your thoughts from coming, the more they will appear.
The key is to allow these thoughts to flow through us. Quietly observe the thoughts passing through, acknowledge them without judgement, and then let them go. As our mind starts to quieten down, we’ll enter into a meditative state.
Q: Are there strategies or tools we can harness to quieten the mental chatter in our heads?
RIE: We can use a focal point to help us to tame the mental chatter. Choose a point of focus, such as the counting of your breath, or the chanting of a mantra. These are subtle ways of turning focus away from our rambling thoughts. The practice isn’t about sitting there with a blank mind but rather, to repeatedly bring our attention back to the focal point.
Do not despair or give up if you don’t succeed at first. Take running as an example. If you start running today, do you expect yourself to be able to run a full marathon by tomorrow? Of course not. Physical or non-physical, the mastery of any practice is the same – it takes time and patience. But with consistency, your ability to stay focused will become easier.
Q: You mentioned using mantras as a focal point during meditation. Mantras are also critical to the practice of Kundalini Yoga meditation. Why are mantras so important?
RIE: Kundalini Yoga Master Yogi Bhajan said, “The word ‘mantra’ means mental vibration to the infinite mind.” A mantra is like a “sound current” that tunes and controls mental vibration. I call it “the technology of sacred sounds” … sounds with specific vibrations that affect your mind, body, and soul. When mantras are chanted, the meridian points on the upper palate of the mouth are stimulated. Constant stimulation of certain meridian points with precise sequences or rhythms, triggers the glandular system, creating happiness or higher states of consciousness and discipline within the mind. Think of mantras as a “directive psyche”, a combination of words or syllabus which help focus the mind. The chanting of mantras, either silently or aloud, is a conscious method of controlling and directing our mind.
Q: How is Kundalini yoga meditation different from other forms of meditation?
RIE: Often times, we feel stressed and anxious because of over-thinking, but the painful circuitry of mind chatter in our heads is often just a mixture of haphazard thoughts and worries. So we can meditate to cleanse and calm our mind, and feel a sense of inner peace and relaxation. First taught by Yogi Bhajan, meditation in Kundalini Yoga employs the use of breath, mantra, mudra (symbolic hand gestures), and eye focus, in specific combinations that carefully support the mind, and guide the body, to get to the meditative state. Similar to kriyas (a series of postures, breath and sound work that initiates a sequence of physical and mental changes), there are hundreds of Kundalini Yoga meditation techniques tailored for specific applications, such as meditation for stress relief; meditation for healing; meditation for deep relaxation etc.
We can choose to meditate at any time during the day, and doing it around the same time everyday helps to make this a daily habit. Mornings are a great option (especially before the sun rises as it’s naturally quiet and reflective time). Or we can meditate at night too, just before going to bed. Choose a quiet place and make it your cozy meditation spot – fill it with scented candles and flowers, or anything that uplifts you.
If you’re new to Kundalini Yoga meditation, it is strongly recommended that you explore it with the guidance of an experienced KRI certified teacher, so that you learn how to practice correctly and safely, before doing it on your own at home.
About Rie Komiya:
Originally from Japan, Rie Komiya is a KRI certified Kundalini Yoga teacher, Usui Reiki master and teacher, and Quantum Alchemy Crystal Bowl Level 1 practitioner, who has lived in Singapore since 1999. Having benefitted tremendously from her own practice, she’s a passionate about sharing self-care tools to improve health and wellness. Details about Rie’s weekly Kundalini Yoga and Meditation classes can be found here.