STRESS, THE MONKEY & THE BANANA

Where attention is energy follows. Combining attention and action, that is the sugar, spice and everything nice of dealing with challenge.

Since I was a kid, I had this hyperactive behavior about me. I wanted to try many different things, wanted to move around, build things and test what I have built or learned in the real world. And this is what the majority of kids do, they have a lot of energy just spilling out in every direction. This is very natural and very essential, because as a kid you need to explore the world around you, you need to explore your capabilities, connections with others and learn as much as you can about this world we call home.

I am writing about the hyperactive nature of children in order to tell you that hyperactivity is not a bad thing. It simply shows that you have a lot of energy that wants to go somewhere, express itself in some way. But this is where the modern society has taken a toll on our generation. You see, as a human being, you are capable of thinking, feeling and doing – all of which require your attention. The modern lifestyle is heavily orienting us toward the thinking/feeling function of our nervous system, and this is what the Chinese spiritual philosophies and martial arts teachings call the “Monkey Mind”.

The ”Monkey Mind” is a very essential tool for us humans, it is the psychological force that makes us attentive and interested in all the things that are happening In the world. For example, you go online and see an interesting headline that immediately grabs your attention, or maybe you get hyped up about buying a pair of sneakers that caught your eye online… In short, a monkey is always trying to do something to make him feel amused, hence the “Monkey Mind” is what moves our attention to the things that make us feel happy emotions.

However, if you bring this part of you into overdrive, you are in the run for an inevitable downfall. And all you need to do that, is your smartphone and an internet connection. You go online and watch a video or read a headline, than another one pops up in the suggestions, that that one makes you search for another one… You enter a cycle of looking for the next high, bouncing of information to information, similar like a monkey bouncing of the branches of a tree. What this process is doing is raising your energy upward, teaching your brain to seek constant fulfillment outside of yourself. This way you are losing touch with your own body and ability to focus your attention.

How is this related to what this webpage is actually about – dealing with psycho-somatic stress and fatigue. Well, if your energy is constantly high and you are not feeling low in your body, you are not going to be able to process daily tension and more importantly recover the way you are supposed to. This is why in what appear to be stress inducing activities such as martial arts sparring, the students are taught to breathe deeply, relax the musculature in their upper body and feel their feet and legs.

Another reason why even students with ADD or ADHD leave the martial arts classes calm and focused, is that intentive action is emphasized. What this does is basically giving the monkey a banana, you focus your attention on one thing (in this case the move you need to perform) and bring your body into play. This turns your attention into intention and merges the “Monkey Mind” with the doing mind. It grounds it and gives it focus.

In breathing practices the “banana” for your brain would be your breath, for the ones that involve movement such as qi gong, yoga or dancing, it may be a certain movement or a certain muscle. In any way, the key is to stay focused but also attentive to the other stimulations around you.

Of course you are not going to be doing martial arts or qi gong all day, but it will help you awaken the energy of your body which is the natural state of functioning even when resting. It is through our disuse of our own bodies that we have made them dormant, it is time to bring them back into our lives.

Remember, tension is essential. It is our ability to handle it that we need to constantly expand. These are my recommendations on some activities and attitudes that will help you do so.

Your fellow psychologist and proud “Monkey Mind” owner,
Kalin

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