midnight mind Midnight mind, monkey mind, is what I’m calling the tendency, often obsessive, to ruminate, to work it, turn it, trouble it, to try to untangle and only make the tangle worse.  And by “it”, I mean some perceived (or real) threat, danger, situation over which we have little or no control, and where there are scary or unknown consequence

I have a friend who has confided in me a challenge she is experiencing, and shared some about her midnight mind. The conversations have brought up my own experience with midnight mind, often called monkey mind.  Midnight mind can overtake us any time of day, of course, but it tends to be most painful at night.

What are some skillful means for dealing with the midnight, monkey mind, that spirals out of control, creates great suffering, above and beyond the actual situation, robs of us sleep, leaves us enervated, and can deplete our resilience at a time when we really need it most?

I almost called this post Midnight Mantra, because mantras have been huge help to me with my midnight mind over the decades.  It can simply be a phrase, one you learned at a TM retreat, even if you don’t use it currently, or any other calming phrase that can be a focus.  One that I used at a critical juncture in my relationship, where my future was totally in the air, was “Into thy hands I commend my spirit.”  I think I heard that somewhere.  Oh, right, it’s Luke 23:46!  It was really helpful for me to realize I wasn’t in control of the outcome, of the others involved, and to surrender, as best I could, trust, as best I could, and not let my midnight mind run the show.

Other mantras, and one I currently love, is  Manjushri’s: Om A Ra Pa Ca Na Dhih.  midnight mindManjushri is a Bodhisattva in the Buddhist tradition, who represents wisdom, and his mantra invokes his ability to cut through delusion.  It was taught to me by a Tibetan Buddhist scholar and friend shortly after I had my stroke.  Thanks, Jeffrey!  How perfect for dealing with midnight, monkey mind, as the Buddhists call it, and at any time of night or day!  Here is a Manjushri statue that a fellow traveller on the spiritual path gave us.  Love that sword cutting through ignorance!

midnight mind

I have also created my own personal Metta mantra, or Loving-kindness prayer. The Dalai Lama suggested that this is a good thing to do:  both practicing Metta, and even developing one’s own version of the traditional basic Buddhist: “May all beings be happy and free from suffering”. One of the phrases I have in my Metta Mantra is “May all beings experience ease, contentment, compassion, strength and joy; safety, health and wellbeing.”  That covers the bases, eh? 🙂  And helps me take the focus off my own merry-go-round, midnight, monkey mind.

When all else fails, as it sometimes does, I use the alphabet!  I choose a topic, it can be fruit and vegetables, or names, or qualities, you name it.  The topic doesn’t matter.  I start with A, and chose a word from my category: Apple, or Adrianne, or Affection.  Then go on to B.  But first I repeat the A word.  So it would be Apple, Banana; Adrianne, Beverly; Affection, Benevolence.  And so forth.  Rarely have I gotten past S or T.   My mind is working so hard, it had no time to “monkey around”, and soon says, I’d rather drift off to sleep than have to do any more of this! So rest, relief, recovery, respite, and regeneration can replace the dizzy, deleterious drama of my midnight monkey mind.  🙂

What strategies have you found useful, helpful, meaningful in dealing with your midnight mind?  I’d love to hear.

Jill Schroder is the author of BECOMING: Journeying Toward Authenticity.  BECOMING is an invitation for self-reflection, and to mine our memorable moments for insights, meaning, and growth.  Check the website for a sample chapter, or see the reviews to get a flavor for the volume.  Follow me on Twitter, let’s be friends on Facebook 

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