Monkey Mind

I spent a lovely weekend with all four kids – Mother’s Day here in the US – and now it’s back to work and the weather has warmed up in that mid-Atlantic way, going from rainy 50s to sunny 90s over the course of a few days. Everything is fine. Better than fine in most ways. Dinner’s done and the dishes are washed up and I’ve got the fidgets.

The fidgets are one of those ridiculous, perennial things that annoy me and I can’t decide whether they deserve more attention, or less. I bet you know what I’m talking about, even if you call it something else. (My parents got the fidgets regularly.)

The opposite of the fidgets is that delightful time when you’re puttering or reading or gardening or cooking or just staring out the window and you are content. You’re right there in the moment. There’s no vague, gnawing sense that you could or should be tending to something else. Sure, there are a million other things you could do. But instead you’re focused on your book or your mending and there’s that …. rush is too strong a word. That sense of completeness and happiness. (Yeah, it’s true, mending does that for me!) I had a lot of that quality of time this weekend, whether the kids and I were sitting around talking, or just sharing space in companionable silence. It’s the best kind of happy I know.

But now I’ve got the fidgets. I can’t settle in or settle down. I can’t pick a thing and go with it. My mind buzzes around aimlessly from room to room like a house fly and it’s just as annoying. I’m going to pay a couple bills and run the wash I didn’t do this weekend. I’ll have some clean shirts if nothing else.

Do you have moments when you feel in (or very much out) of your groove? How do you get yourself to settle down? Thinking about being present reminds me of the weekly meditation classes I took a few years back. Instead of freeing my mind, I kept being annoyed by the racket from the trash trucks emptying the dumpsters outside the building (right on schedule!) and thinking about how the cooking fumes from the Chinese restaurant downstairs made me hungry. I’d think about Chinese food for awhile, and whether I should stop and get some dinner before going home, or just make my own. And then I’d meditate on how much I clearly sucked at meditation, which I am pretty sure is not the takeaway we’re striving for.

What do you think I should try? Drumming circle? Chanting? How do you work yourself to that place of contentment? Or does it just happen (or not)? Also while I’m at it, how do you feel about acupuncture?  Not for a physical injury, just as a whole-body and mind thing.  I have a friend who swears by it but she’s also a fan of cupping and deep tissue so I have my doubts.


  • Ann says:

    Howdy, dear! I’m late to the party but loving this post! As others have said, a walk does the trick, or putting in a load of laundry, and that monotonous activity does the trick. BTW, I tried beginner’s yoga for the first time the other day. Wonky knee and back and all, I got myself down on the mat. But after about 7-8 minutes of sitting cross-legged and doing the meditations, my back and hips started hollering bloody murder at me. I fought it and fought it, but finally I had to get up, apologize profusely to the instructor (luckily there was another class member or I would’ve felt REALLY funny leaving), and go out and do the elliptical and the rower for a bit to loosen up. So yoga turned into a monkey mind, anxious kind of a deal for me — go figure! ( I think there’s a post in there somewhere!) So happy you got to see all the kiddos for Mother’s Day — such a treat!!

  • Kismet says:

    Like a number of others, I find a good walk to be very calming. Must be the increased oxygen to the brain. Another thing that helps sometimes is planning–I’m a list-maker and just thinking through an alternative course of action relieves some of that awful helpless feeling. Expert advice is also good and can help you figure out what to do.

    But then I’m a brooder, so sometimes just a sympathetic listener, and a “Chill, Honey Bunny” does the trick.

  • Mals86 says:

    “And then I’d meditate on how much I clearly sucked at meditation, which I am pretty sure is not the takeaway we’re striving for.” I love you, March. 🙂 I can’t meditate either, my brain gets flittery. Prayer I can do, but that’s talking to someone.

  • HeidiC says:

    I completely hear you. I usually have trouble turning off my brain. Running seems to help, or going foraging, or gardening.

  • Paige W says:

    Sorry to hear that you’re feeling fidgety! When I’m in a similar state, I find that writing helps. Thorough lists about anything and everything to clear some real estate in my head, letters to friends (pen-and-paper-therapy), or grossly self-indulgent journal entries all help me. That, or going for a run. 🙂 I hope it’s not long until you find yourself on the other side of the fidgets!

  • Spring-pansy says:

    When I have a hundred things to do in different directions with not enough time, I get that feeling of not being able to settle down to one thing and start feeling very stressed. A brisk walk or run to clear my head helps and then I force myself to sit down to one task and finish it all the way through. No, it doesn’t solve all my problems, but it seems to help me get back on track and the feeling of accomplishing one thing soothes that scattered stressed feeling. Haven’t done acupuncture.

  • monika says:

    My most common method of getting back in focus is through yoga. If I still feel that I can’t stop my monkey mind from taking over then I go to kickboxing!! That will cure it! LOL!

  • Musette says:

    omg. you are a LUNATIC! Let’s start…hmmm…okay, let’s start with acupuncture. HUGE fan, here. I was all ‘omg. are you KIDDING me?’ but that was back in the 70s (realz.) – but I suffered from painful cluster headaches and couldn’t take meds without puking. My massage therapist recommended Dr Guo – now, Chinese acupuncture is Bruta compared to Japanese but the results are the same; within 3 weeks of treatment I was free of the clusters and stayed that way for a decade (intermittent acupuncture sessions helped, 1 or 2 every 3 or 4 mos).
    I also walk. A lot.
    And I don’t fight the fidgets. Fighting them, for me at least, only makes them more obvious. Just take a walk, smooch the Rhino and Fat Stan – and don’t diss the fidgs, without them Zen would just be ‘eh’


  • Lisa D says:

    Well, perfume lover – I’d recommend some directed aromatherapy, as long as we’re venturing onto the alternative route. A few spritzes onto perfume cards, some wafting in front of the nose, several deep breaths, alternating between sniffing scent and clearing the nose…..

    Focus – however I manage to acquire it – tends to calm my inner monkey. Once calm, even for a few moments, I find I can direct my mind better, and talk myself into a less frenzied state.

  • solanace says:

    I just walk. The best therapy for me consists in taking really long, indulgent walks through the city, which include a couple gourmet stops, some perfume sniffing for sure, architecture landmarks, maybe an old church, probably a bookstore, a garden for nature sniffing and, last but not least, a draft beer or two with the plasant company of some good book.

  • Tara C says:

    Never tried acupuncture, not really tempted due to the needle thing. As for the fidgets, I often have that restless dissatisfied feeling, not knowing what to do with myself. Sometimes I go for a long walk, or to a yoga class, or read a good book.

  • cinnamon says:

    Sounds lovely to have everyone around you. Ah, I call them the twitches. For me, they are usually associated with thinking about finances — or just thinking out longer term rather than being in the ‘now’. I work freelance so thinking into the future on finance is a necessity. Is it possible to let the fidgets simply wash over you? Probably not much help. I walk with the dog most days on a nearby common (huge tract of land) — besides reading and weeding that’s the thing that most returns me to equilibrium. Love acupuncture — find it transformative. As long as it’s a talented practitioner. I’d do it every week if I could afford it. So, I guess that’s a resounding ‘yes’ from me.