How Do You Settle Your Monkey Mind?

How to Calm Your Monkey Mind

Fidgety Mind

Jeff heard me whimpering. It was 3:30 a.m. My body was in bed beside him, but my mind was a universe away.

He nudged me awake.

In my dream, I’d been yelling for help, help, help. Two bad guys in green uniforms had my arms pinned and a third was coming directly at me.

Even though now awake, the dream left me fidgety. My mind swung from one anxious thought to another.

…Did I put the ham back in the refrigerator?…How many days until we go to Julie’s?…Should I look at the clock again?…Did I tell Jeff about the funny bumper sticker I saw yesterday?…How many pages are left in my library book due Wednesday?…Am I prepared if the newΒ grandbaby comes early?…Will I ever get back to sleep?…

My monkey mind was still yelling, “Help, help, help!”

Mind Your Thoughts

It’s been said we have around 50,000 separate thoughts each day. How are we supposed to wrangle these thoughts into meaning, into purpose, into peace?

A popular answer these days (but not a new answer) is meditation. Mindfulness is all the rage. It’s especially needful in this age of distraction.

I agree. [See “Is Christian Meditation Okay?“] I’ve already been practicing centering prayer for several years.

But meditate on what? Just anything? A single word? Nothingness?

Maybe. Sometimes each of those is needed. Each has a purpose it can serve.

But for me, the most calming cure for monkey mind is having a solid go-to passage to think about. To pray. To recite. To believe.

  • I want it to be true.
  • I want it to be good.
  • I want it to be God.

That’s one reason I keep returning to scripture memory as a primary spiritual discipline. I memorize verses that are engaging enough to focus me, but not so hard to frustrate me.

In the middle of the night, familiar favorites pop up the quickest.

But in the day, when my mind needs stronger weapons, I call on newer passages I’m learning.

Psalm 1 Memory Challenge

I’m starting again on Psalm 1.

I learned it years ago, but I want to relearn it again for who I am now, for where God has brought me now.

No, the words haven’t change since I first learned it. The truths haven’t changed.

But I have changed.

As we grow older and are exposed to life, our faith grows and matures, too. How I understood “for the Lord knows the way of the righteous” (Psalm 1:6)Β as a child is different from how I understand it today. Today it has more depth, more nuance, more life experiences underneath it.

Psalm 1:2 reminds me that meditating on God’s truth can be delightful. His love makes me stand firm like a a tree by water’s edge. It blesses me and helps me bear fruit.

Scripture memory isn’t magic. But it is powerful. The more I focus my mind on God’s beauty and his goodness, the more I know he loves me.Β And the more I love him in return, and am more capable of loving others.

It’s a lot to ask from my mind, to stop swinging from limb to limb, to rest quietly for a few minutes on one thought. That’s why we call it a discipline. But the rewards are worth it.

You might even say delightful.

“But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”
Psalm 1:2

* * *

What helps you calm your monkey mind? Please share in the comments.

Get LOTS of resources on scripture memory at Do Not Depart:

38 thoughts on “How Do You Settle Your Monkey Mind?

  1. Laurie

    I cannot believe you posted on this topic today, Lisa. I had trouble sleeping last night and was thinking about ways to calm my “monkey mind”. When I get to sleep my anxiety levels sometimes go through the roof. Being true, good, and God are wonderful attributes of passages to meditate on. Thank you for this great idea. I am going to try it for my next sleepless night!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I have those nights quite often, Laurie, unfortunately. But at least I can feel that I’m putting the time to better use than just senseless worrying, which otherwise can be my go-to. πŸ˜‰ Hope you sleep better tonight, friend!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It seems like many of us feel our brains are on overload lately. Deep breaths for all of us! πŸ™‚ God wants us to enjoy each moment without rushing through it to get to the next one.

  2. Cheryl Gerou

    Thank you! I needed this reminder. I deal with “monkey mind” often. Racing thoughts coming out of an overwhelmed heart, distracted by too much, I know that feeling all too well. I have been trying to find things that help and concentrating on the Word definitely does. I, too, am going to be memorizing Psalm 1 with Do Not Depart. I often repeat a verse to help me gain calm and focus! Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m so glad that you’re memorizing with us, Cheryl! I’m looking forward to Psalm 1. Even though I’ve learned it in the past, I trust God will reveal fresh things to each of us for this season of life of that we’re in.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Memorizing scripture has been a blessing to me in so many different ways. (But it’s amazing how my mind remembers less words in the middle of the night compared to the day! ha. That’s why I have to go with the easier chapters at night.)

  3. Beth

    I love your emphasis and constant challenge to yourself and others to memorize Scripture, Lisa! It truly is a weapon and tool that is available to each Christ-follower, allowing us to fight back darkness and live out our faith in powerful and meaningful ways for God and others. Love this! Pinned now and scheduled to pin some more later! Hugs

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Beth. Memorization has been both a great challenge to me but also a great reward so I keep sticking with it. πŸ™‚ I love how God uses different ways to reach each of us, and different disciplines in different seasons. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Susan @ My Place to Yours

    I’ve never heard it called “monkey mind”, but I certainly know how it feels! The past couple of weeks have been especially overwhelming emotionally and mentally, and my mind will not settle, even in attempted sleep. “Be anxious for nothing…” is my mantra, and I trust God will bring peace. Thank you for this today, Lisa.

    (New grandbaby? I missed this somewhere! Congratulations.)

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      “Be anxious for nothing” is a wonderful truth to dwell on, Susan. I’m sorry the past couple weeks have been unsettling; praying for a peaceful few weeks to counteract it.

      Yes, it’s almost time for our new grandbaby! We’re less than a month away now! It will be another little girl. Our first granddaughter will be 20 months, so my daughter has requested my help. πŸ™‚ I know that’s one reason my mind keeps spinning, trying to get prepared for the fun and hectic times ahead. ha.

  5. Alice V Walters

    Dear Lisa, what a fun term for something that seems to plague so many of us. God’s Word is probably the most potent tool to comfort and calm. I’m also thankful for the “old” hymns. Turning my brain into the turns and messages are also a reminder that our Lord is near. Thanks and blessings for this word of encouragement!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I totally agree with you, Alice–songs are another great way to settle our monkey mind. I can get a song stuck in my head pretty easily, so why not use it for the good? πŸ™‚ Those old hymns are often ones that I remember the best, even ones I haven’t sung in a long while. Kinda funny how that happens.

  6. Mandy

    I’ve always been an advocate of Scripture reading, but especially meditating and memorizing scripture. How else with the Holy Spirit be able to encourage our minds if we don’t first fill our minds with his Word?

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Sounds like we’re on the same page, Mandy–literally. πŸ™‚ I was blessed to grow up in a home that valued scripture reading so it’s always been a part of my life, but as an adult I’ve come to appreciate it in a new way.

  7. Patsy Burnette

    I like the Psalm 1 memory challenge. I need to try this. My nightmares are almost always about spiders. LOL Seriously though, thank you for this. I have a lot of trouble calming my mind, especially at night. I needed this post!

    Pinned & tweeted.

    Thanks for linking up at InstaEncouragements!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      At least your nightmares make sense, Patsy. I really am scared of spiders. ha. My craziest dreams are trying to get somewhere to take a shower and I’m running late and I forgot my shampoo or any number of zany scenarios. lol. But that still may be an easier dream than running into spiders. πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing about our memory challenge!

  8. Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Your post title drew me in…how true, especially at 2 am!! Trying to get your mind to calm down in the middle of the night is especially challenging for me. To sharpen my scripture memory, each week I write one new scripture on a post-it note and leave it on a cupboard I use often. Every time I go to open or close it I challenge myself to recite the scripture. I find I have to pack my mind with scripture during the “good” times so that it’s readily available in the hard times (when monkey mind is at its worst). Great reminders today!
    Bev xx

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, those 2am wake-up calls are often the hardest times to tame our mind. There’s something about the darkness of night that takes away my rationality. I love how you’re memorizing scripture, Bev! Leaving yourself post-it notes is something my mom used to do when she was still here. When we visited, we’d find scripture on her bathroom mirror, kitchen cabinets, etc. Thanks for sharing that!

  9. Diane@worthbeyondrubies

    This was so timely! I had so much trouble sleeping last night and my mind was just all over the place! Sometimes I have to turn the TV on in my room just to get my brain to turn off. When I lay there and watch the TV I will drift off without that “monkey mind” kicking in. I love this post and it has encouraged me to begin to work on a plan to fill my mind with His Word and not the thoughts of the world. Thank you for linking up @worthbeyondrubies

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I know what you mean, Diane. I often listen to podcasts in the middle of the night when I really need a heavy distraction to help me get back to sleep. I use the sleep-timer on my phone so the podcast won’t go on for hours. Years ago, I would listen to Joyce Meyer on my mp3 player in the middle of the night and it would play on and on; I would start dreaming that I was trying to turn off Joyce Meyer but I never could make her be quiet. ha.

  10. Trudy

    I’m so sorry about your nightmare, Lisa. I like to add an ending to it where I am more empowered, and what better way to empower us than God’s own word, right? This is so true – “The more I focus my mind on God’s beauty and his goodness, the more I know he loves me.” Love and blessings to you!

  11. Lois Flowers

    Lisa, I’m so thankful for way scriptures I’ve memorized over the years come to mind during those anxious moment. Repeating them over and over seems to settle the heart and allow the Holy Spirit to bring peace to the soul. Like you, I’ve also found that rereading chapters and books I read long ago reveals different insights now. Powerful and active and sharper than a two-edged sword, right? πŸ™‚

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, it is so cool how God can bring scriptures to mind at just the right time that we may have learned years ago. The key for me is having put them in my mind to start off with! Then they’ll be there when he wants to pull them back out. Reviewing the older verses is the hardest thing for me to have patience with, but in the middle of the night, I have nothing else but time. πŸ™‚

  12. David

    Dear Lisa, Yes! I have signed up. I learnt (and forgot) Psalm 1 a few years ago. I love its tranquil images. My mind rages sometimes, and Scripture verses are very good at anchoring and calming, and providing a centering focus. Thank you!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m so glad you signed up to memorize Psalm 1 with us, David! I love your imagery of the verses being “anchoring.” They drop a line in the water and help us stay still.

  13. Jean Wise

    I was just thinking of this today during my prayers and wandering mind this morning. I know I mentioned before I like the image of puppies around my feet instead of monkeys – I hush them so they settle and sleep so I can be with God. BUT it doesn’t always work and the more I get away from longer contemplative prayer the more the monkeys and pups cry for attention. Have you noticed how easy it is to slip away from those disciplines that feed our soul?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *