There Are Monkeys in My Brain:
A small pack of monkeys has taken up residence in my mind. Let me be clear here, these new inhabitants are joining the two or three monkeys that live there year round. The regulars generally keep busy swinging about hooting and flinging feces like monkeys tend to do. At this point you may be wondering what on earth I’m talking about. That is perfectly understandable!
There is a dangerous disease sweeping the Western world called Monkey Mind. No, this is not some sort of de-evolutionary phenomenon. Monkey Mind is a term used to describe the human mind when it is in an overactive and highly unsettled state. If you manage to find a spare second in the day to try to sit and relax and as soon as you do a million thoughts and ideas start screeching, swinging, and flinging for your attention, then you probably have Monkey Mind. Take a deep breath. Relax. You are going to be OK, but you will need some help.
There is a simple, one-step answer to solve all of your problems. Bananas! Eat a handful of bananas a day and the monkeys will go away leaving behind a blissful mental jungle. Who knew the cure for an anxious mind was so simple? Sadly, potassium overdosing is not the cure.
We all know that our lives are too fast-paced, our to-do lists are too long, and we need more sleep. In spite of our best intentions to slow down, we just can’t seem to stop. We are addicted to doing, and in those few moments where we try to break free from our business our minds run rampant. If you’re anything like me, before you know it you are up out of the chair writing an email, doing the dishes, or making that overdue phone call. The monkeys screech in delight as we flee from our pursuit of inner peace and stillness in defeat. After enough defeats most of us give up and just stop trying. Stillness is too costly.
I strongly believe cultivating a sense of inner stillness and peace is a critical part of living a Holy Spirit-led Christian life. If our minds are so filled with the monkeys of work, family, school, the future (you can keep going, and before long you realize there are a whole lot of monkeys howling and shaking branches), then there is no way that we will be able to discern the soft gentle voice of the Holy Spirit. We speed read a chapter of the Bible as we slurp down a bowl of cereal and get dressed, and we wonder why our devotional times have become dry. We wonder why God has gone quiet.
I do not believe that God has gone quiet. I think we have pushed him to the margins as we’ve over-caffeinated and double booked ourselves to an early spiritual death. We’ve expected him to show up and speak on our terms. We’ve wanted Jesus to be convenient, but he doesn’t work that way. Listening and stillness are difficult. They grow easier in time, but they are still work.
My goal is not to make you whip out your pen and, in a moment of guilt-induced fervor, add “10 minutes of stillness” to your humungous daily list. If listening becomes merely one more task to check off, then it morphs into just another howling monkey. Listening and stillness must become a source of centering that puts the rest of our life in perspective. They become the sacred space where we open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit and where we wrestle with our own struggles in the silence of our own heart.
I refuse to let the monkeys have the last laugh. I refuse to be a prisoner in my own mind. I deeply desire to know and hear the voice of my beloved Savior. Lord, give us ears to hear. Teach us how to listen.