[motivation] How to stop the mind chatter and focus on the exam ahead

Zen Buddhists refer to the constant chatter of the mind as monkey mind.

The Buddha held that the human mind is filled with drunken monkeys flinging themselves from tree branches, jumping around, and chattering nonstop. He meant that our minds are in constant motion. Typical mind chatter sounds like the following:

  • Your mind reading off a laundry list of to-do items
  • Your mind listing its fears, both real and imaginary: UPSC lowered the seat quota by 200. That means ~8,000 guys will clear the prelims. I am already 2 attempts down and many of the incumbent service guys re-take the exam. What are the odds!
  • Your mind recalling hurtful things that have happened in the past
  • Your mind judging the present
  • Your mind creating catastrophic “what-if” scenarios of the future: Mis firings in mocks, excessive guesswork without enough practice of tikdams, what if paper 2 comes out to be even more difficult than last year’s

Buddha showed his students how to meditate in order to tame the drunken monkeys in their minds. It’s useless to fight with the monkeys or to try to banish them from your mind because, as we all know, that which you resist persists.

Instead, Buddha said, if you will spend some time each day in quiet meditation — simply calm your mind by focusing on your breathing or a simple mantra — you can, over time, tame the monkeys. They will grow more peaceful if you lovingly bring them into submission with a consistent practice of meditation.

One of the most effective practices to taming the monkey mind is: 

Establish a Journaling Practice: 

By establishing a regular journaling practice, you’ll be setting aside a window of time each day specifically to address your monkey mind’s concerns. Do the following:

  • Let your monkey mind know that every morning you’re going to give it 15 to 20 minutes to run amok.
  • During this time, write down what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling, and anything that you’re worried about.
  • Do this for the amount of time that you’ve allotted to journaling, and then stop.

Note: We have created an [open] Telegram group for students [Click2join] who want to share their daily timelines and timesheets and get peers approval and keep the motivation up! Join the free initiative.

Once the time is up, let your monkey know that it’s had it’s say for the day, and that you will not pay attention to anything else it says until the next day’s journaling session. Then, keep your word. If your monkey mind starts screeching at any other time of the day, refuse to place your attention on whatever thoughts the monkey mind is generating.

Tell your monkey mind the following: “Your session for today is over. Wait until tomorrow’s session. I’ll listen to you then.” Soon, your monkey mind will realize that it’s completely futile to make a fuss at any time other than during your journaling sessions.

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