Peace & the City: Calming the Monkey Brain

I was born and raised in a big European city. Being in a busy city with not much nature around, except for parks was normal. Even Milwaukee (Wisconsin) – where I finished high school and did my college degree – seemed small and suburby to me. Then I went off traveling. The past 5 years I lived in big cities, small towns, villages and remote areas in the middle of nowhere. I discovered a connection with nature and realized I need and want nature in my life, close to me. While I still claim to be a city-girl, I realized I need balance between nature and city-life. This is one of the reasons I fell in love with Split (Croatia): a perfect combination of a city-like town of 180,000 with the sea all around it and the mountains near-by.

Currently I am in Upstate New York for a few months. There is nature: forrest, deer and chipmunks. Running up the hills of the Catskills Mountains. But it is so tiny, despite of the population of 16,000, this town feels too quiet and too remote to me.

The other day we drove to New York City. The City that never sleeps. The City I love. The City I used to think I want to live in, but now realizing that as much as I love it, I am missing nature and I am missing peace in there.

What a contrast: the City and Upstate. Like the mind I have and the mind I need.

I got off the train and I felt right at home. The city smell, the busy streets, the people going about their business, buildings, shops, noises, and people. All familiar. All normal. It always feels natural, normal and homey in New York City.

Perhaps because this is how my brain is: always on the go, never stop, never sleeps. I am constantly thinking, thinking more, dreaming, analyzing, problem solving, contemplating, creating, planning, remembering, questioning… My brain is full of ideas and full of thoughts. I am constantly thinking on 20 million things. My brain truly is like New York City – or a crazy monkey running around the City.

My brain needs some Upstate: some quiet, some boring, some peace.

As said I discovered that I need a balance between nature and city-life. This is what my mind needs too: a balance between a completely quiet peace and a crazy monkey-like constant thinking…

Achieving this balance is one of the goals on my journey: it is a process. But on this journey, I am working on recognizing when my brain is over-spinning and slow it down for a moment.

How do I do this? What can you do when your monkey-brain is going nuts?

First, as I catch myself going a million miles and hour in my brain, I call it a stop. I say ‘stop’ out loud or in my mind. Time-out. I take a big deep breath in. Slowly. Preferably with my eyes closed. I take another breath. Then one more. With the last breath out I grab my wrist (it is full of calming acupressure points as I learned from FasterEFT). I say “peace” (but you can say “calm” or “happy” or any other calming word) and think of a happy place in my brain. A place that represents balance, happiness and calmness: for me it is Split by the sea, but it can be anything for you, a real place or fictional.

This practice always helps me to slow down for a minute, to regain balance and to calm my mind. A moment of Upstate in my NYC-mind. Try it out!

(written on July 3, 2014)

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