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Music and the Spoken Word: Taming the wild monkey


April 15, 2018

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Editor's note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast.

Thousands of years ago, Gautama Buddha became known as a wise teacher with keen insights into human nature. He often compared the mind to a wild monkey: jumping from limb to limb, restless, distracted and a bit out of control (see Samyutta Nikaya 12:61).

When we think about how hectic life can be sometimes, with so many important things to do, so many urgent matters clamoring for our attention, the analogy seems pretty accurate. When this happens, we may feel unsettled, anxious and exhausted as we try to keep up with the little monkey in our mind.

What can we do to tame the monkey? How do we find peace in our noisy, chaotic world? One woman found that when she felt frazzled and anxious, her mind was eased when she thought of the psalm “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). A busy man buffeted by the stresses of life repeats the simple but powerful words “Things will work out” to help him carry on. Another finds tranquility in taking a moment to focus on his blessings, even when things don’t seem to be going well. And another is intentional about being more loving in the things she says to herself, such as “I can deal with this,” and that helps hush her fears and worries.

All of these examples have something important in common: Stopping long enough to listen to gentle reminders of truth and whisperings of peace. They are easiest to hear in quiet moments — so sometimes we have to create these moments in our mind and heart. We may even need to find a place that is set apart from the noise of the world. Keeping a journal, listening to soothing music, taking time to ponder and pray, breathing deeply or even repeating a hopeful word or phrase can soothe our souls.

The world may not become less hectic or stressful anytime soon. But even a wild monkey needs to rest from time to time. We will find greater peace and personal power — no matter what’s going on around us — if we can focus our minds and hearts on messages of truth, encouragement and hope.

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