Monkey Mind is a Buddhist term to describe the swinging of the mind from doubt, to fear to worry and back again, like a monkey climbing from branch to branch. I learned about it in Life Coaching training and have found it a life-changing idea. This function of the brain is centered in the oldest part of our brains that was constantly scanning the horizon for danger. It is still with us, and even though we generally are not dodging tigers, it sees danger in anything new or different. This is particularly true when we are considering something that is important and meaningful to us. While everyone has Monkey Mind, the things it says to us are particular to each person. My MM very pointedly tells me I need to think long and hard about whatever it is I am thinking about attempting (a blog, for instance). It tells me I should probably first read another book about it, or take a class, or put it off until I have figured everything out. Plus, this idea will probably get hard and overwhelming and I’ll just quit, so why even start? Until I knew what this voice was, I thought it was a guiding voice and that what it said was true. IT DOESN’T MEAN ANYTHING. It is the ancient voice trying to avoid anything that signals change. Once I had been made aware of this voice, I realized that Monkey Mind injected doubt or fear into any dream or goals attached to it. I had let it run things for a large part of my life, much to my regret.
The only way to deal with Monkey Mind is not to engage with it. I was taught to thank it for sharing and move forward. Trying to reason with MM only ramps up the chattering. Being clear on what it is I want to do, and why it matters to me can calm MM for a while. Remember, Monkey Mind never goes away, so don’t waste time in trying. Keep focusing on your goal, however small. Keep focusing on why it matters to you. So many dreams and ideas were put on the back burner or tossed aside because MM was telling me I should be scared, overwhelmed and questioning the whole enterprise of my life. It’s just the ancient brain worrying that I might die of embarrassment.
To move past Monkey Mind, you have to know it exists. What follows is recognizing the hysterical nature of its “voice”. Observing this without engaging with it allows us to hear the calm voice of our own wisdom encouraging the following of the dream.
Out of ignorance, I gave Monkey Mind way too much influence in my life. Listening to the scared and worried voice in my head kept me small. The world needs all of us to live to our fullest, to do what we long to do, be who we most want to be and give what is ours to give. I am willing; how about you?
Positive change in life, body and soul is almost impossible unless we are willing to give up the idea that we need fixing.
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For those a bit lost of what to do or say, especially in this time of social turmoil and pandemic, practice BEING PRESENT. It is a gift you give to yourself and whoever you are with.
#BeingIsAnAction #JustBe #BeingPresent #Listen #Support #StandTogether #WorkOnSelfToHelpOthers #BeInTheMoment #PracticesAndTools #ItsAPracticeNotAPerfect #MyCoachingForLife
What is your focus? What thoughts circle around in your mind frequently? What grabs your attention in the course of the day? If you were a transmitting station what’s your frequency? High or Low, Positive or Negative. Is ‘what’s wrong’ on your mind? Often? Do you think about how “hard” everything is? Are you criticizing yourself: how you look: too fat, too thin, too tall or too short? Are you not smart enough, not educated enough? Are you falling short in every area of your life? Maybe your thoughts are on someone else: your co-workers, your boss, your mother, that terrible boyfriend from college? Do they keep doing what they have always done, even if you have asked them to stop? In the midst of a global pandemic, we are worrying about our friends and family possibly getting sick, or worse. Jobs and the economy add to the swirl of fear and worry.
Do you realize you have a choice in what you are thinking about? At any time, you can choose your focus, change your thinking to something more interesting: what are some ideas you have that you take some very small steps toward. Is there something you could do to support or uplift someone else, like a phone call to check on a neighbor, a snail mail note or organizing a Zoom or Face-time call with your favorite people. Giving support and uplift to others is a great antidote for anxiety or fear. Maybe you just need to fold the laundry: what is the next, small, forward moving step?
This shift can be made at any time during any day. When you notice that you have drifted back into negative or fearful thinking, passing judgement on anyone or everyone, yourself included: Take a deep breath! And smile! Because you WILL return to old patterns of thinking. This old way of thinking is deeply ingrained in our brains. Even though I have been many years removed from an active eating and exercise disorder, I can fall back into worry about body and food. Getting curious about why these thoughts surface, I learned that it’s mostly a distraction. If I’m procrastinating doing something I don’t want to do or I’m writing and feel “stuck”, old thoughts about not being worthy, asking “who do you think you are?”, and “if you take care of this you won’t have time to work out!” raise their very familiar chorus. It’s been a learning curve, and one that I haven’t mastered…yet. It’s an ongoing process. I also wish I could say that I don’t get mad at myself for taking a step back into the fear, negativity and judgement. In life coach training I was taught that getting mad and/or giving up creates more of the same old pattern. Gently turn your focus to where you would like it to be in this moment.
Like learning anything new, it takes your attention and desire to do it. If you think this a positive change you would like to try, there is no time like the present! In this time of pandemic and uncertainty, it may be one of the best things you can do for yourself. It is a gift you give to everyone as you release others and yourself from criticism, judgement, fear, worry and doubt. When the old thoughts come up, you can ask yourself: what is more kind, more peaceful, more proactive for me to think about?
This tool is a practice, and you will very likely have to return to your commitment to up level your thought patterns many times. Instead of seeing this as a good reason not to try, could you be interested in trying it for a day? Can you see the possibility that negative thoughts are exhausting you, making you feel overwhelmed or angry or depressed? Holding this practice lightly, not taking your yourself so seriously, can offer some light for your spirit during challenging times.
As Courtney Carver*, writer extraordinaire says: “you don’t have to believe everything you think”. Noticing, getting curious about what you’re thinking, weeding out thoughts or beliefs that are not helpful or positive, or false, that don’t serve you well, is a process, one that I find myself turning to over and over, as I allow myself to journey forward. Allow yourself to change your focus. Give yourself credit when you do and when you don’t because it’s a practice, you’re learning something each time. This is a tool I have found to be helpful as I journey along with everyone else.
*Check out Courtney Carver's blog here; I also highly recommend her books, Soulful Simplicity and Project 333
This is My Coaching for Life!
I hope this blog and site will help others to tap into their best self. I'll be sharing some of my own experiences, as well as delving into topics and tools from my studies in Transpersonal Psychology, Psychology of Eating and general Psychology that I find especially helpful while navigating life.
If you need more one-on-one help, please contact me so we can start our journey together.
Mary is a certified Life Coach in Omaha where she enjoys reading and sharing books, taking in nature and exploring all life has to offer with her husband Kurt, and rescue dog "Scruffy".