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For most of our human existence, we have been taught and culturally conditioned to believe that our intellect is one of the most important tools to sharpen, attend to, and grow. From a young age we are taught the importance of learning - the acquisition of knowledge and information. We are encouraged to go to school, to get good grades, to test well, and to demonstrate our smarts in everything we do. We are rewarded for our wit, our ideas, and our analysis of situations with respect, promotion, and admiration. The more we are rewarded, the more importance we place on the use of our minds.
At some point in our lives, our intellect seems to be taken over by mental chatter and distraction. The very tool we have relied on for making decisions and choices somehow becomes clouded with thoughts, noise, and the voice that never seems to stop talking. I call this our Monkey Mind. The Monkey Mind distracts us and creates a state of fear, disconnection, judgment, and suffering. The Monkey Mind wants us to believe we are victims of our experiences and interactions, "because of that, I am this" or "because this person did this to me, I am this way." This is how the Monkey Mind gains power.
The truth is, however, that the Monkey Mind does not want to be responsible for creating the internal suffering we experience. It wants us to blame, judge, and hold onto the belief that suffering is a result of our external environment and world. The Monkey Mind wants us to believe we are our thoughts. When we buy into this, we blame others and hold the external responsible, giving enormous power to anything outside of ourselves. We empower the problem rather than empowering ourselves! And, the confusing thing is that our thoughts become things. The more we identify with our negative and limited thinking, the more we create experiences and circumstances to be negative and limited about.
How do we recognize when we are caught in this natural human cycle? How do we stop defining our identity as the Monkey Mind? How do we shift from blaming and judging our outside world to becoming responsible inside?
One approach is to realize that thoughts happen automatically. Thinking is an automatic function of the brain. Thoughts come and go like passing clouds and we get to choose which ones to focus on. We are not our thoughts.
Try an experiment with me. Pick a day and commit yourself to observing your thoughts without attaching to them. Commit to noticing them without judgment, interpretation, analysis, or action. Simply observe them as if you are a researcher tracking the thoughts of a subject.
What is the quality of your thoughts?
Are they expansive or contracting?
Are they based in fear or love?
When and how often do they come?
When is there stillness and serenity inside your mind?
When we shift into observation mode and detach from the Monkey Mind’s antics, we begin to witness it as an empowering tool rather than a disempowering one. We begin to realize the Monkey Mind is a part of being human – everyone has one. As we become more aware that we are not our thoughts, we can become more disciplined in the thoughts we choose to embrace, reflect, and act upon. We can choose which ones will serve our highest and greatest good.
1. Observe without attachment. Notice the nature and personality of your Monkey Mind. Create the space to contemplate these questions and write the answers in your journal. How active is your Monkey Mind?
When is your Monkey Mind active? (Does it kick-in to overdrive at night when you are trying to go to sleep? Does it kick-in when you have an important meeting or interaction with someone?)
What does your Monkey Mind say to you? (What statements or words does it speak inside of your head?
2. Bring your full awareness to your breath. Our breath is our life force that sustains, nourishes, and brings vitality to every aspect of our life. Notice the natural rhythm of your unique inhalation and exhalation. Count the length of your inhale and exhale – without force, change, or performance. Simply notice.
3. Bring your attention to three things you are grateful for. What brought you joy today? What happened that caused you to smile? When did you feel connected?
At Plenty, we connect idealists to create massive positive change. Our vision is in the name of our company. We envision a world in which there is plenty for everyone. “Plenty” means abundance and happiness in purpose, wellbeing, resources, relationships, and sense of self. To unlock plenty for everyone, we need a planet of idealists. We support idealists and dreamers who do with tools, thought leadership, consulting, executive coaching, fundraising, data analytics, program development, transformational experiences, and peer-to-peer connection.
If you are interested in quieting the Monkey Mind so you can better listen to the innate wisdom that resides within you, our coaching and transformational experiences can help you. We invite you to look out for our upcoming Idealist Retreats at our new corporate retreat center in Park City, Utah. During a two-day immersive experience, you will learn ways to quiet your Monkey Mind, activate your passions and purpose, and learn ways to bring your vision of a better world to fruition.