The core foundation of living an intentionally designed life comes down to your ability to Train Monkeys.
Yup, you read that right.
Not that kind of monkey. This kind.
You know the ones, we all have them.
They live in your head and talk to you all day and night long, an ongoing dialog of judgments, assessment, chatter, obsessions, idle thoughts. The challenge is that the Monkeys don’t stop talking unless you train them. Unless you do the work and build a muscle around training those Monkeys they can be so loud that you can’t connect to Source/God, they just talk right over whatever Source is trying to say to you.
It may be time to consider new management in that head of yours. This was the case for my recent client, Samara. She was consistently stressed, surviving her life, hopping from one fire to another in her home and business. After some investigating, we identified that the root of her challenge is that she was allowing her Monkey Mind to run her life and desperately missed experiencing a connection to Source/God.
Step 1: Find the Monkeys
You can’t train something if you don’t know where it is or how to find it.
The most basic part of your brain is the Reptilian Brain or Lizard Brain, located physically in the cerebellum. This is where your impulse lives, fight or flight responses, this is your survival instinct. The Monkeys certainly interact with the Lizard Brain, but they live in a distinctly different place in your brain.
For most people, the Monkeys live in the Neocortex and play in the Limbic. The Neocortex is where thought and language take place. The Monkeys live here and just chatter away, a constant dialogue, talking to you all day long. The Limbic is essentially where judgment and emotions come from and this is where the Monkeys love to play as they’re great at judging you, the world around you, your actions, others’ actions, everything really; they also get riled up by emotions, they feed on them.
The part that can’t be easily explained by science and biology is your Higher Self. For me, this is my soul and how Source/God speaks to me. Once I built a muscle around training the Monkeys and could choose when to quiet them, that’s when my Higher Self started getting more air time in my head and heart. Over time I even started to receive what I call Downloads, thoughts planted in my Mind that I’m clear are not my own, rather messages and directives from Source/God. Thing is, you won’t be able to find this place inside you until you spend some time getting to know the various players.
I suggest you start by spending some time, perhaps a week, noticing when the Monkeys are chattering. See if you can identify when it’s the Monkey Mind versus your Lizard Brain responding to something. Don’t attempt to change it, just notice.
Samara realized that her Lizard Brain would trigger a fight or flight response to the fires and challenges she faced throughout her day in her home life and business. Then, once the threat had passed her Monkey Mind would dominate the rest of her day.
Step 2: Get to know the Monkeys
It’s difficult to train something you have no relationship with. To train an animal you must first earn it’s trust.
With that in mind, spend some time getting to know your Monkeys. What do they talk the most about? What are their common complaints? What do they love to judge? What emotions get them going?
Again, spend a week focusing on this. Just notice, don’t attempt to change.
Samara’s Monkeys spent most of their time analyzing if she’d handled the daily emergencies ‘correctly’, assessing if she was going to be able to leave work on time to be with her family. They also judged her for not spending more time with family and, at the same time, judged her for not handling the business more efficiently.
I feel it important to note here that there are times when the Monkeys help you. They remind you to turn off the stove, buy toilet paper, they think about relationships, self-image etc. and a certain amount of this is healthy. The Monkeys also judge and assess your environment and help you sort things out, for example as you navigate a networking event your Monkeys are determining which people you want to connect with and which ones aren’t a fit. The goal here isn’t to eradicate the Monkeys! They often help and support you in life, no you don’t want to make them go away, you want to develop the ability to choose when you interact with them and when you quiet them. As you’re noticing the focus of the Monkey chatter, also notice when they help you and when the conversation moves into obsessive and no longer serves.
Again, don’t try to change it, just notice (I KNOW, this can be HARD – just trust me)
Step 3: Give the Monkeys something to do
If you want a group of monkeys to quiet down, throw some bananas or toys into their cage. You want to start including some practices or techniques to distract your Monkeys.
The most effective thing is to incorporate meditation into your daily routine. Meditation is different than prayer. Consider that prayer is talking to Source/God and meditation is listening. By this definition, regardless of your religious affiliation, meditation can be incorporated into your daily routine.
There are many, many types of meditation. I always suggest that those new to the practice start with deep breathing for just 30 seconds twice a day and slowly increase to five minutes twice a day over a couple of weeks.
For some, the addition of meditation is all that is needed, this simple addition has a butterfly effect and things fall into place. However, for those who are more analytically inclined, additional practices and tools are required.
In Samara’s case we added some new boundaries as well as time management techniques in addition to meditation. She set boundaries with her clients and vendors around when she would address their ‘fires’ and she implemented some focused time daily to manage the business operations which helped to avoid internal fires. She also had a conversation with her family about her guilt over not being home more and made some agreements with them that freed her up to worry less.
Another practice is to simply change the conversation. When the Monkeys get on a rant about something that is self-deprecating, and you notice that it’s happening, change the conversation. You do have control over your thoughts. One thing that works well for me, is when I notice the Monkeys going on about something disempowering I focus them, instead, on making a mental list of ten things you’re grateful for, or ten people you love and why, or ten items on your bucket list…you get the idea.
This is not an overnight shift. It takes time to Train Monkeys. It isn’t easy, it will take discipline, commitment, and intentionality. Thoughts lead to actions that lead to results. If you’re determined to design your life, to intentionally create a life you love, you must first start by designing and intentionally creating your thought life.