I would like to share with you five techniques to master your monkey mind.
Zen Buddhists used the metaphor of a monkey mind to refer to the tendency for the mind to jump from thought to thought, constantly in motion, without conscious control.
Elizabeth Gilbert once said, “I am burdened with ‘the monkey mind’ – the thoughts that swing from limb to limb, stopping only to scratch themselves, spit, and howl.”
I think we can all agree that one of the most challenging things to master is our mind. A number of years ago the NSF estimated that our brains produce as many as 12,000-50,000 thoughts, per day. Ask yourself, “How many of those thoughts are positive, supportive, and inspiring?”
The mind can be a tool of transformation or destruction, depending on how you choose to use it. Learning how to master your monkey mind is the first step on the path towards life mastery. You need to remember that you have a mind, but YOU are not your mind. You have the power to separate yourself from your thoughts.
We need to learn how to observe our thoughts but not get attached to them, because when you consciously control your thoughts, you consciously create the future that you desire.
How do we achieve this? A morning ritual is a great way to calm the persistent chatter in your mind, focus on the present, and ease yourself into the day with self-control. I challenge you to practice these five techniques to master your monkey mind:
Meditation is the most effective technique you can use in order to calm your monkey mind. The latest neuroscience research proves that meditation techniques that have been around for thousands of years have beneficial effects on both your mind and your body (Ricard, Lutz, & Davidson, 2014).
Meditation does not mean that you are void of thoughts. That is merely impossible. Rather, meditation provides you with an opportunity to move beyond thought. When you are present and aware of your thoughts, you become an observer.
Exkhart Tolle once said, “When you recognize that there is a voice in your head that pretends to be you and never stops speaking, you are awakening out of your unconscious identification with the stream of thinking. When you notice the voice, you realize that who you are is not the voice – the thinker – but the one who is aware of it.”
Keep in mind that you don’t have to be a meditation master in order to reap the benefits. Take 5 minutes every day to quiet your mind. Lean into your monkey mind by welcoming the chatter. Don’t try to block your thoughts, but rather notice them.
2. Express Incantations
What you think, you attract. Affirmations are an amazing way to train your brain for mastery and eliminate negative thinking. If you repeat positive, high vibrational statements on a daily basis, they become new beliefs. However, if you want to create real change in your life, affirmations aren’t enough.
Tony Robbins talks about incantations, which is where you engage your physiology and emotions along with the empowering phrase or affirmation. He states that, “With incantations, not only are you speaking words of empowerment, you are using your body and your voice. You are changing your physiology and changing your state, and this can change everything.”
Think about some affirmations and incantations that support you and your life, and practice them every day as part of your morning ritual.
3. Do Breathing Exercises
Research shows that the average person takes between 17,280 and 23,040 breaths per day (Brown, 2014). We all breathe, but are we doing it with intention? Breathing is something that we take for granted, even though oxygen is vital for our life.
As part of Tony Robbins’ morning ritual, he completes 3 sets of 30 Kapalabhati Pranayama breaths. This powerful and directed breathing centers him so that he is primed for whatever the day brings. Breathing exercises are a simple way to focus your mind, while at the same time achieving a calming sensation throughout your body.
I start my day with a breathing pattern, where I inhale at a count of 5 seconds, hold for the count of 20 seconds, and then exhale at a count of 10 seconds. In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, “To master our breath is to be in control of our bodies and minds.”
4. Establish A Journaling Practice
Journaling is a great way to get your monkey mind under control. Set aside some time each morning and let it run wild. Express your thoughts and feelings on paper, and don’t hold back. The trick is to not let your thoughts control you. Honour and observe them. Become a voyeur, thank them for stopping by, and then let them go.
Tim Ferriss has an excellent podcast where he talks about learning “How To Cage the Monkey Mind.” He recommends journaling, which he describes as a “brain dump of thoughts, complaints, and insecurities so that it is not caught on repeat for the rest of the day.”
Kitty Klein, Ph.D. at North Carolina State, has done research on the memory benefits of journaling. She found when people journaled about negative things, their memory improved by 11%. Journaling about positive things brought a 4% increase, and general writing increased memory by 2.5% (Seth, 2009). In the words of Christina Baldwin, “Journal writing is a voyage to the interior.” Dive in.
5. Practice Gratitude
Starting your morning with gratitude will change the tune of your entire day. Ask yourself, “What are you grateful for?” Showing and feeling gratitude shifts your focus from a place of lack to one of abundance.
Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and wellbeing. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression (Morin, 2014).
The Five Minute Journal is a great tool to use to help you focus on the things that you are grateful for.
Take a few moments every day to give thanks for what you have. Developing an attitude of gratitude will change your life for the better. When you master your monkey mind, you master your life.
Do you want to learn how to create a morning ritual that will help ease you into your day? CLICK HERE to purchase my Morning Ritual Mastery course!