The Monkey Mind

The Monkey Mind

A man was presented with a very attractive business opportunity. To succeed in this project, he had to learn many new skills and stretch his ‘comfort zone’ concerning sales and selling.

The first couple of weeks turned out to be very easy. He adopted some new habits that quickly paid off in real cash.

Then it all came to a grinding halt. The passion he had about this new project suddenly seemed to disappear.

Why is it that, despite good intentions and specific goals, the will often quite suddenly seems to disappear?

Consider this saying from the ancient biblical scholar, Hillel:

Watch your thoughts; they become your words.

Watch your words; they become your actions.

Watch your actions; they become your habits.

Watch your habits; they become your character.

Watch your character, for it will become your destiny.

Our thoughts truly are at the root of our results. The voices that jangle around in our conscious mind will trigger the words, that then shape the actions that, in turn, make things happen.

When starting out on this new venture, the man moved forward on faith. He adopted a kind of ‘Zone of Believability’, where he listened only to positive, affirming thoughts. The early results he got helped him to build his confidence, reinforcing his thoughts, which then amplified his actions and habits.

But somehow the cycle broke down. A negative thought crept up on him, throwing a “wrench into the works,” and bringing his newfound momentum to a painful, screeching halt.

What was the specific thought? He don’t quite know. But that one thought led to another and another, psyching him out of his ‘zone of believability’ and stopping his daily, positive actions.

The Buddhists have a name for these kinds of thoughts. They call them the ‘Monkey Mind,’ the meaningless chatter that goes on in the brain. Monkey Mind thoughts comment on everything one does and experiences. They chatter about real or imagined slights, failures and dramas, triggering icky and sticky feelings, full of guilt and shame. They project into both the past and future, flitting from one thing to another, distracting from the ‘now.’

The Monkey Mind works like the Barrel of Monkeys game alI of us played as kids. It consists of a barrel full of colourful plastic monkeys with long, hook-like arms. The goal is to pick up the monkeys, one-by-one, using their arms to hook the next to create a chain.

Monkey Mind thoughts work the same way. When you pay attention to one, it hooks onto another negative thought, and another, and another, eventually mentally talking you out of pursuing the goal you had set out for yourself.

When the Monkey Mind is chattering away it’s difficult to concentrate on the present.

So, the big question is just how can the Monkey Mind chain be broken?

  • First, it’s critical to recognize when the Monkey Mind is speaking. Monkey Mind thoughts are easy to spot. They have a negative energy to them, and lead to loss of resolve, hesitancy, distraction, and inaction.
  • Get those Monkey Mind thoughts out of your head by simply dumping, or disowning them. You might carry a small notebook or agenda to jot down the to-do’s, appointments, projects, and ideas that are bouncing around in your head.
  • Another strategy is to write down negative Monkey Mind thoughts on a separate sheet, then use a dark marker to cross each one out…while reflecting on why each Monkey Mind thought is untrue about you. For added effect, when you’re finished lining out your list, you might crumple the paper into a ball and throw it away…or burn it!

“Inoculate” yourself against the Monkey Mind by taking time a few times each day to quiet your mind through meditation, reflection, or prayer. You might find that physical activity such as a weight training session, cycling, swimming or an outdoor run will help to calm the Monkey Mind. Whatever you do, when doing it, focus on the spaces between your thoughts, on simply being in the now. Experience the effect of your thoughts beginning to relax, the Monkey Mind fading away, and your confidence coming back. Eventually, you’ll develop a mastery over your Monkey Mind by letting those thoughts simply pass through you like waves.

When one begins to focus on breathing, rhythm, and the fall scenery, then your thought patterns will begin to shift. You’ll come back from your exercise in the present, energized, and positive – and so, back on the track to success.

Doubts and fears will always pop up when you’re faced with the necessity of changing habits. Learn to ignore the Monkey Mind, and move back into the Zone of Believability. With patience and practice, let go of the chatter and recognize when the real truth speaks…successfully leading you to create the future you really want.