I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s always worth a reminder.
Ever heard of the concept “monkey mind“?
It comes from meditation (in various eastern traditions).
The basic image is this:
Learning to meditate is like learning to train a monkey to sit still.
Our mind IS that monkey.
So, to start with our delightful little monkey is hopping around the room, scratching its arse, and so on. You know, all the usual monkey shenanigans.
We gently and lovingly bring it back to sitting on a certain spot. It sits still for a few seconds, then jumps up again.
Each time, we lovingly bring it back to the spot, and get it to quieten down. Each time, it stays sitting for slightly longer.
There’s no point in getting angry at it, or impatient – it’s just a monkey. We stay patient, stay loving, but persist.
And this is how we train our minds to meditate.
Another (slightly more boring) description for this might be “learning self discipline.”
Now, there are a few tricks that can help here.
For example, if you’re trying to develop a habit, don’t make it something you have to choose to do every day, make a choice once and stick with that.
I’ll give you an example.
When I was training Aikido regularly, I would go to EVERY training session.
It could be 6am and so cold we trained in hats and gloves; I’d go.
It could be pouring with rain (we trained outside); I’d go.
It could be 42 degrees C; I’d go.
Because I knew if I had to make a choice every day whether to go or not, I’d be weak. If I was feeling down, or hung over, or tired, I wouldn’t go.
If I made that decision ONCE, and never questioned it, then it would never be a matter of self discipline or having to choose – it was simply “something I always did.”
I’m a fan of January experiments. Rather than New Year’s resolutions, I just try something for January.
So, whatever I’ve decided, I’m just doing it for that month. No questions, no choices, I just am.
Therefore, I never have to make another decision (during January).
Eg, one year I read a book a day, every day. One year I ate nothing but raw vegan food (which was so awesome I ended up doing it the whole year). This year I’ve done no caffeine.
By making one decision, rather than 31, it makes the whole thing much easier on me.
You can ALSO use EFT to radically reduce the amount of repetition required to learn a new habit. First tap OUT what you’re currently doing. Then tap IN the new behaviour you want. It works a treat – that’s how I passed my first major Aikido grading.
But let’s get back to our monkey.
Some things you simply can’t side step with the “one decision” approach. Eg, learning to meditate. Or to be kind to ourselves.
In these situations, we really do have to constantly (as much as we can remember) go back and repeat, and repeat and repeat the same action over and over until it sinks in.
What are we ACTUALLY doing here?
Yes, we’re training our monkey mind.
We are also, in a very real sense, exerting our authority over ourselves.
We’re reminding ourselves of the truth that “I’m the boss.”
Remember how we’re not our mind, not our body and not our emotions?
Well, when our thoughts or emotions start going haywire, this is when reminding ourselves that we’re the boss becomes super important.
If we remind ourselves who’s in charge, it strengthens our power over those parts of ourselves that are causing problems.
Every time we let go of a non loving thought, say, or relax and let go when we get upset by something, we’re strengthening our control over our monkey mind.
We’re strengthening our authority over ourselves.
We’re becoming MORE the boss of ourselves.
And, like any muscle, the more we exercise it, the stronger we become.
The stronger our self discipline. The more authority we create. The easier it becomes for us to retain control over ourselves and our situation.
The more we remind ourselves that we’re the boss, the more true it will become.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
- Viktor Frankl, Auschwitz survivor
So. How do we do this?
Typically the times when we need to remind ourselves of this (and thus train our monkey) is when our thoughts or emotions are off in the corner hooting ‘n hollering, scratching their metaphorical arses and flinging shit around.
We are NOT our thoughts or emotions, so by stepping outside these for a moment, we can regain control.
The simple act of reminding ourselves “I’m the boss” will often be enough to help calm us and help us drop whatever is bothering us.
We can remember that our reaction is simply a picture, and drop that. As Viktor Frankl points out: “The last of human freedoms is the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.” We may not control our external situation, but we always, always have control over our reactions to that situation.
It may seem like an impossibly long road, but remember: every step is a step closer to our goal. Even tiny improvements each day will add up to huge shifts over time.
Every time we remind ourselves, “I’m the boss”, it becomes a little more true, and we step ever closer to inner peace, where no-one and nothing bothers us.