Sunday 11 April 2021

Taming my inner monkey

Do you ever feel like the universe is trying to tell you something? That it keeps sending you signs, and all you have to do is listen to them and open up?

That's been happening to me lately. 

It all started with a conversation I had with Rich. "On a scale from 1-10, how happy are you right now?" I asked him. (I ask stuff like that a lot. One of the many joys of being married to me.)
He thought for a moment, and then replied: "An 8." A solid answer I could have predicted. He was giving me 8-vibes. 
"What are you?" he then asked me. "A 7? 6?" When I didn't answer, he continued, a bit anxiously: "A 4?"
"I don't know," I admitted. "Not a 4, not at all. At least a 7. I think?" We talked a bit more about it and then moved on to something else. But I couldn't stop thinking about that question. Why couldn't I say how happy I was? What could possibly be wrong with my life? I have so much: love, health, a job I enjoy, no financial problems, no body image issues, all the pets my heart desired. Why wasn't I a 10 all the time?

The answer came to me almost at once: my monkey mind was to blame.
Monkey mind is a Buddhist term that refers to a restless, unsettled mind. It's that inner voice I've been writing about for years, your inner critic, sower of doubts and repeater of ever last bad thing you have ever thought about yourself. Unfortunately for me, my monkey mind is very developed: it has a knack of ruining a perfectly good time. 

'Oh, you think everything is going great? How could you forget the patient who died after your x-ray was part of their cancer diagnosis? You or any one of the people you love could be next.'
'You think people like you? They are talking shit about you behind your back.'
'Remember how you thought you were living your dream? Now that you have been here a while you have to realize that everybody is out to get you. Dream come true, my ass.'
'You think you're financially secure? It could all be gone in a snap. Don't ever feel safe.'
'You want to see your family? COVID WILL NEVER END, MUHAHAHA.'

And on and on it goes. It never stops.  
I'm not always aware of my monkey mind. In fact, most of the time I'm not. I take these thoughts seriously, giving them way too much time, energy and importance. Instead of focusing on what's real and good, my overactive imagination is running wild, imaging terrible scenarios, worrying about the future and spoiling the present. 

My overthinking is nothing new. I've been this way for as long as I can remember, and I've been trying to change that for a long time. I found out about the monkey mind and how to tame it 5 years ago, but somehow, along the way, I forgot about it again. 
That's where the signs I've been receiving come in. 

The first one was this video that my friend Liz shared on Instagram:

The M-word, but make it fun. 
The second sign was the latest newsletter from Brianna Wiest which is about letting go. It's so good and helpful and important! If you have a few minutes, sit back comfortably, read slowly and soak it all in: Letting go is a practice.
A few of my favourite quotes from it are:
"We have to learn to let go of acquaintances, care for others' opinions, so many petty arguments and fights we can choose not to pick." 

"We have to learn to let go of the dreams we chose for the people we eventually outgrew."

"We have made the process of letting go seem like this superhuman feat only attainable for the truly enlightened. We find so many ways around it. Revenge bodies, gaining closure, proving them wrong. We find so many ways to at once make it seem as though we have moved on completely, and yet remain precisely where we used to be - living though the gaze of what we imagine someone else might see.

Letting go is as effortless as an exhale. 

You do it all the time." 

Then there was this by Emily McDowell, one of my favourites on Instagram:

This post by Kaylor Betts that begins with words taken straight from my soul:
"You know what can really fuck us up?

And, of course, my word of the year and the solution to tame the monkey mind: mindfulness. All these nudges finally hit home yesterday. It was as if a light went on after sitting in the dark for months. 
I suddenly remembered that I have the power to quiet down my inner critic! I've had it all along. There are tools to calm down your mind, to focus on the present and stop looking for the next disaster around every corner. 
Walking, yoga, fresh food, water, enough sleep, rest, sunshine, fresh air and gratitude are tools I'm using already. 
But a really important one is still missing: meditation. 

I've tried it in the past, but always gave up. 'It's not for me,' I told myself. 'I meditate while I'm outside.'
Well, that's clearly not enough. My mind is crazier and busier than ever, despite having no reason for it, so I'm calling in the big guns: sit-down meditation. 

I know I need help with it, so yesterday I downloaded the Headspace app for guided meditation. I did 5 minutes yesterday, just to dip my toes back into the water, and I loved it! I felt calm and at peace.
So much so that I did 28 minutes this morning! Granted, I was still lying in bed, but normally I would have been scrolling through Instagram during that time, and even though my thoughts were all over the place, my meditation guide said that it's normal and nothing to worry about. 

So guess what: I won't worry about it. I'll keep going, because it's a practice, and I'm tired of my inner mean girl being the boss of me. The universe has spoken, and I'm listening!

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