Many of my Life Coaching clients come to me with complaints that they want to have intimate relationships, satisfying careers, be better parents, or find life purpose, but they don’t know how to create those situations for themselves. Their limiting beliefs or lack of self-acceptance keep them stuck in old habits that just keep recycling the same result.
Often a first step in Life Coaching is to help you learn to listen to the thoughts in your head and decide whether or not to “pay attention,” rather than blindly follow the negative self-talk that you spew on yourself.
Paying attention to your thinking is part of what we call “mindfulness.” Mindfulness started out as a practice in some religious traditions, and is now used to promote a calm awareness of our feelings, thoughts, perceptions, and consciousness. Practicing mindfulness is even thought to “cure” some mental and physical conditions, including anxiety, depression and addictions. And, certainly, it helps us be more aware of who we are in relationship, create life purpose in our job or career, and be better parents.
One of my clients was celebrating that she has learned to make better decisions by identifying the “voices in her head” as they occur to her, rather than reacting spontaneously, or “wild with rage”, as was her Way previously. What came to my mind was that there are three types of thoughts running through our heads that would be useful to distinguish, so we’ll know how to respond to them.
What Voices do you listen to, and which do you ignore?
Here’s a summary of three types of “voices in our head”:
This is where you struggle to use logic (and creativity) to make choices, or hash out ideas. This includes brainstorming, weighing, or evaluating. Nobel prize author Daniel Kahnemann describes this thinking as “deliberate operation of reasoning,”. It allows you to form judgments through active effort. When used appropriately (not to obsession), this type of voice helps us to make conscious choices about our lives.
Intuition is a “gut” feeling that resonates from our spirit (and sometimes referred to as the heart) and is an evolved “supersensory” consciousness. Intuition, as an extended awareness of Truth or The Way Things Are, is available as a result of expansion of individual consciousness, and some believe, the merger with God. Gary Zukav- in his books The Dancing Wu Li Masters and Seat of the Soul, described that human evolution has has advanced to the point of creating an unlimited consciousness to advance our spiritual awareness. Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Women Who Run with the Wolves was an early introduction into the lost art of listening to intuition. Intuition can create emotional awareness and responsible choice if you pay attention to it.
“Monkey brain” is the seemingly endless chatter that consumes our waking thoughts, creating an unsettled, restless, confused and uncontrollable mind. Monkey brain is the opposite of mindfulness, where you are paying attention to the “right here and now” instead of your fear ,desire or doubt. The Monkey Brain causes you to slip into negative belief systems that keep you locked into limiting notions about who you are and what you’re capable of, or your life purpose.
So when you’re listening to the thoughts in your head- how do you know what to pay attention to, or dismiss?
Here’s how to distinguish the voices you’re hearing, and know which ones to ignore:
• Discernment opens up possibilities– weighs existing options and sometimes creates new ones… (“AHHH, I never thought of it that way before!”)
• Monkey Brain closes down possibilities– shuts out possibilities with negativity, limiting beliefs and doubts, or desires that are founded in our limited ego… (“NO WAY, you can’t do that! You’re not good enough! “or “I deserve that even if I didn’t earn it!”)
• Intuition often follows the process of discernment, after you walk through the myriad of possibilities to some unresolved question. If you are attuned to the multi-sensory awareness available to you through Spirit, you may notice that answers “just appear” with a deep “knowing”.
What to do about Monkey Brain?
Through our practices together, my client learned that Meditation, or Relaxation exercises, and other techniques to quiet your brain, allows the discernment and intuition to rise and the monkey brain to recede. It creates SPACE for your unconscious brain to do its work (which is actually 97% of our brain) and to allow the conscious brain to nap (that small 3% that gets most of the credit for our lives).
How can I create that space in my brain?
If you want a quick practice to promote the kind of mindfulness that helps the Monkey Brain to sleep, set aside a few minutes each day to focus on a specific object, your breath, or whatever moves through your awareness. As you begin to notice not only the voices in your head, but also your body’s somatic sensations and reactions to your world, you will begin to be mindful about your daily experiences. Next step might be a short daily practice of meditation or relaxation.
Contact me for a Free Discovery Session if you want to learn how to eliminate the Monkey Brain in your life!