Get out of your monkey mind
Inspiration Shot August 2019
Do you recognize this feeling of being unsettled, restless, or confused? This voice in your head that won’t quit? Some suggest that the monkey mind is the inner critic. That voice is your ego, your rationality, your devil’s advocate. If you allow yourself to be guided by your head, your creativity will be stifled and you will not dare to let go. Sound familiar?
From experience, I know that my monkey mind takes will do whatever it takes to be heard, with the aim of distracting me from the here and now. It requires awareness and training to silence him. But I know that if I really want to enjoy life, I will have to learn to understand this process and master it. I’m working on it! 🙂 In this inspiration shot, I share a number of tips, techniques and distractions that might also inspire and help you.
Being in the moment
The word mindfulness just means being aware of the present moment. Don’t think about what just happened or what you still have to do. Do not lose yourself in your thoughts, but focus on your senses, with full attention to what is there. The wind on your skin, the food on your tongue, the feelings in your belly, the conversation you are having. Do one thing at a time, with 100% attention.
Think about how often we allow ourselves to be distracted so that we do not fully enjoy the moment. Only when that moment is over, we’ll start thinking about it …
For me, dancing tango is a way to step out of my head, into my body and be fully present in the moment. Feeling what moves my partner is leading, letting my body follow (if my head has to ‘guess’ first and then translate that into a movement, the process is slower and less fluid). It is a liberating feeling and if everything goes well, I will be in a ‘flow’ state. If I start thinking about that one step that went wrong, I also ruin the next step … There is so much to learn from the tango mindset (even if you don’t like to dance): more about it in my blog ‘life lessons from tango’.
My Argentinian tango teachers Adrian and Mora will be visiting the Netherlands again in September. On Monday Sept 9th they are organizing a ‘Presence and connection in Tango’ workshop in a mindfulness centre in The Hague. Would you like to experience it too?
Get into your body
Other physical activities and (extreme) sports can also provide the experience I find in tango. If you are completely focused, there is no room to think about your ‘to-do-list’. Mountain bikers, kite surfers and rock climbers, for example, must be in the moment. Have you ever tried an ‘adrenaline’ sport? I sometimes practice on a climbing wall. You are so focused on not falling that everything else just disappears from your head. Exhilarating! Don’t feel like ‘rolling up your sleeves’ yourself? Then watch the documentary “Free Solo” about a man climbing the most dangerous ascents in the world without ropes. Bet that you will feel with him from the comfort of your couch!
Another way to get out of your head is to use your creativity. You activate a different part of your brain. Listening to music, playing an instrument, sculpting, making a collage, gardening, painting; we all have an activity we like to completely lose ourselves in. No inspiration? Find a fun or weird workshop online.
Improv theater, where you learn ‘stand up comedy’, is also one of my favorites. Humor combined with being in the moment and improvising. Boom Chicago offers good and fun courses.
When I could not dance tango due to a knee injury during my last visit to Buenos Aires, I decided to take watercolor classes. Completely different, but it also brought me in the flow state of completely losing track of time, being in the moment, out of my head into my body.
It is sometimes said that your brain is a muscle that you can train. By consciously focusing on the good things every day, you automatically see life more positively. Write down three things that you are grateful for every day. It can be as simple as a cup of tea or the sun filtering through the trees. If you do this consistently, at least three things every day, you will see that everything will look brighter. (Whatever the monkey in your head says!)
I collect beautiful, positive messages that are shared via social media. This one particularly touched me: architect Ronald Rael designed a seesaw in the border wall so that children in the US and Mexico can play together. A nice reminder that we are connected: what happens on one side influences the other.
Choose love, not ego
If that little voice in your head is your ego (“What if ….” and “don’t do that, that’s weird!”), then what’s the opposite, the thing that can turn it off or drown it out? Love. Your ego is limited. It is all about the physical, about scarcity, about the separation between ourself and others. But if you go a few (spiritual?) levels higher, you realize that we are all one. Everything is connected. The essence of everything is love. If you view your situation from a soul level, it is easier to just let that ego voice talk without paying any attention to it. Just think to yourself ” My monkey mind doesn’t know any better” and let go of your thoughts. It doesn’t always work and it takes a while to understand, but when it does succeed, it is very liberating.
Where is Esther?
In an attempt to find some peace I am actually in the Netherlands for a few weeks. I am still struggling with my energy management, so just not traveling is nice. Although, staying in one place for a long time turns out to be difficult … On a whim, I decided to visit family and get a breath of fresh air on Terschelling, an island in the North of the country. That morning- within 15 minutes- I booked a ticket, got dressed, threw some clothes in a suitcase and ran to the bus stop just in time to catch the bus and ferry. On the ferry I received a message from friends who had seen my Instagram post; they were on the neighboring island of Vlieland and as ‘proof’ even sent me a picture of my ferry they could see arriving in the distance! Because I only booked a one-way ticket, I was able to visit them for a few days. And when I felt like going back to Amsterdam, I booked another one-way ticket. No bus or train connection to Amsterdam? Just improvise a sign and start hitchhiking! These last-minute decisions and the adventurous ‘one-way’ way of traveling take me back to the Esther I was before I more or less lost myself in my relationship. Going back to that style of travel, I’m discovering my essence again.
I also did a ’30 vegan challenge’ in the last month to see if I could achieve a kind of ‘reset’.
At the end of the month, I’ll be going to a spiritual retreat in Spain and then on to France to a retreat in a castle to learn from an expert about Amazon book marketing. I’m really curious. I’ll tell you all about it in the next Inspiration Shot!
With my ’soul sister’ Daphne on Terschelling Island.