Turning Off the Monkey Mind

After yesterday’s yoga practice, we continued our learning of the yoga sutras with 10 minutes. The conversation was about taming the monkey in your head (you know, that nasty little monkey who never lets you have peace and quiet in your head…) and identifying and getting back to your true self. We spend so much of our lives putting characteristics or identity on top of who we really are, e.g. I went to school at BYU, I do digital strategy for work, I run, I do yoga, I am from Utah. And after we spend so much time establishing that is who we are, we spend more time defending it, trying to live up to it. But the sutras teach that if you take all that way – if I stopped running, if I’d gone to school somewhere else – it wouldn’t change who my true, inner self is. Make sense? 

Elliott, our instructor, gave the analogy of clothes. They are something you put on your body but even without them, your body doesn’t change. The things you label yourself with and the things you do with your life don’t change who you really are. They can shape the course of your life and daily routines, but they don’t change the core of your being. So the goal with yoga is to find that core. And a lot of that has to do with quieting the monkey in your head who tells you that you have to be a certain way. 

There have been a number of things in my life that I was trying to be and over the past few years I’ve unravelled many of them. I had been raised a certain way, I was in a certain relationship, I had a certain job and I spent so much time trying to live up to those things because that’s what I needed to be. But I wasn’t happy. And when I stripped all of that way, it was extremely painful and hard and well, devastating. But once I got through it, I have felt more like myself than I have in years. And I think that’s what the sutras we discussed are really about – finding yourself and honoring it, even when there is pain along the way.

It’s easy to look back on situations and identify how you’ve grown after the fact, but I think the bigger challenge is to proactively grow. And hopefully, by working to “quiet the monkey mind” I’ll be able to do that more. 

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    14 responses to “Turning Off the Monkey Mind”

    1. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and when you really consider it, there are so few people you meet who are actually genuinely themselves. I think we start to depend too much on our identities as we get older because we want to be our own individuals, unique in this world filled with billions. But building up the outside image pulls away from what’s truly important– what is on our hearts. And then we become overwhelmed with so many shallow things– where did the meaning go?

    2. thanks for this post. i follow your blog regularly but have pretty inconsistent internet connection, so i seldom comment. i wanted to comment on this post, though, because i really appreciated it. i didn’t realize until this past year how much my sense of who i am was wrapped up in what i do. i never thought it was, because “what i do” is a very big part of my life–i’m a missionary in africa. it’s a big thing to pack up your life in one place and move, especially if that move is to a very new and different place, and i think i had come to believe that doing that meant it was a fundamental part of who i am. i agree with you that it’s a painful and devastating thing to try to figure out who i am underneath those “clothes.” this last year has felt incredibly unstable. and yet, i’m grateful to be coming into a better grasp on who i am at the core. anyway, just thought i’d share, as someone on a similar journey.

    3. I am so glad you wrote about this. It is one of those hidden secrets that really make a difference in one’s life. You are inspirational!

    4. I’ve been working on this a lot too lately, and it is a painful experience to realize you’re different than you thought/had been raised to think. It’s definitely been worthwhile for me, but the last year has been incredibly difficult while figuring it out.

    5. Beautifully said, Teri. I love the notion that the core of who we are is unchanging, despite the “clothes” we put on it. There’s something empowering in that. You are a strong woman!

    6. Lovely post – I love the analogy of the clothes for our identity. I’m going to have to remember that one. Your yoga class sounds so great, too!

    7. I appreciate the honesty of this post so much–especially at a time in my life where I feel I am at a cross-roads. It’s so easy to live life based on a set expectations, rather than true passion. I find it comforting that we have a core that really makes us “us”.

      Thanks for writing–loved the post!


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