We all have monkeys in our minds. They are active little buggers, and don't like to stop their chatter. That's their job. Thinking doesn't stop. Not even while we are asleep. When we sleep, we dream, and dreams and still thoughts. The challenge lies in TAMING the monkeys of the mind. In order to tame them, we have to understand HOW they work.
Our thoughts are like a river, they aren't meant to stop flowing
It's how we direct that flow that matters.
Monkeys Go Sledding
I recently watched the docu-series The MIND Explained on Netflix. That show offers an excellent analogy for Monkey Mind. It explains that your brain is like a giant sledding hill. Your thoughts are sleds that carve ruts into the sledding hill. The more you think a thought, the deeper the ruts get, and the easier it is to stay in those ruts. In other words, our brain works by repetition and patterns.
Different Types of Monkey Thoughts
I wanna take this analogy a bit further than the docu-series explained. The monkeys (our thoughts) are the drivers of the sleds. They like to do the same ride (thought pattern) over and over again. Some monkeys like joyful rides that are full of laughter and smiles. Some monkeys like scary rides that are full of fear and anticipation. Some monkeys like gentle rides that are relaxing and calm. And, because monkeys are social creatures, they especially like it when they can attach their sleds together (attaching new thoughts to old ones) and make their rides go longer. But all of them are digging ruts in the snow, and thinking the same thoughts over and over and over again.
Tamed vs Untamed Monkeys
When the monkeys are tamed, they take turns manning the sleds according to what is going on in our worlds. When something scary happens, the thrill riders take control. When something happy or fun happens, the joy riders take the wheel. When we are winding down for bedtime, the relaxing-chill monkeys steer the sleds. They happily take turns and none of them cause any collisions or traffic jams on the hills.
But when they monkeys run amuck, they all go sledding all over the place without any control. When that happens, the thrill-monkeys usually end up attaching their sleds to the joy and chill monkeys sleds and everything gets rather chaotic, like ping pong balls bouncing all over the skull uncontrollably.
When the Monkeys Won't Let you Sleep
When the thrill ride monkeys who take over the night-shift (your sleepytime mind) they create this really odd combination of hyper-focus and bouncing ping pong balls of energy. They hyper-focus on ONE topic, but they bounce a zillion versions of the same thoughts about that topic all over the brain until we suffer complete exhaustion. They don't let us sleep. At all.
When the thrill-ride monkeys take over our sleepy-time minds, there is almost always a significant trigger. When something happens to us directly, the trigger is obvious, and easy to identify because the thoughts ricocheting around our heads are about that very personal event.
Unfortunately, for HSPs, the thrill-monkeys trigger is often something completely out of our control. It could be an astrological event such as a full moon, solar flare, or some kind of eclipse. Or, it could be a dog barking two blocks away, and ear plugs don't help because we can feel the anxiety that the dog feels.
As empaths, when the triggers aren't personal, they are usually related to something that happened to someone we love, or in our community or society as a whole. For example, we lay awake worrying and feeling the feels of some pain we witnessed in the day, or something we read in the news. This means that in 2020, empaths were suffering an immense amount of insomnia (read The Great Insomnia of 2020).
Taming the Monkeys
The docu-series The MIND Explained interviewed offered two effective (yet impractical) solutions to taming the monkeys of our mind: yoga and meditation. Yes, these methods work. They work really well. But, the learning curve for yoga and meditation is so huge that most of the general population cannot get over that huge bump of making it a regular practice.
The show interviewed a Buddhist monk and highlighted the Dalai Lama as examples of people who have tamed their monkey minds by "making friends with panic." While I'm a huge fan of both yoga and meditation, I also know that the majority of my clients, friends, and family are unable commit to a regular enough practice for it to work.
The Absolute BEST Way to Tame Your Monkey Mind
Here's the secret. And it's no secret. It's so simple you almost won't believe me. There is ONE way, one very simple way to tame your monkey mind, and it's something you do all day every day, even while you're sleeping.
Oxygen is magic. It heals everything. And really, what those monkeys in your mind want more than anything is MORE SPACE. When you give them more oxygen, they have more space. The giant sledding hill gets so fast that they don't have to bounce off each other anymore. They all can travel their own little ruts as much as they want without colliding into each other.
But HOW you breathe matters, a ton. Not all deep breathing techniques are the same. Some breathing exercises are designed to wake you up. Others are designed to put you to sleep. Some help you chill out while others heat you up.
But there is one breathing exercise that is universal. Yet every single time I teach it to someone they tell me they have never in their life breathed like this before. And, they tell me that it is the best thing they have ever learned.