Understanding My Monkey Mind


thoughtbubble3I have been on a journey to better understand my mind for many years now. More specifically I have been working on cultivating the ability to recognise self limiting beliefs and learning to untangle myself from the stories I tell myself.

I have spend 20 years climbing the greasy pole that we call the corporate ladder and (like all of us) I have plenty of first hand experience of the human suffering that is created in the corporate world.

According to Officevibe only 13% of the global workforce is engaged. Depression is now the leading cause of disability globally with 300 million people suffering from depression today.

Despite all the technology innovations we enjoy today, we are suffering more than ever.

The more senior I become, the more I have felt a growing responsibly to contribute to the creation of a different working reality for all of us.

It is my strong belief that part of the answer to the complex and serious problem of human suffering at work lies in the power of connection.

I believe that connection can be a catalyst for change.

I in recent years I have found myself on a quest of sorts… a quest to notice habitual ways of thinking and working that no longer serve us and to ask “How might we harness the power of connection to support performance and wellbeing?”

The central theme of this quest is Connected Leadership.

I define Connected Leaders as leaders who operate from a strong connection to four key things; the present moment, themselves, others and the bigger picture.

This post is about my practice of Mindfulness and how I am using Mindfulness to cultivate a stronger connection to the present moment and to myself.

I have recently returned from a trip to an Ashram to deepen my Mindfulness practice through an immersive Mindful Living retreat under the guidance of Melli O’Brien.

The experience of spending three technology-free days learning to notice the many trickeries of my monkey mind was simultaneously wondrous and overwhelming.

There were several concepts that Melli took us through that really struck a strong chord with me – none more so than the concept of Cognitive Fusion.

Since the retreat, I have felt compelled to shared this foundational concept with people I know.

When I explain Cognitive Fusion to people, they often experience a “light bulb” moment. In that moment, the concept of Mindfulness shifts from being “hippy dippy” to being a foundational life skill.

When we are in a state of Cognitive Fusion:

  • Thoughts are reality; it’s as if what we’re thinking is actually present
  • Thoughts are the truth; we literally believe them
  • Thoughts are important; we take them seriously & give them our full attention
  • Thoughts are orders; we automatically obey them
  • Thoughts are wise; we assume they know best and automatically follow them

When we are in a state of Cognitive Defusion:

  • Thoughts are merely; sounds, words & stories passing through our heads
  • Thoughts may or may NOT be true; we don’t automatically believe them
  • Thoughts may or may NOT be important; we pay attention only if they are helpful
  • Thoughts are NOT orders; we don’t have to obey them
  • Thoughts may or may NOT be wise; we don’t automatically follow their advice

For me, a Mindfulness practice is a proven pathway to accessing the liberating state of Cognitive Defusion.

I am learning to recognise my thoughts and beliefs as just one persons’ opinion – and this person is not particularly reliable or kind.

If you would like to experience less suffering and feel more contentment, I urge you to give it a try.

Need more convincing? Perhaps poetry is more your style. Melli uses her gorgeous collection of poetry throughout her retreats as another tool to support insights. This was my favourite piece of the retreat. It is a poem called “Dear You” by Keveri Patel.

Dear you,

You who always have

so many things to do

so many places to be

your mind spinning like

fan blades at high speed

each moment always a blur

because you’re never still.

I know you’re tired.

I also know it’s not your fault.

The constant brain-buzz is like

a swarm of bees threatening

to sting if you close your eyes.

You’ve forgotten something again.

You need to prepare for that or else.

You should have done that differently.

What if you closed your eyes?

Would the world fall

apart without you?

Or would your mind

become the open sky

flock of thoughts

flying across the sunrise

as you just watched and smiled.


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