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Two tools for silencing the monkey brain chatter

The first time I led a Journaling and Mindfulness workshop a participant observed during debrief, “it was just a lot of monkey brain chatter.”

At the time I felt deflated. I was hoping people would walk away with these high level AHA’s. But as I’ve done more of these trainings over the years, I realized that was the big aha.

Our monkey brain chatter can have a powerful influence on us. This is especially true when left unchecked. When we go through life listening to the chatter without discernment, we are doing ourselves a disservice.

The chatter emerges from our fears. When taken to heart, their contributions to our inner lives are often counter productive. This is because the fears represent a small sliver of our current reality and do not take into account the full scope and breadth of what's happening.

Chatter is often initiated by a situation that sparks negative feelings. We experience the release of stress hormones, which impairs brain function and causes our perceptions to become myopic (unless we self-regulate). Because of the predictive nature of our brain, what we see confirms our worries, which perpetuates the cycle of fear and keeps us in a state of high stress and alarm.

Bringing our awareness to the chatter we experience is an important first step in reclaiming our power within. This self-awareness helps us learn to discern between the voice of our inner critic and the wisdom of our inner genius.

Not all our thoughts are created equal. Choosing which thoughts you listen to is an empowering notion. But catchy sayings alone lack substantive direction for how to be appropriately selective.

After all, the chatter is tenacious. And since it builds on fear, it can be very convincing. It often insists failing to listen to it will lead to our demise.

Consciously choosing our thoughts is an artform. It's a continuous practice, for which there are two primary tools I have found most valuable.

First is journaling. Writing out my thoughts helps to illuminate the chatter much like turning on the light reveals the truth about something we fear in the dark. It wasn't a monster, it was a houseplant all along.

Through journaling I start to identify patterns of thought. I am able to tease apart the cause and effect. Writing helps me see how certain stimuli causes me to have specific types of thoughts. From there I see how those thoughts lead to a reaction that doesn't serve my higher needs.

Through the pages of my journal, I have learned that my knee-jerk reactions are familiar, which makes them comfortable. I realized I do them because I'm following the path of least resistance, even though they actually hinder me.

Luckily, I am able to rewrite my story. To ideate alternative reactions. To expand my thinking by considering other points of view. And to shift my thinking from fear to possibility.

Journaling has been foundational in doing this work. It is also complimentary with the other tool I routinely use.

The second tool that's helped me learn to better witness and manage the chatter is my heart-focused meditation practice and Inner Balance Trainer.

While getting biofeedback about my heart coherence, I've noticed a distinction in the quality of my thoughts.

Our coherence is measured by our Heart Rate Variability. When we are in coherence we are in sync mentally, physically and emotionally.

When we are incoherent we are out of sync and experiencing stress within our minds, and bodies. This is all backed by extensive research!

Chatter brings me out of coherence. Such self-talk tends to be intense, wordy, and consumptive. I feel my attunement to the present moment shrinking. And I notice my body tensing. The chatter is like a friend that never stops talking, which makes my head spin.

On the other hand, when I experience coherence, my thoughts emerge in a more subtle manner. There's less chaos in my mind. Instead, there's a greater sense of clarity and expansiveness. My thoughts are more effervescent and come with a full array of sensations including visuals. What's more, my body feels light, open and energized.

Using these tools and practices requires ongoing effort. Situations or challenges still cause me to experience the grip of chatter. It takes conscious effort to shift gears and calm my nervous system so I don't follow the chatter.

What helps is using these tools when I'm not in the midst of a struggle. Starting my day with Heart-focused meditation and journaling has changed the neural pathways in my mind. It's laid the foundation for these practices to be available to me in moments of high stress, enabling me to disrupt the pattern.

As a result, I am capable of being in sync even when I experience a trigger. I'm able to enter difficult conversations from a place of coherence. That's because I have learned how to keep the chatter in check. The chatter might provide me with valuable information, but it doesn't control me.

Luckily, we all have to ability to claim our power and manage the chatter.

Would you like to keep the chatter in check and practice Heart-Focused Meditation? Join me for a Wholehearted Leaders 15 min center and recharge session - only available until the end of April. More information and registration is available here.

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