Let’s all admit that 2020 has thrown one hell of a wrench into our lives and plans. But, that hasn’t slowed down my monkey mind. If anything, it’s amplified most thoughts and put most areas of my mind into hyper-drive.
So what did I do? I renewed my focus the best I could. I went deep. Deep into some of the practices I used to do that gave me some results. We’re not talking life-altering changes here, but little changes that felt like huge victories at the time.
What are they?
- Bullet Journaling
- Commonplace Book/Second Brain
- Morning Pages
Let’s dive a little deeper into these three practices and see just how I’m trying to keep up with my monkey mind.
According to Buddhists, the term “monkey mind” refers to being unsettled, restless, or confused. One Psychology Today post adds:
It’s the part of your brain most connected to the ego, which contends that you can’t do anything right. It’s also the part of you that stifles creativity and prevents you from moving forward with your passions. The monkey mind insists on being heard, and sometimes it takes a lot of self-control to shut it down. It is also the part of your brain that becomes easily distracted.
Yup! Sounds about right. I’m constantly in my own way!
I discovered bullet journaling quite a few years ago. In all honesty, before I knew what bullet journaling was, I was already doing it at some level. You see, I’m a structured, list orientated kind of guy. So, needless to say, it only felt natural.
Bullet journaling was “discovered” by Ryder Carroll who tags it as “the analog method for the digital age that will help you track the past, order the present, and design your future.”
Without getting into too many of the boring details of the ins and outs of the BuJo method, as of late, it’s become more of an artful expression of a planner.
In my opinion, the BuJo community has perverted the original intent. When it was first introduced, it was simple and sleek. More of a minimalist take on planning and organizing your day to day life. Now? It’s all about doodles on the page with fancy handlettering that took hours to plan out and complete. It more resembles arts and crafts than anything.
Nevertheless, it is something you are to modify and make your own. You can add and/or delete anything as you wish.
For me, the ability to simplify something to help me simplify my life and keep things somewhat organized in my head is a staple. I slowly moved away from using it, and always longed to go back to it. So, when my monkey mind started to get the best of me, I knew I could rely on this tried and tested method that had already worked for me.
Commonplace Book/Second Brain
This concept is still relatively new to me, but again, something not entirely foreign.
Let’s think of a commonplace book as more of what you think of when you think of a teenager’s diary. It’s a place where you can store all of your thoughts and notes throughout life. Read a book and found something that stood out and you just had to say something about it? This commonplace book would be just the go-to place to store the quote and whatever it was that you wanted to say.
Ryan Holiday defines it as, “a central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations and information you come across during your life and didactic pursuits. The purpose of the book is to record and organize these gems for later use in your life, in your business, in your writing, speaking or whatever it is that you do.”
People known to have used the practice of a commonplace book are Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Leonardo daVinci, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, John Locke, and Isaac Newton. I’m sure the list of people throughout history who have used a commonplace book, or some variant of one, is much longer. They’ve been around for quite some time and have been used by much smarter people than myself, so why wouldn’t you want to adopt the practice?
But, you ask, “What is a Second Brain?”
As I understand it to be, it is very similar to a commonplace book. Almost the same thing but in a digital format. One made into popularity by a gentleman named Tiago Forte.
Again, I’ve used something that resembles this concept in the past by using Evernote, but I just couldn’t get too far into it to make it work for me. I always would find myself reaching for my bullet journal to keep all of my ideas and thougts and other musings. It was more enjoyable to write things out longhand. Besides, there’s something magical about how the right pen feels in your hand and the feel and look of the ink flowing out and being transferred onto the paper.
Times change and so do people, and I now find myself reaching for my phone to open the Evernote app to store whatever it is that stands out. What I’ve found is that it definitely helps to carefully organize the structure of your digital system. Thanks to watching a few YouTube videos of Tiago explaining some of how he does it, and applying some of the commonplace book system, I’ve been able to adopt this system/concept in better detail.
Last of the three practices of keeping up with my monkey mind is a little thing called “Morning Pages.”
What are morning pages you ask?
Three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. According to Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way and creator of the practice, says that it doesn’t matter if you do them in the morning or night, or even at any point of the day. Just that you do them. It is taught in the book that it’s the very thing that can help unblock your creativity that has been lying dormant within you.
I’ll admit, I’ve had this book on my to-read list for a few years but I just never got around to it. Maybe I should have put it as a must-do task in my bullet journal? Knowing what I know now, and having only been doing morning pages for about a month now, I wish I would have started years ago.
It sounds like a simple thing. Get up in the morning, grab your favorite pen and some paper, and just write. Three pages doesn’t sound all that intimidating, but let me tell you right now, IT IS! I have yet to be able to do three pages. I’m quite comfortable with starting out slow and building up to it.
One of the key things I’ve noticed since doing them is that my brain is still sleeping for about the first hour or so after I get up. I can’t just get started writing. I have to take a few minutes to ensure my brain isn’t still asleep or in a complete fog. When it is, I can hardly fill one page. When I feel that it’s primed and ready to roll, I can get two pages. I have a feeling that once I can further dial in my morning routine, I’ll be able to let loose with it.
Over the past month or two as I’ve re-introduced these concepts and systems, I’ve been able to calm some of my monkey mind. No, not to a point where it is completely calm and quiet. I don’t think that will ever happen. But, it is much more manageable now. And, I feel like I can keep up with myself.
If one were to ask me to rate these three key practices in order of importance, I would suggest to start with morning pages. From there, I would implement the second brain/commonplace book system. Lastly, I would say to put into practice the bullet journal.
Each one of these systems by themselves are super beneficial and would stand on their own if one wanted to go that route. However, it is my opinion that when you are able to combine the three of these and make them and extension of your own superpowers, will you really reap the benefits of them. Much like an onion has layers, so too does your mind and if you give it the tools to operate in a clearer capacity will you realize what you’ve been missing all these years.