In a quiet, honest state, stand in front of a full length mirror as you normally would. Give your body a slow scan, starting at your feet. Watch all the thoughts about yourself arise as you travel up. What kinds of stuff comes up? What do you say? How much of it is familiar, meaning, how much of it have you heard before?
Move slowly up your legs and torso, maintaining awareness. Don’t push any of it away; the goal here is to simply notice.
When you get to your eyes, stare at yourself. Notice if there is tension in your face. Observe how you look at yourself. Is it with love and compassion, or judgement.
Pause and record these findings.
Now, look at yourself again, staring directly into your own eyes. But imagine you are looking at the person you are most tender towards, and that they are having a tough moment. Look at the reflection as you would look at them, with understanding, spaciousness and compassion. Look at them in a way that lets them know that you think they are fabulous and that you care deeply about them, flaws and all.
Record how/if your face softens.
In my experiences, the results of this exercise are rattling. Clients have reported what I think of as a cold water plunge: shocking and enlivening. Even through they might have been stunned at the unconscious harshness in their gaze, surprised by how far away they were from softness, when they actually did allow that compassionate version of themselves to surface, what followed next was relief. And that lightness was breath stealing. Often a long sigh followed organically.
In the next session with the client, the coach and client review the experience. After the client shares her findings, some follow-up exploratory questions like:
- Are the thoughts from the first half of the exercise old thoughts?
- Were you surprised by anything?
- Was there self judgement?
- Did you feel bad about yourself?
- How often do you think those thoughts?
- How do you think these messages affect your ability to move forward?
For the coach, it is very important to support the client in this new awareness. Particularly after this exercise, effusive acknowledgement may be more essential than ever, since the client is, in a way, seeing themselves for the first time. Bringing light to his/her bravery will provide empowerment going forward.
As the sessions progress, journaling is helpful in strengthening this fledging awareness. Encourage the client to think about it as two different authors, the Monkey and the HS, that might be holding the pen in any moment; how the story is told depends entirely on who is writing. Remind the client that you are not asking them to tame MM in a week-that might be an ongoing process-but simply to know the difference.
Once there is reason to believe that the client is growing, i.e. a shift in language and intonation, here is another exercise to move them along so that they may start recognizing the demands of the Higher Self.
Burning your old story
Close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Allow yourself to come more into the moment. Relax the limbs, the face, the spine, fully circulating air into all the parts of your body that are experiencing tension.
Fold a sheet of paper into sixteen squares: Digging deep into cages of the Monkey-the past and future- fill each square with statements that begin in the following ways:
I feel badly about…
The relationships that make me feel bad…
The things I keep replaying in my mind…
I feel guilty about the way I handled…
I often worry about…
Spend a few minutes reading through the boxes and grant yourself permission to relinquish these things by calling in your Higher Self. This is powerful when done aloud; use the following statements as a guide.
I am ready to move on from…
Conclude this with the following statement:
I no longer need the things on this paper. I send them off without further contemplation.
And then, in your kitchen sink or toilet, fireplace, wood stove, or fire pit, burn the paper.
By recognizing that the Monkey Mind’s litany of self-limiting beliefs can be extinguished, the client becomes the change agent, with transformation beginning from the inside and trickling out into action.
In the weeks following this exercise, work with the client to create a vision that reflects the new internal voice, the Higher Self. Being that it responds to the present moment instead of attaching an experience to the past or the future, what arrises out of this process is the ability to choose more authentic and gentle thoughts.
The Higher Self believes that if we continually entertain the Monkey Mind, we should not expect much change. According the Higher Self, the future is getting written based on how we respond to our lives now. When we really embrace how far we’ve come and all it took to get here, and have gratitude about it, then the future is expansive and rife with possibility. This perspective helps us reclaim our power, leaving Monkey Mind in the dust.