• Helen Hattingh

Hello Monkey Brain!

Isn’t it incredible how the animal kingdom and the plant kingdom manage to live in the now so effectively and we humans, supposedly the superior race, battle tremendously to live in the now? We tend to stress about the future all the time. We plan for tomorrow and worry about finances and we wonder how the meeting next week will turn out. We are constantly going back into the past, wishing that something had turned out differently or if we had made a different decision, we would be in a very different place right now. Does this help in the least bit? No. The only thing we have done is we have missed our chance to be present in the here and now. Each moment is a sequence of present moments that we will never have again. How can we use the present moment to make the most of every moment?

In today’s technology-driven world we tend to distract ourselves from the present even more. As soon as there is an uncomfortable moment where we have nothing urgently requiring our attention, we scroll on our phones – anything to avoid the uncomfortableness of just being. When last did you stop to see the ray of sun shining so beautifully between the clouds? When last did you look out the window and listen to the birds chirping away? When last were you quiet and contented to just be.

When people talk to you are you paying full attention? Do you hear what they are saying? Are you listening to the spaces in between the words and searching for the underlying intention or meaning of their words? Do you “see” the food that you put into your mouth and the water that you drink. How automated are your daily actions and what is the thinking behind them?

I have been playing with stillness recently. It’s my attempt to be more conscious. To be more present and to live in the moment. The American Institute of Stress talks about the three sections of our brain – the lizard brain, the monkey brain, and the human brain. The monkey brain works with basic responses such as fear and desire. The lizard and Monkey brain keep us safe by innate flight and fight responses. The human brain is the area of logical, emotionless thought and delayed gratification. By using our human brain we can allow ourselves time to respond rather than react. This is the area of our brain that we use least. Especially when we are multi-tasking to keep ahead of the fast-paced rat race.

When you are quiet and conscious of your breath, when you slow down your mind and become aware of your inner state, you will find strength there. Something that you can return to when things get out of hand. You will also find that the more you practice this the more in control you will feel. Many a bad word has been said without any thought beforehand. Many an action has been taken impulsively instead of acting after giving it some thought. Stop, be still, breathe and work from the strength within you.

We feed our bodies, but we have no thoughts about what it is that we are eating. Where does the milk come from before it landed on your local grocery store shelf? Does it contain antibiotics? Is it good for you? What happens to the plastic bottle you buy because you’re thirsty at that time? Where does it go?

We feed our minds nonsense. The internet and social media make us look imperfect against the latest model or fashion trend. We binge watch series so that we can switch off our minds. We compare ourselves constantly instead of relying on ourselves to be enough. There is always a lack of. We need more fun, we need more happiness, we need more money and we need more status. From this angle, we seem deprived, yet what we have is enough to make us happy. If we gave more instead of wanting more, we would be happier. If we worked from a vantage point of having enough and being enough, we would not need to constantly strive to attain more.

This year, let’s take up the challenge of being more conscious, being more present and living in the now. Tomorrow will take care of itself and it will unfold as it should. Yesterday has been and gone and no matter how intensely and how often we think about it, there is nothing that can change it. Now is the only time you can manage yourself. Use it wisely. Use it to appreciate the beauty of the world around you, use it to appreciate the people you engage with, use it to find that inner power that will allow you to say: I am grateful and I am enough.

Who's with me?

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South Africa