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    Monkey Mind or Voice of Wisdom?

    fitnessInside Out Fitness, as the name implies, is an intuitive approach to exercise. In previous columns we have looked at the nuts and bolts involved in creating this new kind of fitness routine. How is it new? Most folks look to “experts” to fuel their exercise decisions. They might choose the latest trend that is supposed to really make them burn fat or build muscle. These are externally directed decisions. Someone else is leading the way for you and your body, and then you are making the external results the goal. Even as I write this it sounds heavy and not much fun. (Next time we’ll look at how to make exercise meaningful and delightful!)

    What’s the problem when your personal fitness is directed by someone else? You usually end up not sustaining the exercise routine without that other person “making” you. Have you ever wished you had, or could afford, a personal trainer? Have you felt like if you just had a personal trainer then you could finally be successful with fitness?

    I’ve heard a lot of people comment through the years that if they had a lot of money, they could afford a trainer and proper lifestyle to achieve all of their fitness goals. They could finally lose weight and keep it off for good. Yo-yo dieting wealthy individuals, however, are evidence that money cannot always solve the problems. What a quagmire.


    If you are looking for a different result, then you need to try something different. Consider switching from externally directed goals to internally directed ones. To get started with an internally directed approach, imagine that you are at a fitness fork in the road and you are stepping out on a different path. The new path is gentle, friendly, life-giving and comfortable.

    The skill I want to highlight here is learning to listen to your body’s voice of wisdom. First, let’s look at what it doesn’t sound like. We’ll call the other voice “monkey mind.” Monkey mind is a Buddhist term describing that aspect of your mind that chatters at you constantly as it swings from doubt to worry to fear and then back again. Monkey mind is often loud, insistent, repetitive, sometimes mean, impatient and anxiety producing. Monkey mind was very important back in cave man days, but now, unless there is imminent danger, it usually drives us bonkers. There is nothing wrong with monkey mind; it’s a normal human quality. You just don’t want to let it run the show.

    If you put your attention on your voice of wisdom, monkey mind will settle down. That is the balancing act. The tricky part is that this other thought process is quiet and soft spoken. It is gentle, kind, friendly, relaxed and relaxing; it can often be filled with humor.

    Monkey mind is often at work when you step on the externally directed fitness path. It is like saying, “Get up, you little dummy,” to a child learning to walk. Instead, take a moment to imagine the learning to walk scenario done with gentle kind-heartedness and even humor. That is the feeling of the voice of wisdom.

    If you have exercise in your life currently, notice the quality of your thoughts and self-talk. See if you can determine what you are listening to and when. If you are wanting to get on a fitness path, try listening to your voice of wisdom about this. Ponder the following question: What would a person who is willing to be happy and healthy do today? If the answer that comes to mind feels friendly, then take that action. It might be a walk around the block, working in your garden, taking a nap or petting your cat. The objective is to get yourself into the stream of well-being and take it from there. Voice of wisdom will always put you in the stream of well-being.

    Cinder Ernst, Medical Exercise Specialist and Life Coach Extraordinaire, helps reluctant exercisers get moving with safe, effective and fun programs. Find out more at