We talk about breathing in the Misaligned Monkey :
Our breathing is usually managed unconsciously to meet the needs of our body. It’s a vital bodily process delivering the oxygen we need on the inhale and removing the waste gasses on the exhale. Since breathing happens automatically, we typically only become aware of breathing when exertion, danger or stress disrupts our normal function and we become ‘out of breath’. This change in our breathing often alerts us and only then do we become consciously aware of our breath.
Humans have some voluntary control of breathing and we can change our breathing to regulate emotions, to create focus and to achieve peak physical performance. We have experimented with this control for thousands of years, resulting in a plethora of breathing techniques, each designed to give us different effects and each used or recommended in different circumstances to generate different results. We can breathe to energise, to arouse, or to relax, to gain clarity or to slow down. When we breathe with a conscious intent, we can change our experience of breathing and what it does for us.
There are four parts or elements to each breath.
We inhale the new fresh air, we hold, we exhale and then we hold again. For most of us in normal breathing mode, the inhale and exhale are a similar length and the hold is momentary. When we consciously control our breath, we can vary any or all of these elements at will.
As we breathe, we can also:
Notice the movement and location of the air with each element.
Notice and control the ratio of time spent in each element, the inhale, holding with full lungs, the exhale and holding with empty lungs.
Notice and control the extent to which we fill our lungs with each breath we take.
Breath in or out through our nose or mouth or through both.
Breathe into our belly or into our chest or any other location we choose.
We have a range of options to vary each element of the breath and can create different results with each variation. Generally, inhales are energising and we typically use longer inhales with shorter holds to energise and invigorate ourselves. Exhales are cleansing or relaxing and we typically use longer exhales and longer holds to calm down and release negative emotions or energy.
Speeding the breath is agreat way to prepare the body for physical feats, whereas slowing the breath and focussing on breathing through the belly is a great way to slow down and get a moment of calm in almost any situation.
As we pay more attention to our breath, it’s possible to sense more subtle changes resulting from how we breathe. Perhaps we can begin to notice that there is an associated movement in our body. Something independent from the movement of the air itself that relates to energy flows. Kozo Nishino presents a great summary of this in his book, The Breath of Life: Using the Power of Ki for Maximum Vitality.
Most People read a post like this or get exposed to new things they could do which would ‘help’ them or ‘ make their lives better’ and do nothing with it.
Some try and fail and some just do it
What’s going on ?
Group think or common wisdom tells us that it normally takes about 30 days to create a new habit.
No one seems able to know why…….
Suppose that we explain it in terms of the behaviours of a suspicious but caring Monkey. Suppose the thirty days of new consciously chosen behaviours by you to become a habit is because less than this level of effort fails to convince your Monkey that you’re serious ?
Suddenly it all makes sense
If you have completed the exercise you know that your Monkey watches you to pick up clues on what you want help with. Most of us have lots of ideas we will never pursue and some we want to (or should) It’s hard for your monkey to know if you are serious about anything in particular.
Say you have a normal relationship with your Monkey.
Bing you decide on implementing a new plan or a new idea.
In this case lets say you want to start running and you decide to jog every morning at 5 am
It works well and you are up and at it for the first three days almost leaping out of bed, donning your new shoes and out of the door puffing and panting down the street.
On day four it rains and it blows and the windows rattle as your alarm pulls you out of sleep for your jog.
Your Monkey starts so helpfully as you lay their steeling yourself to get up :
- You may slip and fall ….
- Perhaps you’ll get an injury if you run every day starting from scratch ?
- Tomorrow is a big day maybe get some sleep and run later ?
- Its cold and wet stay in bed …..
What you do next is crucial. Do you let the Monkeys gentle chatter and questioning stop you or do you go?
Imagine all your Monkey wants to know is is this latest fad of yours serious or not. If their gentle chat stops you, then face it, you are not serious and they will do well to help you filter out this stupid idea!
If you don’t go what are the obvious conclusions ?
- You will get side tracked into doing things that don’t really matter
- You still need your safeguarding Monkey to help.
- They were obviously right to test you and save you
- Your Monkey knows testing you is a good idea.
- The behaviour is reinforced…….
Of course once yo Monkey is aligned a different scene plays out :
- the alarm goes off
- If your Monkey says anything you’ll ask immediately ask why they say it
- You’ll see they are just checking if it’s sensible for you to go
- if it’s really part of your plan
- if you really have to do this …..
- A few moments at viewpoint three you can both become clear on why you are doing what you’re doing make a call together and then get on with having your best life.
With a new relationship working together you can both consciously see what is happening and what is required and you can use the information to make better decisions and choices if and when they are required as a team.
Some evidence emerges to say it doesn’t always take 30 days …..
There’s some evidence that the degree off difficulty or discomfort can reduce the time it takes to absorb the new habit into your normal way of working.
We could see this from a Misaligned Monkey perspective as simply being a positive way of showing your Monkey you are serious faster.
If you adopt a new habit that’s easy or even nice its unlikely your Monkey will be overly impressed.
Staying in bed, if you like it, for an extra 30 minutes every day is unlikely to impress your Monkey. Habits like this involving ‘softer’ options require careful messaging to avoid firing a Monkey up.
Whilst we say and have consistently said that it’s a good idea to make it easy for you to do the right things . It makes good sense to arrange your environment, your routine to make it simpler and easier to make the new habits and ideas you want stick,
There is a danger with this approach in that if its relatively easy and you still don’t stick yo your plan then your Monkey is even more sure you are not serious.
However new unpleasant habits like getting into a cold bath or shower every day shows anyone (Monkeys included) that you mean business.
There is so much in Wims stuff that can help us see the Monkey thing differently.
He talks a lot about the Physical and the Mental values of the breathing and the cold.
Breathing in unnatural ways is not easy and getting into a cold bath or shower is also not easy.
Wim talks about the gasp reflex, when we react to the cold water with our whole body and nearly every part of us wants to get out of the blast of cold water as fast as we can. Nearly all of us thinks this is madness.
The part that makes us stay in the stream is our intention it’s the unadulterated pure us.
It shows we are the leader.
We can make our bodies do what they don’t want to
We can make us do what we don’t want to do, it is will, it is discipline and within it is our freedom.
Like so many things these moments are a message to ourselves.
A message that says We Can and we will
A message that says I am the Captain of my ship.
Getting in a cold bath once might be stupid
Getting in every day for a week is a serious statement of intent by someone who knows what they are doing and where they are going.
As is getting up at 5 am and sticking to the new running habit no matter what the weather or what the Monkey whispers.
If we see this habit forming process as about convincing the Monkey we mean business, we know what we are doing and we are the leader then practices like this add significant value to shaping the relationship effectively.
We also see why getting the Monkey Aligned is so critical a component for any successful outcome.
If you have now completed the Monkey realignment challenge and have the ‘working together ‘ thing in progress an interesting next step to test what you have now built is to take Wim’s cold water challenge.
Just saying- we have no commercial relationship with Wim Hof’s team.
…..Find Wim here