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I have been reading 'Think Like a Monk' by Jay Shetty. He writes about his time as a monk and how, using a combination of the ancient wisdom he was taught in the ashram and the advice he so eloquently gives in the book, we can reduce the stress of modern living and find the gifts within us that we are all blessed with.

Think Like a Monk' was purchased by The Happy Sage.


Why would I want to think like a monk?

I can't even remember where I heard about the book, maybe I was listening to something or perhaps it was something I saw, but literally the first thought that came into my mind was 'why would I want to think like a monk?' My next thought was 'hmm, that sounds like it could be quite interesting, I'd better find out! A few days later and I was nose deep into the book and didn't want to put it down.

I am no newcomer to different ways of thinking and have read many books in a similar vein over the years, particularly on traditional Tibetan teachings. This book got through to me on a different level altogether. Jay explains that the goal of monk thinking is a life free of ego, envy, lust, anxiety, anger, bitterness and baggage. If we want to find calm, stillness and peace, we have no other choice. With the promise of tackling this impressive list of conditions I decide to give it a go.

I love the way Jay writes, describing memories of his own experiences in the ashram as he learnt important lessons really struck a chord with me because the circumstances of each lesson were so relatable.

Let Go, Grow and Give

The book is split into three part, Let Go, Grow, and Give.

Part One - Let Go

'It is impossible to build one's happiness on the unhappiness of others'.
Daisaku Ikeda (taken from Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty)

In the first section Identity, Jay talks about our self image and where our values come from. There is a self-audit to do on values and I admit it was a bit of a shocker to realise just how much had crept in to my life from outside influences over time. I then had to work out what my personal values were and whether the choices I make are in alignment with them. Sadly, it appears I have strayed.

Then comes Negativity. Jay talks about how negativity is contagious and how we can neutralise both internal and external negativities. He talks about how not to be a savior (trying to rescue everyone) and amending anger with forgiveness to bring peace to our minds. Forgiveness eases stress because we no longer recycle angry thoughts.

I have to keep a tally of the negative remarks I make over the course of a week with a view to dropping the daily number to zero. I fail miserably.

I plough on to the next chapter, Fear. Here Jay wants me to find out what I am really scared of. I don't mean things like needles but what my innermost fear is. Jay guides me to dig really deep, further and further down until I find the root cause of my innermost fear. He then shows me how to work with it, accept it, manage it and then deal with it. I feel like I am doing better in this chapter. Success!

Finally in this section we have Intention. Here I have to work out what drives my ambitions and motivates me and whether it will make me happy. I thought I had this chapter nailed but as usual Jay turns my thinking upside down and I realise that working out my happiness may not be as straightforward as I had thought. I have a lot to digest and process from this section!

Part Two - Grow

In Purpose it's all about discovering my dharma. This Sanskrit word has no direct English translation but a close meaning would be 'your calling'. Jay sees this in the modern world as a mixture between your passions and skills and serving others and the world's needs. Living in your dharma is a certain route to happiness and fulfillment. I find the explanations and exercises on dharma fascinating and work hard to try and find my purpose. It is all extremely enlightening.

The next chapter, Routine really made me think when Jay said that nearly a quarter of us reach for our mobile phones within one minute of waking up. Although I was not guilty of this every morning his explanation that this was like letting hundreds of chatty strangers into your bedroom before you had even got up resonated with me. It suddenly felt like an invasion of my privacy and I have not looked at my phone first thing in a morning since. That, coupled with the rest of his advice in this chapter, has completely changed the way my mornings start - and for the better as it has had a knock on effect for the rest of the day.

Jay then comes on to Mind with the dreaded monkey mind and the subconscious. I definitely have major monkey mind. I excuse myself on the fact I think lockdown has made it worse, but Jay is on hand with advice on how to master it and slow it down. I learn how to make friends with my mind and tune in to re-direct thoughts that don't serve me. Progress.

The next chapter, Ego, covers being judgmental (guilty as charged) and how the ego is an obstacle to growth. I need to build my self confidence not my ego and I learn how to keep an eye on the ego and detach from it. There is a great exercise to try on transforming the ego. Being in lockdown I get an immediate chance to try this whilst arguing with my husband. It works and the argument is extremely short lived but my husband is clearly confused by my new modus operandi! Genius Jay, pure genius .....

Part Three - Give

The first part is Gratitude. I have seen and read so much about the benefits of gratitude recently that I must admit I felt a little 'meh' about reading this chapter. (Is this judgmental? I refer back to a previous chapter). Did I really need to go through this all again? As it turns out, yes I did, Jay's take is far more expansive and explanatory. One description he gives, attributed to Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast, hits home. He described gratitude as when 'you recognise something is valuable to you, which has nothing to do with its monetary worth'. In the rest of the chapter he teaches how we can expand our awareness and part of this is being grateful for setbacks, knowing that the universe has other plans in store for us.

I move on to the next chapter - Relationships. This covers a lot of areas such as friendships, trust, attraction versus connection, love and heartbreak. Jay remembers how, during his first year at the ashram, he became upset because he felt like he was giving out lots of love and care to others but that it was not being returned in kind. His teacher asked him why he was giving out love. Jay responded 'Because it's who I am.' The answer from his teacher? 'So then why expect it back'? I think about all the times I have felt unappreciated from loved ones when I have made major sacrifices for them - and feel ashamed! I realise, as it was pointed out to Jay, that I have assumed that the love I give out will be returned to me from the person I gave it to. There are people out there who have given me so much and I have probably not returned it (sorry Mum ...). What you give out you get back, like a circle, but not necessarily from the person you gave it to. Things are beginning to fall into place and seem a lot simpler all of a sudden.

The final chapter is Service. This covers the benefits for body and soul as well as the mindset and the right time to serve, as well as our intention. This chapter ties in well with Purpose and finding our dharma and ideally you should bring service in to your dharma.

The book also contains a Vedic Personality Test - (are you a Guide, Leader, Creator or Maker?) and three different meditations to try (Breathe, Visualise and Chant).

Think Like a Monk is a truly wonderful book. I've got so much out of it and Jay has managed to get me to re-think many areas of my life I thought were settled. If you are looking for some inspiration and meaning in your life, a lot more balance and a little less anxiety then this is the book for you!

I'm not saying that it will not solve all your issues but I now find that when something in my life doesn't quite go according to plan or if someone says or does something I am not happy with, I now find myself saying - 'I wonder what a monk would think about this'?

If you enjoyed this book review you might be interested in my review of the book 'Spoonfed' by Professor Tim Spector. He was shocked to discover how little good evidence there is out there for the advice and ideas that float around about food, and reveals that why almost everything we have been told about food is wrong. Read the book review of Spoonfed by Tim Spector.

For lots of great book ideas on health, well-being, mind, body and spirit, take a look at The Happy Sage Recommended Books Directory.

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