5 Life-Changing Lessons From a Former Monk

Jessica Pedraza

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I’ve always admired people who go rouge in life. Something about leaving all expectations behind and creating life on your terms is incredibly inspiring to me.

That’s exactly what Jay Shetty did in his 20s. According to Jay, he grew up in a family where “you could become one of three things — a doctor, a lawyer, or a failure.”

After finishing college, he decided to forgo the graduation ceremony and his parent’s expectations of him. He didn’t turn to drugs or set off on a backpacking trip of self-exploration. He didn’t roam the world in search of himself. He did something much less dramatic.

He became a monk.

After his time in the ashram, he moved back to his parent’s house in London. What he’s been able to accomplish has been astronomical. He created a massive social media platform where he’s reached more than a billion views. His podcast, On Purpose, is the number one health podcast in the world.

Recently, he’s become a New York Times bestselling author with his new book Think Like A Monk. His book is meant to sum up what he learned from three years in an ashram. It’s a book with valuable wisdom on how to cultivate peace in your life. It’s a book that’s desperately needed in 2020.

Here are the greatest lessons I learned from this phenomenal book.

Life Lesson One: An Authentic Life Is the Only One Worth Living

“How can we recognize who we are and what makes us happy when we’re chasing the distorted reflection of someone else’s dreams?” — Jay Shetty

Living an authentic life has been my mantra of 2020. I’ve written on it here on Medium and I plan on making it my life’s work. Many people struggle with expectations. If you’ve realized this, you’re ahead of the game. Unfortunately, many go through life struggling to fit into somebody else’s dreams.

To take a step back and realize you have the power to design the life you want is power. To realize your truth is aligned with your goals is freedom.

According to Jay, we often compromise our values for the sake of what others think of us. His most poignant message for me was this:

“We live in a perception of a perception of ourselves, and we’ve lost our real selves as a result.”

Do you live in a perception of perception or are you living your truth?

Life Lesson Two: Define Your Values

I truly believe that when people say they feel lost, it’s because they haven’t clearly defined their values in life. Or if they have defined them, they have conflicting beliefs or goals.

Our values can be the shining star telling us where to go in life. When we feel heavy with outside expectations, we can use our values as guideposts to direct us back to a meaningful life.

It’s a red flag when we have to stop and think about what our values are. These should be at the forefront of all our decision making. Knowing your values can add levity to your life and create a clear path forward.

Jay encourages us to make value-driven decisions. If you struggle with figuring out your values, he encourages you to ask yourself:

“What qualities do I look for /admire in family, friends, or colleagues? Whatever they may be, these qualities are, in fact, our values — the very landmarks we should use to guide ourselves through our own lives.”

Jay talks about the importance of surrounding yourself with people who reflect your values. It’s much harder to go against the current of your own values. Instead, we should surround ourselves with those that pull us towards our values. In his book, Jay encourages you to ask yourself one important question:

“When I spend time alone with this person or group, do I feel like I’m getting closer or further away from who I want to be?”

Lesson Three: The Importance of Detaching Yourself From Negativity

If I had to choose a word for 2020, it would be negativity. From the media to the pandemic chaos — most of it is negative. It’s easy to get swept in by negativity. Like a current pushing you towards an ocean of misery. The more we let ourselves be taken by it, the deeper we find ourselves entrenched in it.

Am I being too negative? Sorry. Let’s get back to what Jay says.

Proactively fighting negativity is the best recourse. According to Jay, limiting your exposure to negative people and being aware of the negativity is the first step. Then, we are to become objective observers.

In his time in the ashram, he practiced “detachment.” It involves seeing the negativity without judgment. That is, we don’t judge others for their negativity or judge ourselves for being negative.

According to Jay dealing with negativity a 3 step process: spot, stop, and swap. You become aware by first spotting the negativity. You then stop it by failing to engage (in yourself or others). Finally, you swap it by processing it positively or use it to guide you towards what you want.

In a year where negativity is seeping into our lives, it’s best to take this practice to heart. Let’s start spotting, stopping, and swapping in a different direction.

Lesson Four: Tame the Monkey Mind

Jay says, “Our minds should work in our own best interest.” What a concept, right? In his book, he talks about the importance of dealing with your “monkey mind.” We all have a monkey mind. The good news is you can tame it. The more control we have over our minds, the happier we will be — plain and simple.

“For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his very mind will be the greatest enemy.” Bhagavad Gita

Jay compares our mind to a child and a “monk” mind to an adult. A child’s mind is controlled by impulses and throws temper tantrums when it doesn’t get what it wants. The adult mind or “monk” mind knows what the child needs versus what it wants. It has self-control and is able to pause instead of reacting.

Being able to control the monkey mind takes hard work and patience. Jay talks about using the power of the conscious mind to train the monkey mind. If you find yourself with negative thoughts, reframe them to positive ones.

Instead of: “I can’t do this.”

Say: “I can do this by…”

These small steps used to reframe your mind can be the catalyst for enormous change in your life. Meditation and staying present are key practices we can use to tame our monkey mind.

Lesson Five: Waking up Early Is Getting a Head Start in Life

Waking up early (like 5 AM) is something I’ve wanted to do for a while. I just can’t get myself to do it. I’ll blame it on my trauma from my son’s lack of sleep as a baby — whatever makes me feel better.

Truth is, waking up early can be life-changing. In his book, he talks about his struggle to start waking up early and how it has affected his life. Jay mentions useful key tips for having a healthy morning routine:

  • Try to go to sleep 15 minutes earlier in the day until you reach your ideal wake-up time.
  • Put on quiet music
  • Don’t reach for your phone the first hour after you wake up
  • Get to bed at night when you feel “the first twinge of fatigue.”

We all can use more time in life. We that extra time in the morning we can journal, meditate, or read that book you’re dying to read. More time means more opportunities to build the life you want.

Jay’s book has timeless insights on how to achieve a more peaceful and purposeful life. Best of all, he gives us the tools we can use daily. It’s up to us to practice them and create a more peaceful life.

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A mother, wife, traveler, writer, and lawyer — in that order. Contact me: jesszolt@gmail.com or follow my Instagram: @seekinggurustravel

Miami, FL
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