Take our free Enneagram & Emotions Assessment →

Relaxing Your Monkey Brain

Our thoughts can be “like monkeys jumping around in a banana tree,” Henri Nouwen writes. (The full quote is in our article on “Solitude and Silence”.)

Have you noticed any monkeys jumping around in your brain? Do you find yourself over-stressed, distractible, irritable, judging yourself or others, or anxious?

That’s the impish monkeys! They screech at you, push and pull at you, and create havoc in your life.

Kristi and I connect with hundreds of men and women in ministry like you. Most of us try to silence our wild monkeys by staying busy. The busyness of activity or thought is a defense mechanism against feeling inner distress and emptiness. To avoid unpleasant emotions we keep working, posturing, talking, thinking, reading, helping others, or entertaining ourselves.

There are two ways to quiet our crazy monkeys: solitude and empathy. These two spiritual practices, done as apprentices to Jesus in Kingdom living, can greatly help us to experience God’s grace.

Henri Nouwen is one of our favorite Soul Shepherding authors. (See our archive of Henri Nouwen articles.) He taught that a spiritual discipline is an activity we do in order to make space to hear the voice of God calling us his beloved.

That’s really good! Make space to hear the voice of God calling us his beloved.

The words that Abba God spoke over Jesus at his baptism are for us too: “You are my beloved child and in you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11 paraphrased) Wow! I love to meditate on this! What a blessing it is to immerse ourselves in that river of grace with Jesus to be washed and rejuvenated by God!

Let the words of Abba sink into your whole being:

You are my beloved child and I am delighted with you!… 

You are my beautiful daughter and I am enthralled with you!… 

You are my strong son and I am so proud of you!…

To absorb those wonderfully affirming words from your Heavenly Father you need to bring them into solitary prayer and empathy conversations.

Solitude is getting alone and quiet in God’s presence. It’s about imprinting on Jesus, relating to his Abba as our Abba, breathing in the Holy Spirit, loving and being loved by our Lord. Praying as we reflect on God’s Word is an indispensable aid in solitude.

Empathy is sharing our innermost feelings, struggles, and desires with an emotionally safe and caring person as Christ’s ambassador to us. It’s about vulnerability and receiving God’s compassion and mercy through a listening, praying friend.

Following Jesus in our practice of solitude and empathy uniquely enables us to live in God’s peace or minister it to others. The back and forth flow of quiet time with God and sharing our life with a soul friend gives us emotional balance, clarity of vision, passion of purpose, overflowing love for others, and Holy Spirit anointing upon our ministry.


Rest: When Rest Doesn’t Feel Restful!

When we try to rest, it is so easy to be overwhelmed with the things in our life that feel undone! We begin to judge ourselves and feel guilty for even trying to rest, and are tempted to get busy to make ourselves feel better. Join Bill and Kristi in an honest conversation on the challenges we all face when learning to enter into real rest.
Listen to this week’s podcast here.


Further Reading

Related Products


Soul Shepherding