THINK LIKE A MONK
The ideas that I love the most
Welcome to this “Think like a monk” summary, a book written by Jay Shetty.
In which category do you fall? The four varnas help you and they are: the Guide, the Leader, the Creator, and the Maker. (I found that I’m more of a guide)s
The emotion you fall asleep with at night is most likely the emotion you’ll wake up with in the morning.
If you don’t break your ego, life will break it for you.
Monks try to be grateful for everything, all the time.
If you’ve lost yourself in the relationship, find yourself in the heartbreak.
Service is the direct path to a meaningful life.
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Why should we think like monks? If you wanted to know how to dominate the basketball court, you might turn to Michael Jordan; if you wanted to innovate, you might investigate Elon Musk; you might study Beyoncé to learn how to perform. If you want to train your mind to find peace, calm, and purpose? Monks are the experts.
Monks can withstand temptations, refrain from criticizing, deal with pain and anxiety, quiet the ego, and build lives that brim with purpose and meaning. Why shouldn’t we learn from the calmest, happiest, most purposeful people on earth?
Becoming a monk is a mindset that anyone can adopt.
In this book one of the author’s goals is to help you connect with timeless wisdom, along with other ancient teachings that were the basis of his education as a monk—and that have significant relevance to the challenges we all face today.
The goal of monk thinking is a life free of ego, envy, lust, anxiety, anger, bitterness, baggage. To Jay Shetty, adopting the monk mindset isn’t just possible— it’s necessary. We have no other choice. We need to find calm, stillness, and peace.
PART ONE: LET GO
Think like a monk Chapter one: Identity: I am what I think I am
Often, our identity has so many layers that we lose sight of the real us, if we ever knew who or what that was in the first place.
When you try to live your most authentic life, some of your relationships will be put in jeopardy. Losing them is a risk worth bearing; finding a way to keep them in your life is a challenge worth taking on.
Jay Shetty relates numerous reactions when he shared his intention to become a monk. The truth is, our families, our friends, society, media —we are surrounded by images and voices telling us who we should be and what we should do.
How to build a meaningful life?
The only way to build a meaningful life is to filter out that noise and look within. This is the first step to building your monk mind.
We will start this journey the way monks do, by clearing away distractions.
First, we’ll look at the external forces that shape us and distract us from our values.
Then we will take stock of the values that currently shape our lives and reflect on whether they’re in line with who we want to be and how we want to live.
Values are really practical. They’re a kind of ethical GPS we can use to navigate through life. If you know your values, you have directions that point you toward the people and actions and habits that are best for you.
Values make it easier for you to surround yourself with the right people, make tough career choices, use your time more wisely, and focus your attention where it matters. Without them we are swept away by distractions.
Our values are influenced by whatever absorbs our minds.
Create space for reflection
Jay Shetty shares three ways so that you can create space for reflection.
First, on a daily basis, sit down to reflect on how the day went and what emotions you’re feeling.
Second, once a month you can approximate the change by going someplace you’ve never been before to explore yourself in a different environment.
Finally, get involved in something that’s meaningful to you—a hobby, a charity, a political cause.
Audit your life
No matter what you think your values are, your actions tell the real story. What we do with our spare time shows what we value.
How do you spend time? No matter what you think your values are, your actions tell the real story. What we do with our spare time shows what we value. Conversely, like time, you can look at the money you spend to see the values by which you live.
Jay Shetty suggests you trying these:
a) Past values
Reflect on the three best and three worst choices you’ve ever made. Why did you make them? What have you learned? How would you have done it differently?
b) Value-driven decisions
For the next week, whenever you spend money on a no necessity or make a plan for how you will spend your free time, pause, and think: What is the value behind this choice? It only takes a second, a flash of consideration. Ideally, this momentary pause becomes instinctive, so that you are making conscious choices about what matters to you and how much energy you devote to it.
c) Companion audit
Over the course of a week, make a list of the people with whom you spend the most time. List the values that you share next to each person. Are you giving the most time to the people who align most closely with your values?
Think like a monk Chapter two: Negativity: The evil king goes hungry
Nobody wakes up and thinks, how can I be mean to or about other people today? Or how can I make myself feel better by making others feel worse today?
Jay Shetty identifies three core needs which are peace, love and understanding.
Negativity often springs from a threat to one of the three needs:
A fear that bad things are going to happen (loss of peace)
And a fear of not being loved (loss of love)
Or a fear of being disrespected (loss of understanding).
From these fears stem all sorts of other emotions—feeling overwhelmed, insecure, hurt, competitive, needy, and so on.
These negative feelings spring out of us as complaints, comparisons, and criticisms and other negative behaviors.
Negativity is contagious
The more negativity that surrounds us, the more negative we become.
Studies show that negativity can increase aggression toward random, uninvolved people, and that the more negative your attitude, the more likely you are to have a negative attitude in the future.
Types of negative people
There are complainers, cancellers, casualties, critics, commanders, competitors and controllers.
You can reverse external negativity
You do so by:
Becoming an objective observer: Instead of reacting compulsively and retaliating, we could enjoy our freedom as human beings and refuse to be upset.
The 25/75 principle: For every negative person in your life, have three uplifting people. I try to surround myself with people who are better than I am in some way: happier, more spiritual.
Allocate Time: Another way to reduce negativity if you can’t remove it is to regulate how much time you allow a person to occupy based on their energy.
You can also reverse internal negativity
Spot, stop, swap
To purify our thoughts, monks talk about the process of awareness, addressing, and amending. The author likes to remember this as spot, stop, and swap.
First, we become aware of a feeling or issue—we spot it.
Then we pause to address what the feeling is and where it comes from—we stop to consider it.
And last, we amend our behavior—we swap in a new way of processing the moment. SPOT, STOP, SWAP.
Peace of mind
You achieve peace of mind by practicing forgiveness. Jay Shetty highlights different levels of forgiveness we often apply in our lives:
Zero forgiveness, conditional forgiveness, transformational forgiveness and unconditional forgiveness.
Giving and receiving forgiveness both have health benefits. When we make forgiveness a regular part of our spiritual practice, we start to notice all of our relationships blossoming. We’re no longer holding grudges.
Think like a monk Chapter three: fear: welcome to hotel earth
We have so much to offer the world, but fear and anxiety disconnect us from our abilities.
In his commencement speech at Yale University, Tom Hanks highlighted how “Fear will get the worst of the best of us.”
The stress response
When you deal with fear and hardship, you realize that you’re capable of dealing with fear and hardship. This gives you a new perspective: the confidence that when bad things happen, you will find ways to handle them.
With that increased objectivity, you become better able to differentiate what’s actually worth being afraid of and what’s not.
The cause of fear: attachment. The cure for fear: detachment
When you meet someone who gives off a negative vibe, you feel it, but you don’t think that vibe is you. It’s the same with our emotions—they are something we’re feeling, but they are not us.
Try shifting from I am angry to I feel angry. I feel sad. I feel afraid.
A simple change, but a profound one because it puts our emotions in their rightful place. Having this perspective calms down our initial reactions and gives us the space to examine our fear and the situation around it without judgment.
Useful and hurtful fear
Jay Shetty’s teachers make a distinction between useful and hurtful fear. A useful fear alerts us to a situation we can change.
Fearing that our parents will die is a hurtful fear because we can’t change the truth of the matter. We transform hurtful fears into useful fears by focusing on what we can control.
The Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca observed that “Our fears are more numerous than our dangers, and we suffer more in our imagination than reality.”
Think like a monk Chapter four: Intention: Blinded by the Gold
The four motivations
In his book, Jay Shetty mentions four fundamental motivations:
1. Fear. Thakura describes this as being driven by “sickness, poverty, fear of hell or fear of death.”
2. Desire. Seeking personal gratification through success, wealth, and pleasure.
3. Duty. Motivated by gratitude, responsibility, and the desire to do the right thing.
4. Love. Compelled by care for others and the urge to help them.
These four motivations drive everything we do. We make choices, for example, because we’re scared of losing our job, wanting to win the admiration of our friends, hoping to fulfill our parents’ expectations, or wanting to help others live a better life.
Fear can be a powerful motivator, but it’s not sustainable.
The why ladder
Fear, desire, duty, and love are the roots of all intentions.
As we talk about intention, Jay Shetty highlights that he doesn’t believe in wishful “manifesting,” the idea that if you simply believe something will happen, it will. As he says, we can’t sit around with true intentions expecting that what we want will fall into our laps. Nor can we expect someone to find us, discover how amazing we are, and hand us our place in the world. Nobody is going to create our lives for us.
The best way to research the work required to fulfill your intention is to look for role models. If you want to be rich, study (without stalking!) what the rich people you admire are being and doing, read books about how they got where they are. Focus especially on what they did at your stage, in order to get where they are now.
PART TWO: GROW
Think like a monk Chapter five: Purpose
When your natural talents and passions (your varna) connect with what the universe needs (seva) and become your purpose, you are living in your dharma. When you spend your time and energy living in your dharma, you have the satisfaction of using your best abilities and doing something that matters to the world. Living in your dharma is a certain route to fulfillment.
This is the magic formula for dharma.
Passion + Expertise + Usefulness = Dharma.
Everything you are
There are two lies some of us hear when we’re growing up. The first is “You’ll never amount to anything.” The second is “You can be anything you want to be.” The truth is— You can’t be anything you want. But you can be everything you are.
The Bhagavad Gita says that it’s better to do one’s own dharma imperfectly than to do another’s perfectly. Or, as Steve Jobs put it in his 2005 Stanford commencement address, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
Align with your passion
In order to unveil our dharma, we have to identify our passions—the activities we both love and are naturally inclined to do well. It’s clear to anyone who looks at the Quadrants of Potential that we should be spending as much time as possible at the upper right, in Quadrant Two: doing things that we’re both good at and love.
Jay Shetty then talks about varnas. The Bhagavad Gita contemplates dharma by dividing us into four personality types—what it calls varnas. There are four varnas, and knowing your varna tells you your nature and competence. The different personality types are meant to work together in a community, like the organs in a body—all essential and none superior to the others.
The four varnas are the Guide, the Leader, the Creator, and the Maker.
Originally: merchants, businesspeople
Today: marketers, salespeople, entertainers, producers, entrepreneurs, CEOs
Skills: brainstorming, networking, innovating
Originally: artists, musicians, creatives, writers
Today: social workers, therapists, doctors, nurses, COOs, heads of human resources, artists, musicians, engineers, coders, carpenters, cooks
Skills: inventing, supporting, implementing
Originally and today: teachers, guides, gurus, coaches, mentors
Skills: learning, studying, sharing knowledge, and wisdom
Originally: kings, warriors
Today: military, justice, law enforcement, politics
Skills: governing, inspiring, engaging others
The point of the varnas is to help you understand yourself so you can focus on your strongest skills and inclinations.
Think like a monk Chapter six: Routine: location has energy, time has memory
Early to rise
Jay Shetty’s first recommendation is to wake up one hour earlier than you do now. The energy and mood of the morning carries through the day, so making life more meaningful begins there.
A new morning routine
Every morning, make some time for:
Thankfulness. Express gratitude to someone, some place, or something every day. This includes thinking it, writing it, and sharing it. (See Chapter Nine.)
Insight. Gain insight through reading the paper or a book, or listening to a podcast.
Meditation. Spend fifteen minutes alone, breathing, visualizing or with sound.
Exercise. We monks did yoga, but you can do some basic stretches or a workout.
The evening routine
Your morning is defined by the evening. If you want to wake up in the morning with intention, you need to start that momentum by establishing a healthy, restful evening routine—and so the attention we’ve given the mornings begins to expand and define the entire day.
The emotion you fall asleep with at night is most likely the emotion you’ll wake up with in the morning.
Location has energy
Routines aren’t just about actions; they’re also about the locations in which those actions take place. There’s a reason people study better in libraries and work better in offices. Each environment—from the biggest city to the smallest corner of a room—has its own particular energy.
Time has memory
When we tailor our locations for specific purposes, we’re better able to summon the right kind of energy and attention. The same is true for time. Doing something at the same time every day helps us remember to do it, commit to it, and do it with increasing skill and facility.
Time and location help us maximize the moment, but there is one essential component to being wholly present in that moment: single-tasking. Studies have found that only 2 percent of us can multitask effectively; most of us are terrible at it, especially when one of those tasks requires a lot of focus.
Going all the way
Routines become easier if you’ve done something immersively. If you want to bring a new skill into your life, I recommend that you kick it off with single pointed focus for a short period of time.
People also read: Atomic Habits by James Clear
Think like a monk Chapter seven: The mind: The Charioteer’s Dilemma
The monkey mind
In the Hitopadeśa, an ancient Indian text by Nārāyana, the mind is compared to a drunken monkey that’s been bitten by a scorpion and haunted by a ghost.
The Bhagavad Gita states, “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.”
The parent and the child
The monkey mind is a child and the monk mind is an adult. A child cries when it doesn’t get what it wants, ignoring what it already has. The impulsive, desire-driven child mind is tempered by the judicious, pragmatic adult mind, which says, “That’s not good for you,” or “Wait until later. The parent is the smarter voice. If well trained, it has self-control, reasoning power, and is a debating champ.
Drive the chariot of the mind
Beyond the parent-child model, the monk teachings have another analogy for the competing voices in our heads. In the Upanishads the working of the mind is compared to a chariot being driven by five horses. In this analogy, the chariot is the body, the horses are the five senses, the reins are the mind, and the charioteer is the intellect.
In the untrained state, the charioteer (the intellect) is asleep on the job, so the horses (the senses) have control of the reins (mind) and lead the body wherever they please. Horses, left to their own devices, react to what’s around them.
In the trained state however, the charioteer (the intellect) is awake, aware, and attentive, not allowing the horses to lead the way. The charioteer uses the reins of the mind to carefully steer the chariot along the correct route.
Invest in the conscious mind
If your mind says, “You can’t do this,” respond by saying to yourself, “You can do it. You have the ability. You have the time.
Reframe and build a relationship with that pessimistic child’s voice. Your adult voice will get stronger as you read, research, apply, and test.
Nothing owns you
Only by detaching can we truly gain control of the mind. “Detachment is not that you own nothing, but that nothing should own you.”
How to detach
From now on, think of austerities as a detachment boot camp.
There are infinite austerities or challenges you can try: giving up TV or your phone, sweets or alcohol; taking on a physical challenge; abstaining from gossip, complaining, and comparing.
Think like a monk Chapter eight: ego: catch me if you can
When we are humble, we are open to learning because we understand how much we don’t know. It follows that the biggest obstacle to learning is being a know-it-all. This false self-confidence is rooted in the ego.
The arrogant ego desires respect, whereas the humble worker inspires respect. You can only keep up the myth of your own importance for so long. If you don’t break your ego, life will break it for you.
The ego is two-faced. One moment it tells us we’re great at everything, and the next moment it tells us we’re the worst. Either way, we are blind to the reality of who we are. True humility is seeing what lies between the extremes. True humility is one step beyond simply repressing the ego
The quality of self-realization
In Think like a monk, a passage highlights: “I heard another way of thinking about this from Radhanath Swami when he was giving a talk at the London temple about the qualities we need for self-realization. He told us to be like salt and pointed out that we only notice salt when there is too much of it in our food, or not enough. Nobody ever says, “Wow, this meal has the perfect amount of salt.” When salt is used in the best way possible, it goes unrecognized. Salt is so humble that when something goes wrong, it takes the blame, and when everything goes right, it doesn’t take credit.”
Build confidence, not ego
Humility allows you to see your own strengths and weaknesses clearly, so you can work, learn, and grow. Confidence and high self-esteem help you accept yourself as you are, humble, imperfect, and striving.
Let’s not confuse an inflated ego with healthy self-esteem. The ego wants everyone to like you. High self-esteem is just fine if they don’t. The ego thinks it knows everything. Self-esteem thinks it can learn from anyone. The ego wants to prove itself. Self-esteem wants to express itself.
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PART THREE: GIVE
Think like a monk Chapter nine: Gratitude: the world’s most powerful drug
Gratitude is good for you
Gratitude has been linked to better mental health, self-awareness, better relationships, and a sense of fulfillment. People who are grateful reported lower stress levels at the end of the day.
Try this: keep a gratitude journal
Every night, spend five minutes writing down things you are grateful for. If you want to conduct your own experiment, spend the week before you start writing down how much sleep you get. The following week, keep a gratitude journal and in the morning write down how much sleep you got. Any improvement?
If gratitude is good for you, then more gratitude must be better for you. So let’s talk about how to increase the gratitude in our daily lives. Monks try to be grateful for everything, all the time.
Kindness and gratitude are symbiotic
Kindness and gratitude must be developed together, working in harmony. Kindness is as easy—and as hard—as this: genuinely wanting something good for someone else, thinking about what would benefit them, and putting effort into giving them that benefit.
Gratitude through service
Service helps us transform negative emotions like anger, stress, envy, and disappointment into gratitude. It does this by giving us perspective.
Try this: experience gratitude through volunteer work
Service broadens your perspective and alleviates negative emotions. Try volunteering—it can be once a month or once a week—but nothing will better help you develop gratitude more immediately and inspire you to show it.
Gratitude after forgiveness
If your relationships are complicated, accept their complexity. Try to find forgiveness for their failures and gratitude for their efforts. However, Jay Shetty is absolutely not suggesting that you should feel grateful if someone has done you wrong. You don’t have to be grateful for everyone in your life.
Think like a monk Chapter ten: Relationships: People watching
Monks believe different people serve different purposes, with each role contributing to our growth in its own way.
The four types of trust
There are four characteristics we look for in the people we allow into our lives.
Competence: The person has the right skills to solve your issue. They’re an expert or authority in their area.
Care: They care about your well-being and what’s best for you, not your success.
Character: People with a strong moral compass and uncompromising values
Consistency: Reliable, present and available when you need them.
Use the four types of trust to understand why you are attracted to a person and whether you are likely to connect as a friend, a colleague, or a romantic partner. Ask yourself, What is my genuine intention for getting involved in this relationship?
Make your own family
In order to find diversity, we have to be open to new connections. Part of growing up—at any age—is accepting that our family of origin may never be able to give us all that we need. It’s okay to accept what you do and don’t get from the people who raised you. And it’s okay—necessary, in fact—to protect yourself from those in your family who aren’t good for you
Feeling connected at some level to all of humanity can be positively therapeutic for those whose own families have made their lives difficult.
Stages of trust
Trust is earned and there are different stages of trust. We ask ourselves: Can I trust you to be faithful? Can I trust you to help with housework? Can I trust you to listen, to be there for me?
Neutral trust: positive qualities exist that don’t merit trust
Contractual trust: I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine!
Mutual trust: Help goes both ways. You know you’ll be there for one another in the future.
Pure trust: No matter what happens, you’ll have one another’s backs.
Trust Is a daily practice
Trust can be threatened in small and large ways and needs to be reinforced and rebuilt on a daily basis.
Build and reinforce trust every day by:
Making and fulfilling promises (contractual trust)
Giving those you care about sincere compliments and constructive criticism; going out of your way to offer support (mutual trust)
Standing by someone even when they are in a bad place, have made a mistake, or need help that requires significant time (pure trust)
Attraction versus connection
There are five primary motivations for connection
Physical attraction. You like what they look like—you are drawn to their appearance, style, or presence, or you like the idea of being seen with them.
Material. You like their accomplishments and the power and/or the possessions this affords them.
Intellectual. You like how they think—you’re stimulated by their conversation and ideas.
Emotional. You connect well. They understand your feelings and increase your sense of well-being.
Spiritual. They share your deepest goals and values.
Keeping love alive
Jay Shetty has a couple of recommendations for activities couples can do together:
Find new in the old, find new ways to spend time together, serve together, meditate and chant together, envision together what you both want from the relationship.
In every relationship you have the opportunity to set the level of joy you expect and the level of pain you’ll accept.
The strategies Jay recommends to overcome heartbreak tie directly to monk ideas of the self, and how we find our way toward peace and purpose.
Feel every emotion; learn from the situation; believe in your worth, wait before dating again. If you’ve lost yourself in the relationship, find yourself in the heartbreak.
Think like a monk Chapter eleven: service: plant trees under whose shade you do not plan to sit
Everyone, even those of us who have already dedicated our lives to service, can always give more.
The highest purpose
The highest purpose is to live in service. Selflessness is the surest route to inner peace and a meaningful life. Selflessness heals the self. Monks live in service, and to think like a monk ultimately means to serve.
We seek to leave a place cleaner than we found it, people happier than we found them, the world better than we found it.
Service is good for the body and soul
Studies show that when we pursue “compassionate goals”—those aimed at helping others or otherwise helping to make the world a better place—we’re less likely to have symptoms of anxiety and depression than when we focus on improving or protecting our own status or reputation.
The act of giving to others activates the pleasure center of our brain. It’s win-win-win. This may be why those who help others tend to live longer, be healthier, and have a better overall sense of well-being.
A direct path to a meaningful life
Here’s the life hack: Service is always the answer. It fixes a bad day. It tempers the burdens we bear. Service helps other people and helps us. We don’t expect anything in return, but what we get is the joy of service. It’s an exchange of love.
When you’re living in service, you don’t have time to complain and criticize.
When you’re living in service, your fears go away.
When you’re living in service, you feel grateful. Your material attachments diminish.
Service is the direct path to a meaningful life.
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