(THE BOOK) Chapter 19: Monkeymind

Monkeymind is a Buddhist metaphor that describes how normal human consciousness operates.

Our minds jump from thought to thought, feeling to feeling, just like a monkey jumps from tree to tree. 

Unsettled, restless, never content with the present moment, they are constantly distracted by the endless stream of internal chatter passing through.

Two important things to remember about monkeymind:

(1) Monkeymind is, arguably, insane.

That’s if we define sanity as being in touch with reality.  Monkeymind is anything but. 

Preoccupied with memories of the past and projections of the future, it spins a narrative saturated with fantasy and only minimal awareness of what’s actually happening right here, right now. 

Anyone who’s tried to meditate knows this narrative all too well. 

Never have?  Try now:

Sit still.  Close your eyes.  Take a deep breath. 

Stop thinking.  Put all your attention on your breathing instead. 

Count your breaths.

(Authorial pause while reader counts.)

How far did you get before your counting was interrupted by a thought?       

That chatter you heard?  That’s monkeymind.

(2) Monkeymind is all about control.

Acquiring control — being able to edit the reality we have into the one we want — is monkeymind’s mission. 

It pursues it mainly by recalling old wounds and trying to heal them, anticipating new problems and trying to solve them.  (Did you notice, a moment ago, how the thoughts that spontaneously came to mind were wound- or problem-related?)   It is pain-driven and anxiety-driven, which is why the narrative it spins often feels like a bad horror movie.

It does this with the best of intentions.  It’s trying to heal us, protect us, make us happy, keep us safe.

Unfortunately the control it chases is an illusion.

So in the end what monkeymind mostly accomplishes is to keep us confused, scared, angry, unhappy, and more than a little nuts.

 

 

Logo_v1

 


2 responses to “(THE BOOK) Chapter 19: Monkeymind

  • Al

    I can totally relate to this description.
    It’s my mind ..
    In fact Steve, before this post I have had an image of my monkey mind similar. Mine is like a glasshouse, bell shaped, growing tall trees. The monkeys are running amok up in the trees with mental traps like a hamster wheel (represents my OCD thoughts). There are other traps..
    Meanwhile, I am trying to remain in a hammock on the floor of the glasshouse, trying to resist the urge to go up there and join the monkeys!
    I feel some success when I can at least return to my hammock, and wait until I know how I want, as you say, to respond.
    Al

  • In a room with a bully | Monkey House

    […] written elsewhere about monkeymind, that Buddhist metaphor for how normal human consciousness operates: restless, unsettled, pain- and […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: