BOOK EXCERPT: Monkeymind

~~~Monkeymind framedMonkeymind 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.

~ From Monkeytraps: Why Everybody Tries to Control Everything and How We Can Stop by Steve Hauptman (Lioncrest, 2015).  Available at amazon.com.

 

 

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