The myth of the monkey mind

A lot of people are writing about the monkey mind these days. By the monkey mind, what they generally mean is the personal chatter that seemingly goes on inside our heads.

On one hand, it can be helpful to label this chatter and begin a practice to help quiet it. But this also creates a new problem: It makes the monkey mind even more real. It can start to feel like you are literally trying to wrestle a monkey!

The truth is the mind is decidedly not monkey-like. It only seems monkey-like because we are paying attention to only a small fraction of it.

The mental chatter that you may subjectively experience is only a minute fraction of the mind. The key to seeing through the myth of the monkey mind is to recognize the rest of the mind - not just personal experiences, but all experiences.

Any and all experiences you have are the mind. Objects themselves are experiences of the mind, like gusts of wind in the open sky.

That means this screen is mind. These words are mind. The floor beneath you is mind. Even the sense of "you" as a localized experience in or near the body is mind. Consider how similar this is to a dream.

Notice this screen, and consider that the feeling that it is "outside" of you is just another appearance. Notice the objects in the room... mind. Notice any confusion, tightness, resistance... also mind. Some of this mind is personal (your body, your personality), and some isn't.

As you begin to see this, habitual mental chatter will abate. The myth of the monkey mind evaporates.

Anoop Kumar, MD, MM is board certified in Emergency Medicine and holds a Master’s degree in Management with a focus in Health Leadership. He practices in the Washington, DC metro area, where he also leads meditation gatherings for clinicians. He is the author of the book Michelangelo’s Medicine: How redefining the human body will transform health and healthcare. Follow him @DrAnoopKumar.