What is Monkey Mind and Do I have one??

‘Monkey Mind’ is a term used in yoga to describe the mind and it’s tendency to be scattered or to try to control what you do and when.  Monkey Mind is like the opposite of your ‘Free Will–” your Monkey  will tell you to doubt yourself, will do anything to protect your ego, and will tell you to give into temptation at every turn.
To answer the second question–yes you definitely have a Monkey in there.  In our busy, stressful lives trying to balance work with the rest of our life, Monkey Mind can be a big pain in the you-know-what–preventing us from being happy and sabotaging our attempts to be good to ourselves!

From the Expert..

One of my greatest teachers in Yoga (who has studied yoga for 46 years in India) recently gave a lecture on Monkey Mind.  His insights are worth sharing, and the following has been adapted from his lecture.

Monkey Mind vs. Your True Self

“Monkey Mind is mischievous and powerful BUT  You are NOT your mind.  Your “whole self” is different from the mind.  The mind is a tool.  It is a powerful, very useful but also tricky tool.  It does not care if it causes you pain or creates chaos, it is happy because it will still be busy and have things to do–even if those things be making you miserable!  In other words, the mind is happy as long as it is allowed to be busy, jumping from one thing to another like a monkey jumps from branch to branch on a tree.

The mind should never rule the Self [meaning, who you REALLY TRULY ARE!].  Through yoga, you can learn to recognize the mind’s tricks and gain control over it.  The lower ‘states’ of mind- drunken monkey and ‘dull’ or sleepy monkey (as they are called in yoga) can be likened to your ‘inner critic’.  These are states of mind when you are upset, angry, or exhausted and apathetic.  There are many reasons and situations that put the mind into this state, especially in our busy modern lives.  You should NOT make decisions when in this mind state.  BUT, in modern life, a good majority of decisions are made from here!  We often do not even realize we are in these states of mind, so the first step is to realize when we are!

We are NOT our Emotions

We are also NOT our emotions–are emotions are created by our minds.  If we believe what our minds are telling us, we believe its lies and limit what is possible for ourselves.  People who struggle with low mood or depression operate in ‘dull monkey’ mind a lot of the time.  Repeat positive Mantras, candle gaze and smile to make your cells happy.  If you are ‘doing the 9-5,’ live in a city, and don’t have a really solid system to manage stress, you too may operate in ‘dull monkey’ mind much of the time without really even realizing it!  I will show you how to train that Monkey starting NOW  and learn how to be happier!

Why “Meditating’ is Hard….

The mind hates meditation, peace and quiet.  It loves drama, chaos, busyness.  That’s why it is so hard to meditate!

The Higher (i.e. more Beneficial) States of Mind

The ‘higher states’ of mind are called Focused mind and the highest state of absorbed mind.
Focused Mind
Focused mind is called ‘mating monkey’ mind.  It is when the mind is really focused on what it is doing, like a monkey who is mating would be!
Absorbed Mind
An example of ‘Absorbed mind’ is a musician who is jamming, playing by ear in the moment with another musician a piece of music never rehersed or played before–he becomes the music. Absorbed mind is also the dancer who ‘becomes’ the dance, a yogi who ‘becomes his asana (yoga pose).’  In absorbed mind, the self is free from the prisons of the mind, the tyranny of the mind. With this state of peace, the self can do amazing things, see the world clearly, make good decisions.”

How to Tame Your Monkey…

Recognize when you are in the ‘lower States of Mind” (drunk monkey, dull monkey)
try to avoid making big decisions when you are in this state.
When you find yourself in these states of mind, use your stress management techniques (I will teach you on the website!) to calm your mind and REFOCUS your Monkey.  You can do this in the moment using:
  • the healing breath
  • your mantra
Or taking a few minutes out of your day using:
  • guided relaxation recording
  • Progressive Muscular Relaxation
  • 3 simple specific exercises to relax the ncrvous system (i.e. promote the parasympathetic nervous system).
You can download free recordings based on these EVIDENCE BASED, proven-effective techniques on this website for free!
On Taming my own Monkey..
I am currently working on taming my monkey.  When I asked Peter if he still had a monkey, he responded, that no, he doesn’t have a monkey–he has a gorilla!  So, I guess that means I’ll just have to be patient with myself!

Dr Dani Gordon MD
Dr Dani Gordon MD

Dr Dani is a double board certified medical doctor, integrative medicine physician and world leading expert in CBD, cannabis medicine and brain wellness. She is a leading advocate for evidence based natural medicine and mindbody medicine and her mission it to help you thrive in modern life.