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Do You Have a Drunken Monkey Mind?

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Do You Have a Drunken Monkey Mind?

Have you ever felt as if your mind was driving you crazy? Does the chatter in your head go on endlessly? Meditation appears to be a simple answer to this: just calm the mind and pay attention to the present. Then how come it is not so easy? My thoughts are driving me mad! My mind will not be quiet! I can’t relax! Sound familiar?

The mind is notoriously resistant to being quiet, so as soon as we sit still it seems to do everything it can to distract us. Habitual thinking kicks in and within a few minutes an internal dialogue takes over, the body starts to fidget, or trivial things that need to be done suddenly appear vitally important. The mind has often been compared to a “drunken monkey bitten by a scorpion.” Just as a monkey leaps from tree to tree, so the mind leaps from one drama to another, constantly distracted.

When we start to meditate we then find all this chaotic activity going on and it seems so noisy that we believe that we cannot possibly be still. Actually, it is simply because we are now becoming aware of the noise, whereas before we were so immersed in it we were unaware that such chatter was so constant.

In our book, Be The Change, Professor Robert Thurman says: “The first step is to try to focus our mind on something, like counting the breath. When we do, we see all these runaway thoughts that race through the mind, like I wonder when my car will be ready, is my parking meter overdue, will I get a ticket, is my girlfriend happy? Our minds are filled with these preoccupations, and we do not even realize it. But we can just let them go and bring the mind back to something we do want to focus on. This is a beginning, calming, waking-up step. But more important is to choose positive thoughts to focus on, such as I want to be more loving to that person who annoys me, I want to be more content, I want to be more friendly, peaceful, happy, and I no longer need to suffer.”

Having a busy mind is very normal. Someone once estimated that in any one thirty-minute session of meditation we may have upward of three hundred thoughts. After years of distraction the mind is not always so ready to be quiet. We cannot suddenly turn our thinking off; that would be like trying to catch the wind. But having a busy mind does not mean we cannot meditate, it just means we are like everyone else. What we can do is make friends with our mind, thereby changing it from being an enemy to our ally.

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Ed and Deb Shapiro

You can learn more in our book, Be The Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors Marianne Williamson, Jane Fonda, Ram Dass, Byron Katie and others. Our 3 meditation CD’s: Metta—Loving kindness and Forgiveness; Samadhi–Breath Awareness and Insight; and Yoga Nidra–Inner Conscious Relaxation, are available at:


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2:22AM PDT on May 13, 2012

A buddhist monk in Wimbledon taught me this in 2004 and then that was reinforced by a hypnotist a couple years later.
I can now go off into meditation in noisy places

4:06PM PDT on May 11, 2012

Brilliant :) I have this trouble at night when I'm trying to sleep. I'll be counting my breaths from now on :)

12:20PM PDT on Oct 25, 2011


6:42AM PDT on Oct 15, 2011

Yes ... I find the biggest challenge the sticking to it until the monkey is tamed - just seem to get there and then take a break from practice and, what do you know, there's that monkey back in my mind!

7:41PM PDT on Oct 14, 2011


7:26AM PDT on Oct 13, 2011

Thanks. Great article!

1:36AM PDT on Oct 13, 2011

I tend to distract my drunken monkey with counting things, maybe I can try to make it count breaths and then just concentrate on the breathing... I shall give it a go!

7:58PM PDT on Oct 12, 2011

stressed nursing student....I think the drunken monkey took my mind.....This too shall pass....I hope

6:07PM PDT on Oct 12, 2011

my minds the same, monkey minds as they say. Im so stressed i cant focus clearly or think on anything, or see the wood for the trees most of the time. It drives me mad. Its cos i cant relax, i cant even relax to practice meditating. Hell!

1:44PM PDT on Oct 12, 2011

My mind is not like a drunken monkey, it's more like a over-stressed monkey trying to get drunk in New Year's Eve before the end of the world.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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