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.

Meditation takes awareness and a willingness to keep going. The good news is that it is not possible to fail! As you continue, it will begin to feel more natural and cool things will start to happen. Being still happens in a moment, but it may take some time before that moment comes. Remember, it is a great gift to yourself!

In other words, meditation is a letting go of resistance, of whatever may arise: doubt, worry, feelings of inadequacy, the endless dramas and desires. Every time you find your mind is drifting, daydreaming, remembering the past or planning the future, just come back to now, come back to this moment. In meditation, paying attention is both the key and the practice. To be with what is; nothing else is going on.

One way to become more focused is to label the thoughts. If you drift off into thinking, silently repeat: thinking, thinking. Ed likes to repeat monkey mind, monkey mind, when meaningless thoughts appear. If you get distracted, simply label it distraction, distraction. You can also see thoughts like clouds in the sky, just moving through the sky without stopping, or like birds and watch them fly away. Everything comes and goes, nothing stays, no matter how strong or insistent the thought or feeling may be. There is no need to struggle; meditation is really your best friend.

Breath Awareness Meditation

Sit comfortably with a straight back so you can breathe easily and freely. Hands are resting in your lap. Eyes are closed or lowered. Take a deep breath and let it go.

Now simply focus on the natural in and out flow of your breathe without trying to change it in any way. Let your breathing be normal and relaxed; your attention still and focused.

If you find you are getting distracted or caught up in thinking, simply label your thoughts as “distraction” or “thinking,” and let them go, or see them as birds in the sky and let them fly away. Do your best to do this for at least ten minutes. Just breathing and being.

When you are ready, take a deep breath. Gently open your eyes.

Is your mind like a drunken monkey? How do you find quiet? Do comment below.

8 Morning Activities to Keep You Present All Day
7 Reasons It’s Hard to Meditate
8 Ways Meditation Can Change Your Life


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Ness Watson
Ines W.3 years ago

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

Garry Wilson
Garry Wilson3 years ago

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

Julija S.
Julija S.4 years ago


Kirsten B.
Kirsten B.4 years ago

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!

Carole R.
Carole R.4 years ago


Roxana C.
Roxana Cortijo4 years ago

Thanks. Great article!

Joanna Coombs
Joanna Coombs4 years ago

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!

tiffany t.
tiffany t.4 years ago

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

Beverly G.
bev G.4 years ago

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!

Giovanna M.
Giovanna M.4 years ago

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.