Wisdom Tree Blog

Blame the Monkey Mind

thinking monkey

To change your thoughts is to change your life. 


In this newly enlightened spiritual rise there are a plethora of religious and spiritual teachings out there for all of us to ingest.  Never before has Eastern Spiritual Philosophy been so studied by the masses in the West.  From Reiki to Qi Gong, Yoga to Meditation, and Eastern Herbalism, Shamanism, Energy Healing and Metaphysics (Consciousness).

One recent Buddhist Philosophy to bridge the East/West divide is called “The Monkey Mind” or “Mind Monkey”.   This relates to the human thought and belief process and how our minds are chaotic, indecisive, non-focused, stuck, hyper, and full of intense inner-monologue that distracts us from where our attention should be in moment.

Tools like meditation, grounding, and mindfulness are suggested ways we can quiet and refocus the Monkey Mind.  This helps us think clearly, make good decisions, choose behaviors that align with our spirit, and cut through fear and hatred so we can get to the truth of who we are.   

It’s called the Monkey Mind because our thoughts can be wonky acting just like the way some monkeys can behave wonky, crazy, unpredictable, super-energetic, and seemingly reckless.

When you are at the sink washing dishes, are your thoughts on each dish as you wash or are your thoughts on the 50 other things you need to get done or on that conversation you recently had with someone and was too afraid to speak your mind?

Your mind is on 50 other things or that missed opportunity.  That’s the Monkey Mind.  It keeps your thoughts lost in a story and away from the moment.  The only real moment is now, in this moment.   Yesterday is a memory and tomorrow is a mystery.   This moment is the only truth.  The Monkey Mind keeps you in a state of regretting yesterday and fearful for tomorrow.  It hides the truth from you because it blocks you from the real moment – also known as – REALITY.   The Monkey Mind keeps you from real life.  

Why we need to know this concept is because the Monkey Mind distracts us and gets us in to trouble.  We make poor decisions, we can’t think straight, we behave impulsively, we don’t know what we really want, we act from fear and we procrastinate.  We can blame the Monkey Mind for the messes we make.  We say it’s in our bloodit’s just who we are.  Its our history, our legacy, our entitlement to think these wonky thoughts.  The Monkey on our back.  The Monkey made me do it.  Whatever that Monkey is in your life.  

There is something about this Monkey Mind that I think we misunderstand.  And this is because we relate “monkeys” to our early primate ancestors and animal family tree.  When we think of ourselves as having this primate behavior – this Monkey Mind – we assume this is a trait passed down to us physically in our DNA from the primitive age of man.  Something that has passed down to us through our primate ancestors – actual monkey cousins.  This is in our blood.  We can’t change.  We are who we are.  We are under the impression that the thoughts and beliefs we hold are some sort of legacy like eye color or height.

If, for example, our parents held a belief that their religion was the one and only true religion for the entire world, we might feel like that kind of belief is part of the truth of who we really are.  It’s our legacy.  It’s in the DNA of our family.  And we might spend a whole lot of time in our Monkey Mind fearing what will happen if others don’t agree with our religion or trying to find ways to force our religion on to other people.   

Now, spiritual people might then go on to say we can learn to cope with the Monkey Mind through meditation and mindfulness and eventually overcome the Monkey Mind through practice.   Great!  Put that Monkey Mind in its place!

But, people who are stuck living in a state of fear will use the thoughts of the Monkey Mind to claim entitlement, rights, superiority and dominance over others.  All because of irrational, wonky, unpredictable, hyper, fearful Monkey Mind thoughts and beliefs.  Because it’s who they are, they believe.

It’s easy to think that our beliefs and thoughts are part of our DNA and human journey.  Evolution is a controversial subject and one not broached in public schools on any depth.  We do not understand our own evolutionary history because learning it might offend some people and their Monkey Mind beliefs.  There are a lot of humans who think they are superior and have greater rights to life than does nature or other humans because they lack education on evolution.  They hold superiority beliefs and thoughts which they trust are the truth simply because of the voice in their head.  The Monkey Mind (thoughts and beliefs) told them so.  It must be true.

No.  That’s not how this works.  That’s not how any of this works.  

Thoughts and beliefs are learned.  They are a product of our environment, not our DNA.  They are nurture, not nature.  We are not born with Monkey Mind.  We acquire it through life experience.  The thoughts and beliefs of the Monkey Mind are 100% man-made fiction.   


The monkey, unfortunately, is associated with human internal thoughts and beliefs in this philosophy because of the way monkeys can behave chaotically and energetically.  It is not because monkeys have chaotic or energetic thought patterns.  We can’t know the thought patterns of monkeys, can we?  It is about their behavior.  The monkey is not used here because we share with them some thought and belief gene in our DNA.  Beliefs and thoughts are metaphysical – beyond physical – beyond seeing, touching, tasting or hearing.  We can’t compare something invisible in humans to something that may or may not invisibly exist in monkeys.

The monkey is a symbol used simply as a way to get a physical image of an invisible mental process so we can easier understand the concept. Most likely the monkey was used as the symbol because there are a lot of monkeys in the areas where this philosophy was created.  Monkeys were easily observed and so this is the animal chosen to represent the chaos of the modern human mind.  Had this philosophy been created in a different setting, the animal chosen may have been a humming bird or wild stallion or other creature that we are not linked to via family tree.   The monkey is used here as an analogy – a way to tell a story – a comparison – not a real physical connection.

Our thoughts and beliefs are not written on our genetic code.  They are man-made creations.  They are stories that we think are truth.  

I bring this up because it is so very important that we begin to understand the human mind.  We must learn that thoughts and beliefs are human creation – illusion – fiction – a story –  which we create to make us feel safe and secure in the world.  Thoughts and beliefs are not truth – they are perspective- they are choices.  That is all.

If our thoughts and beliefs are just stories then we can rewrite them.   We have the power to transmute limiting beliefs that keep us stuck and unhappy.  We have the ability to transform the beliefs given to us by others as we grew up in to ones that demonstrate our own growth and experience.  We can choose to rewrite the story that was told to us and create a more empowering story for our lives.  

Once you get that concept then you can begin to look at your own beliefs and decide which ones align with you and which ones don’t.  Which ones do you hold because you are afraid, and which ones empower you to live a happy, joyous life?  Which ones cause you to hate your neighbor, and which ones bring you closer to your spiritual truth?   Which ones keep you from going after your passions and dreams and which ones keep you small so you can feel safe and protected?  Which ones distract you from the moment and keep you from being focused on being the best possible you and which ones tell you the truth of who you really are?

We can take control of the Monkey Mind anytime we want.  The power is already within us.  We don’t need spiritual training.  We don’t need a guru.  We don’t need candles, crystals, essential oils or self-help books.  (Though, admittedly, I love them all!)  We just need to understand that we can look at our thoughts and beliefs and change anything we don’t resonate with any longer.  But we must look at our beliefs and not ignore our thoughts.  We have to do the work!  The Monkey Mind can’t keep us from reality once we acknowledge that we haven’t been living there.

This is so important today in a world that is in a constant state of panic and fear and war and hatred.  We must start taking a look at why we are afraid -what belief is making us feel this way?  Why do we fear those who do not look like us?  Why do we distance ourselves from responsibility for the care of one another?  Why do we only worry about our own needs?  Why do we hoard wealth and resources?  Why do we commit acts of war and genocide?  Why do we feel entitled to force our political or religious views on others?  Why do some feel they are superior and have a higher claims to the right to life, liberty, justice, and happiness?  Why do we judge others harshly while giving ourselves a pass on the same behavior? Why do we ignore the voice of love?  Why do we allow the Monkey Mind to control our lives?

It’s time we worked on the beliefs that allow us to fear, hate, destroy, hoard, and feel entitled to dominate all others.  They are wrong.  They are made up.  They are just stories.  They can be rewritten. We all, man and monkeys, have the same right to life, liberty, and happiness on Earth.  

Maya Angelou once said, “when you know better, you do better.”   We need to know the truth of our minds so we can do better in our lives.   And now that you know that the Monkey Mind  – your wonky, untrue, delusional thoughts and beliefs –  does not come from your DNA and is something you can change, you can’t blame it for your mistakes, your fear, or your hatred anymore.  You know you have the power to do better.

Let’s do better.