The Monkey Mind

Most people who have an interest in meditation and have practiced meditation techniques other than TM are familiar with the term ‘monkey mind.’  It’s a Buddhist expression which describes the experience of the mind hopping from one thought to another incessantly just as monkeys hop from one tree to another.  People usually experience that they can’t do anything to stop the mind from thinking. If we ask the monkeys to leave, they won’t!  The TM tradition teaches us that the monkey mind exists because the mind is searching for happiness, for satisfaction, for fulfilment.

Transcendental Meditation keeps the mind lively but undirected, which allows the mind to naturally proceed in the direction that provides it with most happiness. During Transcendental Meditation, something happens.  TM is not an experience of simply witnessing our thoughts or our breath. The mind is given a simple, yet specific technique which allows it to settle down yet remain fully awake. The technique refines the thinking process; we experience finer, quieter states of thought.  We could say that during TM, there are generally fewer monkeys who are quieter than usual.  As the 20-minute sitting proceeds, the monkeys gradually leave and we are left with the experience of settled, pure consciousness without a focal point.  One of the ways we describe this is ‘restful alertness.’

So how do we get the monkeys to leave?  We don’t!  Telling ourselves to stop thinking or ‘clear the mind’ doesn’t work.  We simply give our awareness something more pleasing to do, something more fulfilling than the experience of constant thinking.  As the mind is naturally searching for calmness, peace and fulfilment anyway, when we provide it with the ability to experience this easily, it takes the opportunity.  As the mind becomes absorbed in this relaxed state, the experience replaces the monkey mind.