When I was little, I enjoyed the Curious George storybooks about a pet monkey getting into mischief. My dad saw how much I liked them, and he started telling me bedtime stories about a mysterious creature named Goosey Poosey who secretly lived in our basement and got into things when we weren’t looking. Although I investigated the basement pretty thoroughly and never found anything, my dad assured me that Goosey Poosey was very good at hiding.
I recently thought about those stories in relation to the “monkey mind” that gets in the way of meditation. The monkey mind is the part of the mind that just can’t sit still and be quiet but is always full of distracting chatter, like a monkey making noise. However much we try to keep the focus on peaceful feelings, there’s a mischievous little part of the mind that keeps peeking out and wanting attention.
Usually people think of the monkey mind as an annoying obstacle that needs to be pushed aside through willpower. I wonder, though, if perhaps there’s a worthwhile message from the subconscious in there somewhere. Maybe our inner monkey pops up to let us know that we’re being too serious and not giving ourselves enough freedom to let our thoughts wander along creative paths.
Quieting the mind through meditation helps to set aside worries; but humans, by our nature, are a creative, storytelling species. Our brains were never designed to be in full control of every thought, but instead to make random connections and intuitive leaps, often through play. When we impose too much structure and discipline on our everyday lives, we’re likely to turn to meditation as a way to relieve the stress—but maybe, sometimes, what we need more is just to let Monkey Mind out to play.