Managing the Monkeys


Monkey-Mind-1-300x201“The unconscious as we know can never be “done with” once and for all. It is, in fact, one of the most important tasks of psychic hygiene to pay continual attention to the symptomatology of unconscious contents and processes, for the good reason that the conscious mind is always in danger of becoming one-sided.” ~Carl Jung; Syzygy: Anima and animus.

Is it my imagination or has this summer been crazier than usual?  I’m wondering if this is not just about the world situation in general, and America’s situation in particular (especially the upcoming election), but also about my personal life.  I didn’t expect to feel this way at my age, especially not when I’m supposed to be relaxing and enjoying our vacation in the mountains. But this summer there seems to be so much more on my plate, and I’ve been unusually aware of the weight of it. Yet at the same time — and here’s the odd part — I find I’m accepting it more calmly and letting go of it more easily. It’s……just……no big deal.

So I’ve been thinking about this lately and apparently my unconscious wants to help me clarify it. I think this because this morning I awoke with the residue of a dream in which I was writing a post about managing ‘monkey mind!’  I’m sure most of you are familiar with the term. Meditators use it to describe the challenge of calming the mind when myriad thoughts, images, ideas, worries, responsibilities, emotions, etc. are bouncing around in your head like a roomful of monkeys.  So since we just returned to Florida last night, and since today is one of those days when it feels like there must be a million monkeys in there, I’m going to go with this theme.  How shall I begin?

635941048195162433-28431253_TRUST articleTRUST:  As I wrote the above question, I realized that my choice to write about the issue highlighted in last night’s dream was exactly what I wanted to write about. For me, calming my monkey mind is a matter of trust. Trust that my mind is normal. Trust that my ego doesn’t have to control everything and I can let my unconscious do some of the work. Trust that my dream has meaning I can apply to my waking life. Trust that writing about what is meaningful to me might be helpful you. Trust that if my day gets so crazy that I don’t get my post written by my deadline of midnight tonight, my readers won’t be upset and my world won’t fall apart…. You get the idea.

So what I want to tell you is that I didn’t start out with all this trust. It has come very slowly, over years of reflecting on my inner life. You don’t decide one day to start trusting yourself and the universe, and then Trust just falls into your lap.  You have to work for it, and there’s no way of getting around that. What happens is that the more inner work you do, the easier and less stressful your life feels. You’re not as afraid of looking like an idiot. You don’t get as worried about silly unimportant things; and when you do, the agitation passes quickly. It feels like the big monkey bullies are calming down, some of them seem to have abandoned ship, and a few are starting to feel like friends you want with you on the cruise.

“Dictionaries define a contradiction as two things that cannot be true at the same time. I would say it this way: a contradiction is two things that cannot be true at the same time by your present frame of logic. As long as you do not reframe your reality, as long as you insist on your own frame of reference, you will not be able to find the wisdom in paradox. “The kingdom of God” is Jesus’ term for the bigger frame, or what we often call “the big picture” or “in the light of eternity…” You’ve got to find some framework that allows you to stand back and look at the moment with the eyes of Infinite Love and Mercy. Then you’ll see that many things which appear to be contradictory through logical, egocentric, dualistic thinking might not necessarily be so to a nondual mind.” Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations, August 21, 2016.

monkey-mind-2TAKE YOURSELF VERY SERIOUSLY: This isn’t easy. Conventional wisdom has it that taking yourself seriously signals self-centeredness. And religion tells us that you should always think about others first. Right? Wrong. Let me remind you of a couple of sayings by someone generally considered to be one of the greatest Spirit Persons who ever lived.

#1: “The kingdom of God is within.” So if the sacred place is located inside your mind, is it wise to ignore the monkeys that plague your mind? Might taking them seriously be, in fact, the exact way to acquire a more spiritually enriched life?

#2: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  “As yourself” implies that you have to love yourself before you can love your neighbor, right? So how can you love yourself if you’re frantically trying to love and take care of everyone else and neglecting the monkeys in you that want your attention?  Will you learn to love others by hating your monkeys? Ignoring them? Being afraid, critical or ashamed of them? It doesn’t work that way.

STOP TAKING YOURSELF SO SERIOUSLY: Yes, on the surface this seems to contradict what I just said above. But if you can accept both sides of this paradox instead of thinking it has to be one or the other, you’ll see what I mean. Yes, we have to notice the monkeys. And, yes, we have to stop being so hard on them and start lightening up and playing with them. Because that’s how we calm them down. We have to ask ourselves, “So how important is it really, if I don’t get this post written by my self-imposed deadline? Is trying to save the world with my writing really more important than living fully and loving and being who I was born to be?” (Which is a lot more than just a writer.)  Can I let go of my self-importance and start enjoying my day?

imagesI think I’m finished here….except you might be interested in knowing that I just wrote this entire post in record time with plenty of time leftover to play for the rest of the afternoon and evening. This on a day onto which my ego projected an especially dismal forecast. I hope you’ll forgive me for giving myself a metaphorical pat on the back, and for awarding myself a metaphorical gold medal for what feels like an Olympic accomplishment.

Image credits:  “Monkey Mind,” Google Images,  “Trust,”  Google Images,  Monkey mind-2:  Google Images, Peanuts cartoon:  Google Images,

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0 Responses

  1. I’m giving you a virtual pat on the back Jeannie for completion in record time! And for this post thank you! Many of us are blinded by the dictum of always doing for others and putting one’s self on the back seat as if this will ensure good karma or whatever – right? Wrong! I love how you made that very clear! Gold medal to you!
    While I was reading ‘take yourself very seriously’ I thought, hang on, lighten up … but in the next breath I could breath out! “Stop taking yourself so seriously” 🙂 Paradox is powerful – and it’s a true gift to see them for what they are. May the dualistic thinking monkey mind start taking a back seat, now and forever!

    1. I feel the pat, Susan. And I love my new gold medal. One of my monkeys is cavorting around with it as I write, while the dualistic thinking one is sitting in the backseat with a puzzled look on its face….I have hope it will eventually give up and join in the fun!

  2. Well, this is timely Jeanie. What with the move to the coast, I’ve had a screaming sackful of monkeys in my head. Things not done, things to do, things to buy, people to contact etc. A few minutes with you has helped the monkeys to chill and relax, sit down with signs around their necks, for when I’m ready to look at them.
    TRUST: I trust YOU, Jeanie. True trust has not always come easily over the years. It used to be a byword for trusting to luck, trusting everyone whilst truly trusting no one (including myself). It was a blind faith through ignorance. A lazy way of dealing with/shutting out the world. Over the last few years I find myself having that faith in myself that allows me to see others as individuals, not just extensions of me, and consequently that trust is now deeper. It CAN be read by others, as I have become less controlling, as me caring less but I know in my heart this is not so.
    TAKE YOURSELF VERY SERIOUSLY/STOP TAKING YOURSELF SO SERIOUSLY: the first forty years of my life had an outward projection of the latter whilst inwardly living the former. Since taking up writing I believe that balance began to shift. I now sit beside Whitman:
    Very well then, I contradict myself
    (I am large, I contain multitudes)
    I sense we are yin and yanging here, Jeanie, where you seemed to be a rather serious-minded young lady I was usually seen as the constant joker.
    And on that note, well you met your deadline, I didn’t get upset, and nobody’s world fell apart. Step up onto the podium whilst my monkeys give you a medal!

    1. Congratulations on your move! I’m thrilled to know you and Susan have manifested your beautiful dream. On the other hand, I sympathize with you. If ever there’s a time when the monkeys are at their worst, this is it! My version of putting signs around their necks is to carry a yellow post-it-note pad around with me and take note of every monkey voice until there are no more. Then trust that if there’s one I haven’t heard, it will make itself known eventually. Or not. Either way, I’ve done my best to listen and let go.
      You’re so right that giving up controlling can be read by others as not caring. In a way, that’s true, but in a good way. Another paradox. The more I give up trying to control everything, the more energy I have left to care about and for myself and others.
      I LOVE the Whitman quote. Thank you. And you’ve read the young me correctly. I’ve always taken myself way too seriously but like you, I’ve found that writing, whether notes to myself, or journaling, or my dreams, articles and books, most definitely brings more balance.
      Another medal! Yaaaay! 🙂
      Thanks for writing, Brian

  3. Thank you!
    For me, Jean, the paradox you discuss was aptly confronted by Hillel who taught, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me, but if I am for myself alone, what am I? And if not now, when?” (Pirke Avot: 1:14)
    I imagine he came up,with this formula in the first pre-Christian century after an internal,struggle similar to the one you describe in your essay.

    1. Thanks for sharing the great quote, Stephen. It’s perfect. Yes, as any serious reflector knows, wisdom like this is hard won because it challenges accepted authority and conventional wisdom. Every ego wants simple, either/or answers it can cling to to justify its need for control and approval.

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