A monkey mind definition: unraveling all the secrets

Buddha seems to have said it already 2500 years ago: we all have a monkey mind. But what exactly does that mean? And what can we do with it?

Let me introduce you to all the ins and outs by coming up with a monkey mind definition first.

In fact ‘a monkey mind’ is nothing more than your own restless thoughts that move in all directions, constantly distracting us and taking us out of the here-and-now. It’s like you’re a little monkey, swinging from one branch to another.

Your mind is busy with the next banana, the next big unattainable goal, or the next little daily goal. It’s your own head that wants to stay busy and is actually filled with all kinds of different hyperactive monkeys that are constantly shouting for attention and never stop talking.

Completely humane and uncontrollable, isn’t it?Monkey-Mind-Definition

Start taming your little monkeys.

Maybe you weren’t expecting it, but there are ways to influence it yourself.

As you’ll probably have already discovered, it’s completely useless to start fighting all those monkeys in your head.

They’ll just scream louder.

The most constructive attitude is to give them proper attention and distraction so that you can create peace of mind.

But how do you do that?

Don’t worry, we’ll discuss a number of ways in detail. There’s bound to be one that’s right for you 😉

1. Shift your attention.

By bringing your focus to your breathing you give the monkeys an assignment and they will scream less loudly.

Counting as you breathe can help you keep your focus. You could also have a look at the 4-7-8 technique I wrote about in an earlier post.

Focus on one of your senses and give your monkeys something else to do with it.

For example, focus on smelling when you walk outside or focus on a delicious cup of tea. You will notice that thoughts will come up in between, but when you focus on what you smell, they will disappear again.

2. Let your thoughts cross like a train passing by.

Do not go along with the content of what your monkeys are yelling at you. Notice which theme it is roughly about or what feeling it gives you.

Look at it from a distance and observe. Don’t be tempted to make judgments like having a good/bad thought.

You simply let your thoughts slip by like a train passing you by.

3. Allow limited monkey playtime.

Give the monkeys all the space they need every day at a certain time. For example, let them scream at full throttle every morning for fifteen minutes. It’s very helpful to write down what they are shouting: what thoughts are going through your head?

You don’t have to do anything else with this, let it be present and notice it.

You’ll find they shout a lot less loudly the rest of the day because they got their share of attention

4. Stay present in the here and now.

It’s important that you release any notion of time. This will prevent your monkeys from getting into the past or the future.

By using a mantra you can also stay in the here and now. A mantra is nothing else than a sound, word or sentence that you repeat over and over again. For instance: “I am free and light”.

Even if you wander off, you just start over and over again, by saying your mantra.

5. Differentiate between what you do and don’t control.

There are a lot of things in life that you can’t control. This exercise will help you see things more in perspective.


  • Grab a pencil and paper.
  • Think of a stressful situation. This could be, for example, an important presentation at work.
  • Write down all the factors that make the situation stressful. There is no right or wrong in this.
  • All the stress factors that come to mind are good and you can write them down.s
  • Now divide the stress factors into two categories:

A. I have NO control over this

B. I DO have control over this

You’ll find that there are doubtful cases, over which you only have partial control. Write these down in the middle of your A and B categories.

Now think about which parts of the doubt cases you do have control over and which parts you do not.

For example, you can do everything you can to prepare for your presentation: try it out at home, practice in front of the mirror,… Everything is possible!

But is that what you want? Only choose the things you really enjoy.

You don’t have to be in control of everything.

You can’t, and that’s okay.

Eventually, make friends with your little monkeys.

Basically, it comes down to this: can you see your monkeys as friends instead of enemies or little dictators?

If you tend to take seriously all the thoughts that come to mind, you lose control. The monkey takes over the wheel from you.

If it irritates you and you try to resist the thoughts that are swaying in your head like a monkey, it will only make you more agitated.

Well, the monkey’s here and he stays, no matter what you do! The good news is: once you’ve noticed him, you can deal with him.

Because every time you realize that your head is thinking, you realize that you are not your thoughts.

Therefore, become friends with your thoughts. Greet the monkey when you notice him and release him to continue what you were doing. The essence of meditation comes down to observing what is and being with what is.

If you want to know more about the monkey mind and how to train it, I can advise you to learn more of Tibetan Buddhist Master Mingyur Rinpoche.

In the end it all comes down to this: you’ll have to train your brain so that you are at the wheel of your life and not those cute little, yet stubborn monkeys.

Let me know how your training process is evolving. Write a comment at the bottom of this page!

Lots of good courage and happiness with your practice!

With love ❤,



  1. Greg

    Hi Catherine,
    I really enjoy the “Monkey Mind” take on these mindful lessons. Your style makes it fun to learn and read. I never thought about it this way, even though Buddha said it. Thank you for putting this image in my mind. After all, it is a barrel of monkeys lol


  2. Hey Catherine,
    I love this article. I am a buddhist and this is indeed a great article.
    You have covered breathing meditation as well which is great. Just to let you know, there are many more meditation techniques mentioned in Buddhism and hopefully you will be able to write about those as well.

    The fifth point is really great. Actually when you think about it, our mind spend a lot of time thinking about controlling things we can not control.

    It is indeed a great read.

    Thank you.

  3. Lemuel Sacop

    Hello and thank you for this article! I must admit that I experienced this from time to time when I was still working and while at home doing something worthwhile. Most of the times the distractions come from my mind itself.

    So we can call those distracting thoughts our monkeys and you were very helpful in outlining the ways to tame them. This is really interesting and I did bookmarked your site already.

  4. Brilliant article to read, found it interesting to the point of commenting on how great a read I actually found it, well done and keep up the good work.
    This I have book marked for reference to it in the future!
    Thanks Jason

  5. Janet

    Hi Catherine. Thank you for sharing this informative and interesting article. For I myself, I like to shift my attention on doing something to stop my monkey mind. Sometimes I also use breathing method or chant “Om” to help myself back to Now.

    I find that your No.2 method is not easy to attain. Do you need to use some kind of visualisation in order to do it?

    1. Hi Janet, I’d like to answer your question.

      It definitely helps if you can visualize a train driving by.
      Imagine it has different carriages for all the thoughts that run though your mind. Keep breathing and let them pass by, without wanting to control them.

      Another helping metaphor is the one of a cinema: visualize yourself watching at the enormous screen in front of you. Your thoughts are sort of like a movie that plays. Look at them without any judgment, just observe and let them pass…
      Keep your breath deep and relaxed while doing this.

      It may require some practice, but you’ll find out it’s a really good way to let ‘your monkeys calm down’!

      Wish you all the best, Catherine.

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