The monkey may not be on our back, but it is inside our head

When a hiker is climbing a mountain, suppose a monkey comes, sits on their back and refuses to let go. They would feel burdened, even crushed, and would soon get exhausted, even immobilized.

Indeed, “monkey on the back” has become an idiom that refers to any burdensome problem that just doesn’t go away. Even if we don’t have any such sticky external problem, we all often have some sticky internal thought. It can be some idea, craving or fear that keeps replaying in an almost endless loop on an inner screen. It’s like a monkey inside our head – it diverts our focus, drains our energy and denudes our morale.

Where do such monkey-like thoughts come from? From our mind. The Bhagavad-gita (06.06) cautions that the mind can act like an enemy. As our mind is presently contaminated by worldly infatuations, it often spouts thoughts that are obsessive and compulsive. Such thoughts distract us, “Look at that, eat that, touch that.” Being drained, we can’t act effectively and end up acting self-destructively. Having sabotaged our actions, those monkey-like thoughts then sabotage our spirit, “You are a bungling fool, you are a failure, you are good-for-nothing.”

Ironically, we ourselves feed those monkeys. How? By giving them our attention. The more we dwell on unwanted thoughts, the more they grow, eventually becoming behemoths that crush us.

How can we get rid of these monkey-like thoughts? By filling our consciousness with better thoughts.

Gita wisdom provides the process of bhakti-yoga for filling our consciousness with thoughts of the all-attractive, all-powerful, all-loving supreme reality, Krishna. The more we connect with him through loving service, the more we become attracted to him. As our consciousness becomes filled with thoughts of him and service to him, tiresome monkey-like thoughts get permanently crowded out.


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Even if we can’t be transfixed, we can still be fixed
The best protection from agitation is absorption
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