Living With a Monkey On Your Head

How do you distract yourself in meditation? In this interview, distracting thoughts and feelings are personified as a curious, active monkey!  The interview throws light on why this monkey is difficult to quiet, much less eliminate: he is a valuable and useful part of who I am. In part, he represents my youthfulness, my aliveness, and inquisitiveness – parts of myself I value and don’t want to lose. So unless you can come to respect and cooperate with your own inner monkey, most of what you call meditation will be spend in fighting with it.

What are three fundamental life issues that you are dealing with now in your life?

1 Weight loss

2 Deepening meditation

3 Becoming more awake

Which issue brings up the strongest feelings for you?

This was an interview for an IDL salon dealing with how we keep ourselves from being fully awake.

If those feelings had a color (or colors), what would it be?


Imagine that color filling the space in front of you so that it has depth, height, width, and aliveness.

Now watch that color swirl, congeal, and condense into a shape. Don’t make it take a shape, just watch it and say the first thing that you see or that comes to your mind: An animal? Object? Plant? What?

A Monkey

Now remember how as a child you liked to pretend you were a teacher or a doctor?  It’s easy and fun for you to imagine that you are the shape that took form from your color and answer some questions I ask, saying the first thing that comes to your mind.  If you wait too long to answer, that’s not the character answering – that’s YOU trying to figure out the right thing to say!

Monkey, would you please tell me about yourself and what you are doing?

I’m jumping around in and around Joseph’s head and body, distracting him!

What do you like most about yourself? What are your strengths?

I like how active I am! I’m playful and curious, too!  I’m very persistent.  I don’t give up easily. I stay true to my nature.

What do you dislike most about yourself? Do you have weaknesses?  What are they?

Nope! I love monkeying around!  Well, I don’t have any peace but who needs that? I have freedom!!!!!

Monkey, you are in Joseph’s life experience, correct?  He created you, right? What aspect of Joseph do you represent or most closely personify?

His busy mind!  His active emotional nature!

Monkey, if you could be anywhere you wanted to be and take any form you desired, would you change?  If so, how?

Nope, I like myself the way I am!

(Continue, answering as the transformed object, if it chose to change.)

Monkey, how would you score yourself 0-10, in each of the following six qualities: confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing?  Why?

Confidence: 10

Compassion: ? What’s that?

Wisdom: ? Huh??  Well, I’m very clever and curious!

Acceptance: ? I like myself the way I am but I don’t like what I don’t like!

Inner Peace: ?

Witnessing:   ? I witness everything I want to from my vantage point but I have no self-observation whatsoever and I’m totally uninterested in that!

Monkey, if you scored tens in all six of these qualities, would you be different?  If so, how?

It would be a total bummer!  I wouldn’t have any fun!

How would Joseph’s life be different if he naturally scored like you do in all six of these qualities all the time?

He would be happy staying small and stuck.  He would love his preferences and stay curious but not wise.  He would stay asleep in his drama.

If you could live Joseph’s life for him, how would you live it differently?

I would keep him distracted and flitting from one thing to the next!

If you could live Joseph’s waking life for him today, would you handle Joseph’s three life issues differently?  If so, how?

1 Weight loss: I wouldn’t care! I’d eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted to!

2 Deepening meditation: I’m not a fan of meditation. It’s BORING!!!!

3 Becoming more awake: What do you mean? I’m awake already!!!!

What three life issues would you focus on if you were in charge of Joseph’s life?

1. Play more!

2. Be excited!

3. Be spontaneous!

In what life situations would it be most beneficial for Joseph to imagine that he is you and act as you would?

Whenever he wants to be alive and spontaneous! Whenever he wants to monkey around!

Monkey, do you do drama?  If not, why not?

Of course!  What else is there???

What is your secret for staying out of drama?

Why would I want to do THAT????

Why do you think that you are in Joseph’s life?

I am here to keep him young, spontaneous, curious, and alive!

How is Joseph most likely to ignore what you are saying to him?

He could just lose himself in monkeying around instead of thinking about me!

What would you recommend that he do about that?

He could go through his life imagining that I am sitting on his head, maybe picking out dirt or bugs and eating it!  Throwing shit at people! Making stupid monkey noises!

Do you think Joseph needs to wake up more? If so, how would you propose that he go about doing it?

Be more alive! Be more spontaneous!  Don’t give a shit about anything or anybody! LIVE!

Joseph, what have you heard yourself say?

Sounds like this monkey wants me to live simply and focus on being confident and happy and not worry about things like compassion, wisdom, inner peace, accepting others, or witnessing.  It thinks that those things destroy life quality, limit freedom, and are boring or unimportant!

If this experience were a wake-up call from the most central part of yourself, what do you think it would be saying to you?

I am genuinely torn between staying asleep in an authentic, alive, spontaneous part of myself that I like because it’s alive and curious, and growing into qualities it does not understand or appreciate.

Is there anything you want to take away from this interview to apply in your everyday life, between now and the next time we talk?

Yeah. I want to remember to imagine I have a monkey on my head, particularly when I am meditating or trying to wake up!


One could say this monkey is selfish and regressed, since he lacks compassion, wisdom, peace of mind, and the ability to witness. Jung would probably call him a “fixation.” Jung and Wilber would probably say he is a representation of my shadow self. However, any interviewed perspective includes one’s present waking state of development and its own, in that it speaks out of one’s current level of development and understanding. That generally means that interviewed perspectives are more than our waking identity, an integration of the two, but in a way that stays true to its own nature.  Therefore, this monkey is better understood as an unintegrated potential. By remembering that he is goofing around on my head while I meditate I generate a consciousness that transcends yet includes him instead of fighting with him. I remain alive, curious, and spontaneous, yet access the qualities that this monkey part of myself does not have or appreciate.


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