This picture offers us a great lesson about the role of Monkey Mind.
The ‘toff’ in the elegant suit and top hat is standing by, allowing the porter, a monkey in a red uniform, to carry all the baggage. Unfortunately, one of the cases has fallen open, because the monkey can’t manage such a big heap of bags. The porter is rather like us, really – we are often so overloaded with thoughts, ideas, plans, shopping lists and daily timetables that we can’t keep everything tidy. Stuff is bound to spill over, especially while we are meditating.
If we think of the monkey porter as our everyday self – looking stylish, but trying hard to cope – then the toff watching on, detached and uninvolved, is our ‘witness’, our ‘higher self’, or Soul. This is the part of us that can stand to one side, staying calm and stress-free, even while the baggage is falling apart!
It is Monkey Mind’s job to deal with the everyday stuff. And Monkey is really smart. Just like the character in the red uniform, Monkey can get on with the task, usually with a high degree of efficiency – it’s not very often that the suitcases spill out their contents. What we are learning, is how to make best use of Monkey Mind, as a servant who can supprt our daily needs. What are a smart Monkey’s duties?
Monkey Mind will always find something else to get smart with. Excellent work, Monkey, you deserve a tip. Now you’ve got that sorted I can get on with my meditation!
We might think, looking at this tableau, that maybe the toff could offer a helping hand – or at least offer some kind advice. Like, “there, there my friend, not to worry, everything will be fine.” But the toff stands in his own centre, at ease, feet apart, looking on unruffled. He looks as though he doesn’t really care about the untidy mess the monkey has made. He doesn’t express any sympathy with the monkey’s plight.
We do need to care about Monkey Mind, our faithful, hard-working servant. That’s why we meditate, to give Monkey a break from the constant grind of keeping up with all our twenty-first century demands. Monkey can take a sabbatical twice a day and will breathe a sigh of relief when duty calls again, and the uniform has to come out of the cupboard. If Monkey doesn’t get a respite, how will there be time to keep that smart uniform clean and tidy, ready to put on the best show for the public arriving at the hotel?