The book highlights two different states of mind: the “monkey mind” and the “observing mind.” The monkey mind is the inner critic that spirals your emotions out of control, invokes erratic thoughts, and creates anxiety. The “observing mind” offers an objective perspective free of judgments.
The book uses characters and stories to illustrate how the “monkey mind” and the “observing mind” play out in our lives. Early on, the book tells the story of Elizabeth, a woman with a drinking problem who is dissatisfied in her marriage because her husband is consumed by his work. She consults with two of her friends for support. One friend, Paula, embodies the essence of the “monkey mind” and the other, Sarah, embodies the essence of the “observing mind.”
Paula (monkey mind) tells Elizabeth that her husband is probably cheating on her with his secretary at the office, which is a judgmental conclusion based on anxious doubts. On the other hand, Sarah (observing mind) asks Elizabeth for more details, such as who, what, why, where, and when. Sarah points out that it is a huge leap to go from “he works too much” to “he is having an affair.” As can be expected, Elizabeth feels more anxious and emotional after speaking with Paula (monkey mind) and calmer and more relaxed after speaking with Sarah (observing mind).
This is just one example of the many stories that are captured in this book. J.F. Benoist does a great job of showing how we develop our monkey mind from not just our families, but from growing up in a “shame-based society.” Benoist claims that the more we use our “observing mind” the less anxious we will feel in our day-to-day lives. I don’t know about you, but the thought of having less anxiety in my life sounds like a welcomed outcome. I found the characters and stories in this book to be relatable and I was able to see how I can make more use of the “observing mind” in my own life.