I sat down to do my pre-writing meditation. It’s nothing special—I just sit and breathe and do a body check-in (start with the tip of the nose, then follow a line over my head, down the neck, over the shoulders, down the back, the legs, soles, up over the top of the foot, shins, legs, torso) just noticing how things are feeling. It’s simple and intended to settle my monkey mind down before I write.

It’s normal to have the mind drift off to random thoughts (‘I really should do laundry’, ‘did I ever reply to that email?’, ‘look at me! I’m meditating’), which in Zen gets referred to as ‘monkey mind’, like a monkey constantly chattering away in your mind.

So today I was meditating and the monkey mind was loud and obnoxious and unending. Screeching and screeching. An image popped into my head and I saw the monkey, and he was jumping up and down, trying to pull me down to the ground. Well, I wasn’t having any of that, so I started pounding my fists into the monkey. Then I grabbed its neck and throttled it, shaking it violently with my white-knuckled hands.

When I realized what I was doing, I dropped the monkey. He fell into a heap on the metaphorical ground, and I had a radical thought.

What if I befriended the monkey?

Another image popped into my head, except this time it was me handing the monkey a banana and inviting him to sit next to me. He peeled the banana, started eating it, and plopped down by my side. With a contented sigh, he leaned his head against my side and quietly ate. The two of us sat there, each doing our own thing in companionable silence.

At last, I was able to settle down and relax.

And let me just say: it felt really good.