Mindfulness: The Dog, Monkey, Lion & Spider.

Last summer I was listening to the Podcast ‘Write The Book’: A Vermont-based podcast by a cool writer-lady interviewing writers that are usually also Vermont-based or willing to come to the phone. I usually like the interviews and tips and like to listen to these podcasts on long road trips or when I’m doing something that doesn’t require my full attention — the only downside is that you don’t know the guest beforehand (or at least I don’t) so if he or she is a real wet blanket the whole interview becomes a snoozefest.

It was definitely not the case when Arnie Kozak came on the show to talk about his book ‘Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants’. It’s a book with a 108 metaphors for mindfulness. I’ll write a book review with my favorite quotes but spoiler alert, the book reminds me of Forrest Gump: Simple but likeable. I got it a few weeks after I heard the podcast last summer and very much like it. Although I never had mindfulness training, it’s something I am definitely interested in.

My favorite part is where he explains our thoughts and its patterns in terms of animals and their behavior. Welcome to the Petting Zoo of the Brain.

1. Doggy Mind: Runs after every sensation, idea, desire and aversion. Goes with every thought. Very easily distracted. You’re working and at the thought of a donut you’re in your car to Krispy Kremes. That kind of thing.

2. Monkey Mind: Jumping from thought to thought in the Forest of Thinking. From your grocery list to next weekend to previous weekend to that party last year where you stole a hat from the abandoned wardrobe. This often happens when we’re really not paying attention to what’s in front of us.

Note of importance: Mindfulness is not that you can stop thinking all together, but that you can peacefully observe Fido and Chimp do their thing without judgment or attachment. You don’t have to keep up with them or indulge on their every whim; that’s what mindfulness is about. Enter the Mindfulness Animals.

Lion Mind: This is when you can be peaceful, disengaged and maybe even somewhat unimpressed by your own thoughts — especially when Fido & Chimp are running around. Like the big, royal proud cat. When you’re in Lion Mind State, you often get very good insights. Important to know is that Lion Mind can be a result  of mindfulness, it’s not a goal.

Spider Mind: “[…] embodies the quality of engaged attention” but it is not caught up in it. Monkey business or dog chasing isn’t what it does. It’s a high quality thinking that allows you to be interested and energetic as well as objective and relaxed, making great connections and being creative. Again, consequence of mindfulness, not a goal.

I like the animal-metaphors, don’t you? Makes it easy to imagine and figure out. Mindfulness is great for your head and the more you can do it, the less the monkey and the dog will bother you and the more you’ll benefit from lion and spider. Never thought I’d say I’d like a spider anywhere near my head, but apparently I do.

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  1. This is very helpful, thank you… Even though it’s a little hard to picture the spider. I’m very much a monkey, I like to climb trees you know.

    1. @Anne please watch the movie “Charlotte’s Web” to picture a spider exactly as described in this post. The voice of Julia Roberts as Charlotte, the barn spider, certainly helps.

  2. @website-owner – How I landed in 2016 on this page published in 2012? I searched Google for “animal quality self help” (without quotes) and this page was the 3rd link. I was actually looking to figure out an animal to represent an association for self help groups. Thanks to your review, I am going to look up the book now.