Befriending the “Monkey Mind”

You may have come across the expression of the “monkey mind”, which is often used to describe the way ordinary human thinking works, not too dissimilar to the jumping of a Monkey from branch to branch.

If you ever happened to see a real monkey in its natural habitat, or watched monkey’s behaviour in animal documentaries, you may remember how playful and full of tricks they can be.

The mind, with its ever changing thoughts and emotions is a landscape worth observing. Not unlike watching with fascination the stars on a night’s clear sky, the mind offers so much material to observe night and day, if you are curious. Curiosity, though, may not be the only reason for paying attention to the workings of the mind. Psychological and physical pain and suffering would be another common motivation.

The expression says it all: the mind can be as unsettled, capricious and changeable as a monkey jumping from tree to tree. Great metaphor! However, this animal’s name was chosen for the expression to describe only a fraction of its behavioural tendencies. What lies beneath the surface? Besides the above aspects, there seems to be a lot of morality in a monkey’s behaviour. Something worth looking at.

Another use of the monkeys, and not for an expression but for their bodies, is in animal testing and research. This is because monkeys are primates and biologically so similar to humans. It seems that they are still used in the creation and testing vaccines. But having the monkey’s name in an expression is probably the least harmful way that these animals are used to support humans’ life on Earth.

To connect the monkey with our current realities, the following is what I am wondering about.  There is a lot of conversation in the media these days about the trauma that the current pandemic has caused to people. Not disagreeing with this view, but adding another perspective to the ongoing conversation, motivated me to ask several questions about the involvement of our minds in how the pandemic is managed both at a collective level, and at an individual one. Perhaps the wider pandemic situation has also triggered old, un-acknowledged and un-resolved traumas that people experience in the present under the pressures of the changes.

How often do you look at your thoughts? Do you always believe them? How much do you believe from what is in the media?  Do you experience an exhausted mind that would just not relax or feel content? If any of these questions ring a bell for you, then, the monkey can come to help.

With this in mind, I am posting below the following link of a Ted Talk about monkeys and not only, which may throw some light on the idea: the presence in the monkey’s mind of more constructive tendencies.

There are a myriad of ways for tapping into the unexplored richness of our inner thinking Universe. Every day I am both challenged and fascinated by this ongoing exploration, not without suffering at times.

Meditation is one of the tools readily available to us in today’s world. It can aid the work of taming the so- called “monkey-like” aspects of the mind and cultivating those that we wish to see more in ourselves and others such as: presence, kindness, empathy, co-operation, altruism and fairness. Maybe there is hope for each of us out there. Now, what thoughts do you have about monkeys?

Lighting up your candle this Christmas

Approaching Christmas time this year running around, walking, strolling, driving, flying or just staying at home, whatever route you choose to take to arrive, is a journey in itself. This Christmas is different for most people who have been touched by the changes of 2020.

Not knowing can be as painful as knowing something that feels painful. But the not knowing how life will turn out has the surprise element added to it.

I wonder if a rose bud feels any pain in the process of opening into a rose. Does it ask itself when and how it should open? What would happen to it if it opens?

Unlike the rosebud, many of us think a lot about opening up in new and uncertain circumstances. Maybe some questions asked deep inside the mind are:

Would it be safe? Will I be protected? What would happen to me and my family? What would people think of me?

This is also the beauty of an inner creative space. A space where personal and collective choices become essential.

If you feel that this year much or some of the experiences, people or things you hoped to have in your life have been taken away from you, then it is natural to also feel grief, sadness and loss.

Yet, looking around, there are many people who seem happy and content. At least in those moments of showing themselves, they were enjoying a loving partner, satisfaying work, the support of their family, a comfortable home environment, or just appreciating nature by taking in the sight of the green grass and the birds’ joy to be alive. Is joy as contagious as sadness is?

The shaking up of our inner and outer worlds this year has led to more inequality and gaps in the outer systems and the supports needed for those most in need of care and attention. And the shaking up reaches places deep inside, too. Maybe, you too, feel deprived of something, it does not have to be material things, it may be around missing a relationship, a place, or being unable to be with those close to you. And what is it like for you when you meet or see somebody who has what you would like? Rather than getting annoyed or envious, or allowing anger to grow in your mind and heart, why not consider something different?

When you experience some of the above, it may help to let other perspectives in, to widen the narrow or dark spaces where the mind can get caught up in for too long sometimes. Meditation surely helps to widen those spaces.

Mudita is a practice originating in the Buddhist meditation tradition. A Sanskrit word meaning joy, particularly sympathetic joy or the pleasure derived from delighting in the good fortune and well-being of others. Cultivating the feeling of altruistic joy through the practice of Mudita not only helps you to experience a more peaceful state of mind, but may also transfer to whoever or whatever you come in contact with during the festive season.

Feeling happy for those who are still enjoying the blessings of material abundance, high spirits, good health, family or loving relationships may be a place to start lighting up some joy in your heart.

Create your own miracle. Light up a candle inside yourself this Christmas and be curious about what happens!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Hanuman and the Hunger for more

Back in April this year, shortly after the first lockdown started here in Ireland, our lives, the way we knew them, were beginning to change in quite unexpected ways. You may remember how you and your family were impacted by it. While it was asked of all to minimize travel and organise lives in such ways as to have limited contact with other people, I was, probably like many others, trying to slowly adjust to this new lifestyle in the best way I could.

Grouping together my essential shopping journeys, I started looking for new solutions, so that there would be less travel involved. This is the route that the Hanuman symbol came through.

One week during my food shopping, purchasing a larger quantity of fresh beetroot, the idea came to dehydrate it and use it gradually for the coming months. The plan came to life, and the fresh beetroot turned into translucent dry slices. Taking a closer look, each slice was unique in its own way. Placing them over the window glass in the sun, fine veins and subtle shades of ruby red were seen running through it. Each slice was like a unique work of art, signed by Nature.

One particular slice drew my attention; it was relatively small and the intricacy of its internal shapes asked for more attention. So I began sketching on an A4 paper. Up to a point, it was easy to follow the fine lines and curves, but when my hand arrived to the centre of the page, it started doing something different. It was as if there was a new drawing within a the drawing, happening by itself. There was a feeling of a story being hidden in the centre of that beetroot slice that waited to be discovered. From that point, with the slice beside me, I tentatively allowed my hand to keep going in its own way. If you ever tried to draw something without following a pre-conceived shape, colour or idea in your mind, you know what was happening here.

Initially the drawing looked like a cross and the body of a person on the cross. You know how the mind is, trying to put a label on everything it sees…. It is easy to guess where my thoughts went. Letting go of the image, my hand continued. Then it turned into something different. After several attempts at re-discovering the shapes that were beginning to form in the centre, something new emerged out of the lines and curves. Have a look at the attached picture of the sketch and see what you may discover in it.

Who is Hanuman, and why his symbol was chosen for this article?

Lord Hanuman is one of the central characters of Ramayana, the great Sanskrit poem of ancient India. Known as “the Hindu monkey God”, he represents the qualities of strength, perseverance and loyalty in Hindu mythology. He symbolises complete surrender and true devotion to his real self in unity.

This article and sketch honour the ancient Hanuman symbol for the purpose of connecting it with contemporary and real life questions, such as how the mind perceives the internal and external challenges that it experiences.

There are various online stories available about Hanuman’s life.  I am following versions of the story, which can be found here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanuman, and here: https://www.facebook.com/drarjunpai/posts/1681451358659615.

A mischievous child, Hanuman flew to the sun using his special powers and tried to grab it thinking it was a ripe fruit. Punished by the King of Gods and being thrown back to the Earth, he fell and ended up with a disfigured jaw. As a consequence of the ways he made use of his divine abilities in the encounters with other people, he was later cursed to forget them unless reminded by another person. What followed throughout his adult life was a series of acts of faith, strength, and courage. Through engaging with deep compassion towards his fellow beings he remembered how to make good use of his special powers. In the end his actions led to him to being blessed with the gift of immortality by Lord Rama.

An interesting part of the Hanuman’s story in Ramayana is the episode of him visiting Mata Sita during her captivity in Valkimi’s cottage. She was happy to cook for him many delicacies but, as his hunger was insatiable, there was no more food left in the house stores. After praying to Lord Rama for advice, Mata Sita served him a morsel with a Tulsi (basil) leaf. Thus, Hanuman’s hunger was satisfied, as he, too, was a follower of Lord Rama.

Stories within stories: from the first lockdown, to the fresh beetroot, leading to the Hanuman symbol and how he dealt with the limitations.

Back to November 2020, among the string of restrictions that people have had to go through in this country and internationally, some have been more difficult than others to live with. Some of my memories of limitations belonging to past times were triggered, being pushed to consider how I engaged with them then and what patterns have been repeating in the recent times, including while this blog was imagined and created.

The topic of restrictions in our lives is an interesting one and can be considered beyond the Covid 19 restrictions imposed by any Government. Limitations related to other life aspects are possible, too; some that come to mind are weather/climate conditions, in relationships and mental or physical ability. Perhaps the topic is well worth reflecting on outside of the Covid 19 context. However, as this would go beyond the limits of this blog, here comes the full stop, but feel free to keep reflecting.

How have you engaged with the restrictions during the lockdown? Is there any part of Hanuman’s story that resonates with you?

The Earth has a fragrance

Fragrance is one of the phenomena that cannot be seen but felt and it is not limited to the smelling ability. It may be possible to look differently at this gift that humans have to perceive the fragrance of things and other living entities. Smell, aroma, scent and fragrance are only words trying to encapsulate the essence of something unseen.

A smile can have a pleasant fragrance; it may be the fragrance of that person’s state of being in the moment. Their heart may be happy. When somebody smiles sincerely towards you, they are spreading the joy of the smile all around them.

Different plants, trees, flowers and fruits have their specific scents, too. The sun light brings the scents out more into the world, and just like your smile reaching out other people’s hearts, can bring out the best in them.

There are many ways to connect with people and our surroundings. One is seeing with the eyes, then the sense of hearing with the ears, feeling by touching, tasting through the tongue and smelling through your nose. In one word, all these senses for interacting with the internal and external environment, are known as VAKGO: Visual, Auditive, Kinesthetic, Gustative and Olfactory.

It may be that there are other senses, not yet part of this list. When you feel receptive to somebody else’s joy, what sense is at work? When your friend’s sadness or reading sad news bring you down, what sense is at work? It would be interesting to explore.

Returning to the conversation about the sense of smell, there are so many opportunities to engage with what nature offers each day.

Walking by a honeysuckle plant in bloom this morning its gentle colours, sweet fragrance and rich aroma were impossible to miss when passing by it. I had to stop and look at it, its fragrance brought me right there in the moment.

If you can find at least one thing or entity with a sweet fragrance every single day, life will happen from a sweeter and more inspired space…. Or maybe there is some uplifting fragrance somewhere inside yourself that waits to be discovered.

It is up to you and me to tune into all the sights and fragrances that the Earth is generously offering each day, inwards and outwards.

From Aspirations to Living Reality, post-lockdown

As the world is now in a very different place than it was at the beginning of 2020, I feel grateful to have the opportunity of asking questions that may be connected with making a new start in life; or resuming from where it was left since the recent world changes.

For many of us may be going through endings and new beginnings. Although they are part of anybody’s life, it is not always that straight forward to sail through a stormy sea.

So, perhaps it is an appropriate time to consider wishes.

When making a new start how is it possible to actively and consciously be on the road of seeing an aspiration, a wish or a desire being transformed into living reality over time? It seems that an aspiration is the precursor of a wish. Or, it may be that you are experiencing more wishes than aspirations; each person may have a different situation. For the purpose of this blog post, aspirations and wishes were considered together in the reflections below.

Wanting or needing?

What is in a wish? Asking for what you really want or asking for what you really need, or something different? What inspires you in making a wish?

Looking at the difference between wanting and needing can be an interesting exercise these days; it seems to me, the question will never go out of fashion as long as human beings will care about the Earth and other people.

Asking for something – good relationships, good health, “the right job”, “the right partner”, fun, a beautiful house, a successful career, children, peace, whatever your heart desires- is on everybody’s mind.

In wanting certain things from life, some old ways of asking may be, for example, to mentally formulate it, to visualize it, work for it, ask for help, or pray for it.

We have individual wishes, secret and open ones, ones filled with guilt, innocent ones, and passionate ones; there are collective wishes of a couple, family, group, community and nation.

I have recently felt that wishes have a powerful relational aspect to them. Perhaps they have always been like that. I want something for me that is “in relation with” something or somebody else.

Have you ever wondered about how you ask for your wishes? What words do you tend to use? Who are they addressed to, even when you do it quietly? What is your state of mind in asking? What is the intention at the root of your wish?

A relational wish-making … with examples

An invitation to have a fresh look at wish-making

It is true that we all need each other in order to exist as people and live a life. And we usually ask for something that is believed to be outside of ourselves, and so it could be that we sometimes place pressure on our-selves or others to get it and have certain expectations of people and things out there.

These questions and reflections are formulated to include both the “wish-maker” and who or what else may be part of the wishful thinking. The questions are addressed to anybody that cares sincerely about inquiring into their own mind.

  • Wishing to rebuild life post – lockdown?

Trusting unconditionally in your vision and being prepared to generate new ideas and ideals that will serve as a new foundation for life, or for building on the existing one.

  • Asking for a loving family?

Sustaining and contributing to harmonious relationships with and within your family.

  • Asking for a good job or fulfilling work?

Carrying out the work with dignity and respect for self and others. Do you know what special gifts and talents you hold inside and which ones can be expanded on?

  • Wishing for a successful career?

What is the internal motivation that drives your wish?

  • Asking for a beautiful house?

Being ready to take good care of it in a way that fills it and the people living in it with love.

  • Asking for better experiences and kinder people around you?

Looking at the challenge of tolerating the less harmonious traits that you encounter in others. May these traits be a mirror to some of your own? Treating oneself and others with more kindness and compassion.

  • Asking for better health?

Taking more responsibility for your mind, body and spirit from the inside out and exploring the connection between them.

  • Aspiring to be more positive?

What is the smallest gesture of simple positivity that you can think of?

  • Asking for freedom from anxiety?

Exploring ways of meeting life with less tendency to have people and situations meet your   needs, wants and expectations. There will always be an element of the unknown in life.

  • Wishing for more self-empowerment?

Being willing to pay attention to how you might allow yourself or others to practice disempowerment. What is your relationship with receiving help? Re-visiting the “expert position” that you may place on others.

  • Asking to be free of anger?

It is powerfully creative emotion. It depends on what you create with it. Perhaps recognising and letting go of what you think you may be entitled to, and embracing what is given.

  • Asking to be healed, physically, mentally or emotionally?

Developing an interest in working through and letting go of some old wounds or unhelpful beliefs.

  • Asking for internal or external beauty?

Nurturing the curiosity to investigate how you use your beautiful eyes to look at yourself and others.

  • Yearning for more peace of mind?

Willing to let go of control and the need to have life going in a certain way.

  • Wishing for more abundance in life?

Perhaps being genuinely content with what you have right now and appreciating it, might be a start.  If not there yet, what would help cultivating more appreciation?

  • Wishing for more ease and calm in life?

Observing and letting go of any tendency to hold tight on beliefs, things, relationships, or whatever else that you may be a little too possessive about.

  • Do you care about healthy food?

Joining others on the journey of creating healthy food from the seed to the meal on your plate. Appreciating what nature offers locally that can be turned into nutritious food.

  • Caring about clean drinking water?

Contributing in any way towards the purification and saving of the planet’s precious water. Remaining aware that everything that you put into and on your body ends up back into the Earth, seas and oceans, and then back into the food chain and on your plate and mine.

  • Wishing for less pollution and cleaner breathing air?

How can you lead a life style that pollutes less? Trees are waiting to be planted.

  • Wishing for less destruction and devastation on this beautiful planet?

Beginning to identify and let go of anything that is destructive in your own thoughts, behaviour and actions.

  • Wishing for a more peaceful world?

How can we all cultivate more peace in our minds and contribute to same in relationships?

The endless river of wishes…. It is not so much about arriving to a fixed end point, it is more about keeping the river flowing. One can never go wrong by including a new perspective in the mind.

Asking for what we really want or need is a mysterious action taken, often unconsciously. When we inquire deeply and with kindness, new discoveries may be made, to help lead the way forward.

“Understanding of the self only arises in relationship, in watching yourself in relationship to people, ideas, and things; to trees, the earth, and the world around you and within you. Relationship is the mirror in which the self is revealed. Without self-knowledge there is no basis for right thought and action.” Jiddu Krishnamurti

Inviting a spirit of inquiry

Welcome to my first blog post! Remembering to stay curious in asking the questions is the way I am tempted to begin.

How can a question encapsulate and ultimately share the essence of what is being intended?

I like questions, especially those that are open-ended. They are simply an invitation. You, the reader, will become part of them, too, when taking them further by holding them with your “mind’s fingers” and making meaning of the words; agreeing or disagreeing, reflecting, or maybe building up on some idea that interests you. Arriving at some point in your understanding of what your eyes can see.

Asking a question is like creating a painting for exhibition. The painter shares some of themselves, their joys, struggles, or ideas by carefully and purposefully placing colours on the canvas, while the viewer makes their own interpretations of it.  Similarly, the reader may find his or her own not-yet-asked questions and potential answers in whatever the writer has laid on paper, or typed in a blog, in this case. In reading something your mind can go to many places and corners, familiar and unfamiliar, can meet the written words with trust, caution, delight, personal and, why not, collective beliefs and opinions, also.

What goes on in a listener’s or reader’s mind is an aspect that is rarely given attention. We generally believe that you understand what I say and I understand what you say. Communication, verbal or written, can be much more than that. The writer and the reader can meet anywhere on the energetic line between giving and receiving. What would you notice about where you are on that line while reading?

As I write, the word OM comes to mind. Could it be because I am asking myself who this blog is intended for?

OM is a frequently used word in the Romanian language, meaning “human being”. OM is also a mantra that is said to represent the basic sound of the entire Universe and the connection between human beings and the Universe.

In this spirit, the blog is dedicated to anybody who is conscious of being a part of a wider Universe, and who may have a wish to expand their field of awareness by paying attention to the ways in which they think. And the thinking goes beyond the ordinary communication between you and me and other people, as there is much more than words that we share when thinking and speaking. We can create or demolish castles with our minds. The thinking mind is part of the being that each of us have at our own disposal to make something useful with and of it in this lifetime.