When the eye contact lenses are falling out…

The transition from social separation to connection seems like a “road less travelled”. The freedom of movement and connection with the outside world is finally allowed to happen, yet, the subtle and less subtle effects of the lockdown on people’s minds are less obvious or talked about. In the middle of trying to break out of the imposed separation, it may be easy to miss out some psychological aspects.

If it is possible to search your memory for experiences you have been having during the lockdown, that have moved or changed you in any way, apart from maybe being physically away from other people, services, facilities, hobbies, or other things that used to be part of your life, then why not look at some of the new layers that have been added during that time to the person you knew yourself to be in the past.

In case you were fortunate to avail of some quiet time during those days, weeks and months that seemed to have no end in sight since the beginning of 2020, you may have noticed not only what was changing or missing in the external world, but also something that was happening inside you. Maybe it was fear, worry, doubt, loneliness, disconnection, loss, some emotional churning, past mental content being dug up, or perhaps also some joy, peace and acceptance.

As hard as feeling imprisoned can feel, literally and metaphorically, there is also a benefit in having a chance to consciously or unconsciously turn towards one’s own mental and emotional content which can surface more especially during periods of pausing from the habitual movement and activity. This reminds me of being on a meditation retreat, when the pausing from the daily routine can bring up many new discoveries.

Then, what happened during the never-ending lockdown that led to this new kind of separation created by the differing views and beliefs about how fast to move forward “back to the past”? I wonder, is experiencing separation a new road to creating new connection? Whatever connection means for each of us. Fortunately, life is naturally moving forward rather than backward, and some old layers of our beliefs and values are unavoidably falling off during this process. The flow of life cannot be forced return to the past, no matter how comfortable the past used to be. That is a view, of course.

And so the contact lenses are falling out, symbolically speaking, when we begin to see our perceptions of the reality through own eyes, and maybe borrowing less other people’s views, that may be useful for them to hold. And it can be almost earth-shattering sometimes, when you discover that there are other ways to live life than the ones you were used to.

Ajahn Sucitto, Buddhist monk and author calls these beliefs ‘programs’ that people end up adopting based on upbringing, experiences, past or existing social values, and other influences. And these factors are useful, too, in helping discover and shape a person’s natural inclinations and aspirations. We cannot but influence each other all the time, and perhaps we are constantly changed through relational interactions, yet, sometimes the differing views can cause conflict and thus create divisions, internally and externally.

Writing about “Floods of Views and Ignorance”, Ajahn Sucitto unpacks the meaning of views and looks at their effects on human mind:

“ ’Views’ refers to the instinct we have to hold beliefs, opinions and dogmas in order to gain a standpoint. […] There are several salient features to the flood of views. One is that it puts life into the abstract, sums people into groups, and makes a ‘something’ that we can stand back from. From this perspective the mind can form neat divisions: between my party and the others. The flood of views therefore isolates; and more tellingly it draws a dividing boundary across which negotiation, empathy and at times even ethical standards, do not cross. […] With the adopting of views, empathy and ethics are under threat.” (p.19, 20, 21)

The discussion on views goes on to suggest ways of engaging with the challenge:

“A remedy that is recommended then is to note a view as a starting place from which to investigate or enter a dialogue with others. In this we acknowledge that we have a personal perspective and can’t avoid having one. This is already a breakthrough, because the fallacy that supports the flood is that any individual can have an all-encompassing view – whereas the very act of holding a view immediately places the viewer in a state of isolation from scrutiny. To acknowledge subjectivity may lead to the recognition that ‘my’ position isn’t really mine, but one that is conditioned by the information I’ve received or an experience I’ve had, and is therefore capable of being reviewed and moderated. […] Thus we overcome the sense of division, and specific kindness gets established.” (p. 21, 22)

In case you are wondering what the word ‘floods’ refers to in the above context, the author describes them as follows:

“The term ‘floods’ speaks for itself: the overwhelmed, swept-along feeling that comes as we get plunged into stress and suffering.” (p.16)

The mouth is covered literally and perhaps symbolically, too, in whatever way one wishes to perceive it. Whether the mouth covering is experienced as a necessary measure of self-protection and protection of others, an object limiting self-expression or sharing through verbal communication, or maybe as something else, it is up to you. Now, having an experience with the covering, one can really begin to question one’s views on other types of face coverings, such as the hijab worn by women in certain cultures.

The eyes, though, are not covered, unless done intentionally. What can be seen when, so to speak, the eye contact lenses are falling out? To pause for a moment and watch one’s own “flood of views” in relationship to others’ may be a starting point in an ongoing conversation about how to move forward into the future.


Sucitto, A. (2012). Parami. Ways to Cross Life’s Floods. Amaravati Publications, Amaravati, UK.

Ajahn Sucitto is a Buddhist monk born in the UK, who writes on life topics and travels internationally on teaching engagements. His book, “Parami, Ways to Cross Life’s Floods”, is available for free download from www.forestsanghapublications.org.

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?