Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Ending Our Stories: Training the Monkey

"All humanity's problems stem from
man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone."
Blaise Pascal, Pensées

Monkey Mind

We have a 'monkey mind.'  Literally, although advanced beyond the ape family. But in Buddhist philosophy, Monkey Mind means something else.

We think we control our thoughts. We hold others accountable for them. We identify ourselves and others with them. But the truth is much more unsettling, and it is this: 
We don't 'think our thoughts.' Our thoughts 'think us.' 

They arise from nowhere and convince us they have some purpose. But Buddhist philosophy sees through this and treats 'thoughts' as "monkeys;' coming from nowhere, swinging wildly from vine to vine - now here; now there - and carrying us along with them.

Not a Doctrine

The Buddha taught no doctrine. He taught experience. Later, Buddhists 'dumbed down' his teachings to 'pronouncements,' but the Buddha was clear on this. Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.  
Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.  
Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.  
Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.  
But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.'  
Buddha quotes (Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, 563-483 B.C.)
 Observation and Analysis

Don't believe me. Try it. Set your phone alarm for five minutes. Try - and if you're new to meditation, try is the correct word - to not think for five minutes. If you concentrate only on your breath, noticing the feelings as you breathe in and the sensations as you breathe out, you soon find this.

Without your prompting - entirely out of nowhere - a chain of thoughts will begin to create a story on its own. And you'll find yourself 'grabbing that vine' and joining that monkey's story. This is normal. Notice it, bring yourself back to your breath, and try again. You will get better.

Headspace | Meditation 
Training the Monkey 

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