Since my recent writing about observations on mindfulness, several of my friends (a.k.a. regular readers of this blog) have commented about how the concept makes perfect sense to them, or how they, too, have Monkey Mind. None of these people are practicing Buddhists (although one of them does subscribe to an adjacent Eastern religion with similar tenants) and yet the concept of mindfulness – being present for the present – resonates with all of them.
This probably explains why Thich Nhat Hanh has had so much success in presenting Buddhism’s teachings in the West, and why he’s been such a strong force in the effort to promote cross-faith religious dialogue. After all, mindfulness isn’t strictly Buddhist – it’s part of a holistic approach to spirituality those most progressively minded Christians, Jews and Muslims could also embrace.
Unfortunately, that universal nature doesn’t make it any easier for me to embrace mindfulness. The only time I’ve been able to really live and breath it was two years ago in Cambodia. For three weeks, I didn’t have to think about work, bills, Must See TV, screwed-up right-wing politics, traffic or pollution. When you’re 9,000 miles away from home and phone calls cost roughly $7/minute, the day-to-day, humdrum tasks of life can’t really reach you, so long as you’re willing to leave them behind.
But what about the here-and-now? How do I juggle the responsibilities that come with work, home and friends and still keep my eye on the proverbial spiritual ball? For that matter, how do add on all the other layers that come with my spiritual life, beyond simple mindfulness? It’s a frustrating balancing act that, for me, never seems to end. That’s not to say that the only way to really do it is to enroll at a monastery, though, to be honest, the thought has appealed to me my entire adult life.
Life is hard – I get that part. But it seems to get harder the more I try to make it easier. Granted, I’m blessed in a thousand different ways: I have the intelligence needed to have a good, well-paying job. I have food on my table and a roof over my head. I live in a country where, for all of its problems, I can at least make the choice to follow the spiritual path I desire.
For everywhere I look and everyone I talk to, the solution all boils down to this: Life, as we know it, is an illusion. It is what we make of it, and the key to getting a grasp on life is to first get a grasp on the mind. It’s almost depressing, the thought that the Monkey Mind holds the keys to happiness. But what’s worse? Ignoring it and letting things pile up in there? Good lord, no. So I’ll continue to work at it.
And to help me keep my eye on the ball, I’m changing my Web site address. I’ve had planetiv.com since 1998, and people have always looked at it thinking it’s “planet i.v.” So in the near future, everything will redirect to my new domain, dharmamonkey.com