We visit the Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.
On our way, we see humorous scenes painted on a wall — a mural.
We read about this on the Internet. The monkeys are aggressive and dangerous — but the monkeys in the mural create a nightmare — nature gone bad. A monkey steals more than food and water bottles — he steals a motor bike and covers his tracks with arson.
I ponder verses from chapter 10 of the Lao tsu’s Tao te Ching:
“Can you coax your mind from its wandering
and keep to the original oneness?
Can you let your body become
supple as a newborn child’s?”
Training the mind entails meditation — keeping the mind focused on keeping “to the original oneness.”
In reality, we humans have “monkey minds,” minds that jump from tree to tree, minds that are beyond our control. Our thoughts come up — we can’t govern them — the chaos of the murals captures a quality of the mental condition. We are surrounded by monkeys and we have a monkey mind within.
In the forest, we see crowds of people, ancient temples, fish ponds, huge trees — an exotic environment.
The monkeys are everywhere — they are in between being wild and domesticated. They watch the humans and the humans watch them — but they may bite you if you get too close. The monkeys seem focused on food and each other — but one snarled at me when I reached out.
Experts on the internet warn that some monkeys carry dangerous viruses. Karen is curiou but afraid.
Indonesian men, for a small fee, offer to place a monkey on the visitor’s shoulder. The tourists take photographs. I don’t want a monkey on my back but I want to see how the monkeys interact with humans.
Some guys seem in harmony with the monkeys. They take photos. The green-shirted park employee provides his shoulder so that the monkey can jump on him if it wishes. Another monkey jumps unexpectedly.
Lao tsu asks:
“Can you cleanse your inner vision
until you see nothing but the light?
Can you love people and lead them
without imposing your will?”
Lao tsu seeks such deep clarity that you have no need for action. The monkeys illustrate the difficulty — how can you “cleanse your vision” when the monkeys are jumping around?
It seems that we have a monkey brain in our heads — something that has evolved in a way that gives us language and increased our consciousness — but we still has monkey qualities. Like monkeys, we grab at things, we threaten each other, we snarl but are more polite about it.
Lao tsu asks:
“Can you deal with the most vital matters
by letting events take their course?
Can you step back from you own mind
and thus understand all things?”
Meditation is the key to “stepping back from your own mind.” The monkeys touch each other and have the capacity to achieve meditative states — but our minds have been changed by language — we are better able to “step back” and look at ourselves.
The woman seems relaxed — with a monkey on her back. The monkeys are a metaphor for the problems we encounter in life. There are patterns within the ways that typical problems come up — but there are also features that are unexpected.
The guys in the green shirts warn people not to grab the monkeys. If you grab a monkey on your back, it might bit your hand. It is best to hold up your palm to give the monkey a platform so that it can climb off your back, if it wishes.
The monkeys are like humans but also unlike us — it is hard to understand them completely. But there is a metaphor — when the thought comes into your mind, it is generally best not to grab onto it. Holding on can lead to obsession or anger or depression. Some people hold on to their “somebody-done-somebody wrong” stories — and the story bits them. They would be better off letting it go.
We walk by the mural on our way back — it shows the problems with the monkeys.
I do not want a monkey on my back — but I was curious about the monkey’s psychology. Psychotic people, with whom I work in in the psychiatric hospital also have unpredictable tendencies — but a person who understands the nature of psychosis can remain calm — and figure out ways to come into harmony with the situation.
In the face of strangeness — stay calm. That helps others achieve tranquility.
We see artwork for sale in shops along the road — bored angels.
Of course, most people do not wish to meditate because of the boredom involved.
But it can open a door for you.
The angel artist opens up an innovative way of thinking — traditional religion can be boring.
The monkeys, the psychosis, the strangeness — doorways to creativity.
Therapy also involves opening doors to innovative thinking. Dealing with psychological problems requires thinking from an alternate direction.
Lao tsu says:
“Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue.”
Lao tsu advocates an inner stillness that is at the heart of spirituality.
Consider the alternative: