Sunday, May 08, 2011

Living with monkey mind...

Today at the Unitarian Church here in Eureka Springs, we had a visit from 5 Tibetan monks traveling with the Dalai Lama. They chanted during our traditional Mother's Day Service, so between regular members and guests who had come just for the monks, the church was crowded. In a question and answer session in which attendees were able to ask one of the monks questions, he mentioned what has been called "monkey mind," the incessant interior mental chatter that most often revolves around the painful injuries we may feel we have sustained, or the hopes we may have of changing circumstances to elevate our own position in things, in life, and within our communities.... A great deal of monkey mind is plotting and scheming and taking us out of the moment.

A quick question of my readers... "Is the status of monkey mind alleviated or made worse by our technologies?" I suspect the answer is obvious. If students, and we ourselves cannot observe at least a few moments of silence, how can we learn things that are most truly meaningful?

This afternoon, I'm exercising my monkey mind by doing sketchup drawings for boxes to illustrate a Fine Woodworking Magazine article on the safe machining of small parts. I am also working toward transcendence. Being in the woodshop with real wood is much easier and more fun.

Join me this day as I fall silent in my own quiet symphony of hands.

The photo above is of small boxes I am making so that I can adorn them with pulls and feet for an article for Fine Woodworking on machining small parts.

Richard Bazeley sent a link to a David Brooks talk that relates to the monkey mind, and how we are a social animal.It is a long thing to listen to, but worth the listen as it applies to education and craftsmanship. According to Richard,
"He refers to the transcendent state of mind of the craftsman and how some of these ideas are relevant to education."

Make, fix and create...


  1. I was in Italy recently and had the opportunity to see the Sistine Chapel. Photography and talking are expressly forbidden. Even after being chastised by the guards, people continued to talk and many people were sneaking photographs. One man was even checking his phone messages. If you can't be quiet and put away the technology in the place that is arguably the most sacred in all of Christianity for 10 minutes, there is definitely something wrong with the effect the technology has on you.

    Michelangelo spent four years on a scaffold painting the ceiling, much of the time laying on his back. If nothing else, the silence should have been forthcoming just out of respect for his craftsmanship besides the fact that it is, after all, a chapel.

  2. Anonymous2:49 PM

    What a wonderful concept that monkey mind. And I agree with Shop Teacher Bob, and with you, that people's attention has wandered very far away from things that really matter.


  3. It is interesting to me that monkey mind and the idea of extrinsic motivation are so closely related... Also to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. There is an intrusion of extrinsic control mechanisms into what should be intrinsic... through the use of grades and diplomas, and we end up with people who know they should be doing something, but have no confidence in deciding what. and so they have circling thoughts of monkey mind, and are debilitated by it.