Tara Brach talks about Golfing With Monkeys. She started with a story of monkeys proliferating in a golf course in Calcutta. The lesson is how we respond to the proliferation of suffering.
Tara Brach opens this talk by sharing a story of monkeys interfering with golf balls in Calcutta, symbolic of how the uncertainty and uncontrollable flow of life intervenes with our expectations for how life should be. It offers a poignant opportunity for us to reflect: how do we respond to life when things don’t go our way?
The Monkey and Our Sense of Self
The monkey that lives in the mind tells us story after story – stories which create a sense of self. This sense of self, strengthened by all of the beliefs we hold onto tightly, helps us to earn approval (or a sense of approval). In response to this attachment to the stories that live in the mind, we plan and worry in an effort to control the world around us. This proliferating of our mental habits leads to suffering as we cannot control the external world; we can only control our relationship to its flow.
Taming the Monkey Mind
Taming the monkey mind begins with our awareness of it. Can we start to catch ourselves when the mind races off into stories of how things should be? Mindful breathing exercises can help us to reconnect with the present moment, which is a starting point for a deeper witnessing of the mind.
From there, we can practice observing the types of thoughts that arise, revelling in the truth that our thoughts are temporary energy bodies that do not belong to us no matter how much we identify with them. Creating this little bit of distance between our mental tendencies and our sense of self can help us to reconnect with the truth about who we are.