The meaning we give to something determines our reality and life experience. If you see a grizzly bear coming towards you, then the meaning, or interpretation, in that moment will be one of danger, fear and survival. If you see a kitten charging at you, the meaning and experience is different. For the most part, we are unconscious of the meanings we lay over our reality.
We project the meanings we hold in our heart and mind onto our lives. The “meaning” of something, our interpretation of it, determines our thoughts, words and actions. We will experience fear if that is the meaning we hold. This is true of anger, love, and other emotions as well.
Take for example a value that many share: peace.
The Value and Deeper Meaning of Peace
For many of us “peace” is a wonderful quality that we value highly. For most of us peace is that calmness and serenity that shows itself only when conflict and disharmony have been banished.
However, when we look at the Sanskrit word for “peace”—shānti—it takes this beautiful concept and tells us that peace is experienced when we are tranquil, and when we see it everywhere, and when our own actions are peaceful. In other words, peace is present when we feel it within ourselves, and then look out and see it everywhere, even if the circumstances seem less than peaceful.
When we assimilate this deeper meaning, it redefines and clarifies our understanding of true peace. Our realization of this deeper meaning shows itself in our attitude and actions that naturally and easily become more peaceful. This is how we start to develop strong and deep roots within ourself and respond to the world effectively, compassionately and realistically.
Timeless Wisdom Traditions
The ancient and timeless wisdom traditions of East and West have provided humanity with an unbroken thread of connection to consciousness throughout the millennia. It is a thread of wisdom and knowledge. The purpose of this thread is to provide source wisdom, and to make it ever-available for people to follow, so they can always realize the truth of themselves.
Get The Latest From InnerSelf
In today’s world this source wisdom is available with a casual Internet search, a browse through a book shop or a visit to your local library. Texts that were kept exclusively for sages, priests, teachers and their students, are now there for the asking. The knowledge was carefully protected, and if a person desired this wisdom, they had to leave their worldly life, and study with these teachers behind closed doors. For centuries this wisdom was secret, now it’s readily accessible.
Yet, despite this smorgasbord of wisdom and knowledge now so easily available in shops, libraries, online, social media, printed on coffee mugs, desk calendars and fridge magnets, there are record rates of anxiety disorders, stress, unhappiness and a lack of fulfillment. The timeless wisdom traditions which offer solutions to all of these problems are available but are not being availed. The missing link is practice. To hear what this source wisdom is saying is one thing, to put it into practice is quite another.
We Become Good At What We Practice: What Are We Practicing?
There is no change without practicing. By practicing we transform. Practice is like exercising a muscle; it increases in strength with appropriate training. We become good at whatever we practice.
In fact, we are practicing all the time, we are always practicing something: a thought, a feeling, a word, an action. The question is: What are we practicing?
If we practice thinking the same things, feeling the same things and doing the same things, then we can expect to get the same outcomes and experiences.
When we consciously choose to try something new to increase our awareness and improve our well-being, we can be sure that our experience will change. The important thing is to start practicing each day.
The Three "Time" Factor to Practicing
There are three “time” factors to practicing, all of which are necessary. They are: Frequency, Duration and Extent.
Frequency is how often you practice. Duration is how long you practice for, and Extent is the period of time have you been practicing – a day, a week, a month, or years.
Frequency: How often do you meditate? – Once a day
Duration: How long do you meditate for? – 20 minutes
Extent: How long have you been meditating for? – 20 years
Tools for Achieving Timeless Wisdom
Our most valuable equipment to work with as we seek to attain timeless wisdom is our faculties, our energy, our capacity to apply intelligence and effort. We have a physical body, which moves us through the world and is always anchored in the present moment. We also have faculties beyond the physical. We have the vast, powerful and fine inner instrument of our mind and our heart.
In the Sanskrit wisdom tradition there are four aspects to the mind and heart:
Manas: The Thinking Mind aka “the Monkey Mind”
Buddhi: The Intellect or Intelligence
Chitta: Deep Memory aka the Heart
Aham: The Limitless Sense of Existence, or Ahamkāra: The Limited Sense of Existence
Let’s look at the first one. (Editor's Note: The book goes into more detail for all four parts.)
Manas: The Thinking Mind
Manas is the interpretive function of the mind. What does it interpret? The sense impressions: all sounds, touch, sights, tastes and smells. The impressions are neutral, and they are being received constantly.
Because Manas only deals in sense impressions, these can only be after something has been experienced. The impressions are always from the past. Much like pulling out files from a drawer, Manas pulls from our sense memories to interpret new experiences.
Manas has the power of speech. Manas is what chats away in our head and comments on everything all day long. Manas is the thinking part of the mind that constantly proposes, and counter-proposes, presents one thing after another, makes simple associations until it weaves a web of thoughts circling around.
Manas is confident in one moment and full of doubt the next, it craves certainty but can never find it. It can be easily distracted.
This function of mind is often referred to as “The Monkey Mind.”
The story of The Monkey and the Bamboo Pole illustrates how we can deal with Manas, or the monkey mind we all have.
The Monkey and the Bamboo Pole
Once there was a man who desired to spend his time in deep meditation and prayer. He wanted to realize the universal truth of himself. He was a farmer and householder, so he had many responsibilities and tasks to perform every day. This took up most of his time, and he knew that ignoring them was not the way to peace and fulfillment either.
One day a monkey turned up on his doorstep. The monkey was a tricky character who could appear very attractive in one moment, but like a monster in the next. He made an offer to the farmer:
“I’m here to help you. I will do absolutely anything you instruct me to do.”
The farmer was delighted. This was the answer to his prayers for help.
“There is one catch to this arrangement,” the monkey said.
“Yes, yes, please tell me,” the farmer replied.
“You must keep me fully occupied for every second of every day. There can’t be a moment that I’m not fully engaged with something to do. If I’m idle for even a moment, I will immediately create havoc, and this will eventually kill you,” the monkey explained.
The farmer agreed to this arrangement.
The farmer began by giving the monkey his first job. The monkey disappeared, and was back in a moment, with the task fully completed. So, the farmer gave him the next task, and this too was done in an instant. The farmer gave him another, and yet another thing to do around the farm and in the house. All the jobs were done perfectly and with amazing efficiency.
So, each and every day, the farmer would spend his days giving task after task to the monkey to complete, knowing that he had to be ready with another job in order to prevent the monkey from creating the havoc which would eventually kill the farmer.
The problem the farmer now had was he still couldn’t meditate and pray, because he had to keep the monkey constantly occupied. Occupying the monkey became the farmer’s new job!
Finally, the farmer came up with a solution.
He instructed the monkey, “Go to the woods and cut down a ten-foot length of bamboo.”
The monkey disappeared and was back in a moment with the bamboo just as he had been told.
“Now clean it up, so the pole is smooth and perfectly prepared.”
The monkey again set to work, and in the blink of an eye, had created a beautiful ten-foot bamboo pole.
“Now set it firmly in the ground so it stands upright without moving.”
Again, this was done in a flash.
“From now on, unless I give you a specific task to perform around the farm or in the house, you are to climb up and down this bamboo pole without stopping in between times.”
The monkey followed these instructions to the letter for many weeks. He performed all his designated tasks about the place, and in between jobs, he climbed up and down the ten-foot bamboo pole without stopping. This kept the monkey fully occupied all the time. He couldn’t create havoc, which eventually would kill his master. The farmer was very happy, because now he could spend most of his time in meditation and prayer, which was his heart’s desire, without all his worldly responsibilities being ignored.
After several weeks, the monkey was exhausted.
He went to his master and said, “I give up. I shall be very happy to perform all necessary tasks in service to you. In between times, I will sit quietly by your side and wait for you to give me something to do. I promise I will not create havoc that will eventually kill you. You are safe.”
The Moral of the Story
This is a traditional story that has been used to teach humanity for ages. What can we learn from it?
The tricky monkey stands for the Manas—the active thinking mind.
The farmer is the Buddhi—the Intellect, Reason and Intelligence.
The bamboo pole is mental discipline such as speaking an affirmation of truth, repeating a mantra (a word we focus on and say in our minds over and over again), or simply giving single-pointed and undistracted attention to a task in hand.
The point of the story is that the active mind must be kept fully occupied all the time; otherwise, it will immediately begin to weave a web of trouble and havoc.
Once the mind is sufficiently disciplined through proper practice, it surrenders and will be still and quiet; waiting patiently and ready to complete any task given to it. A disciplined mind is a truly amazing instrument—efficient, capable and willing to serve.
The story illustrates the essential need for regular and frequent simple daily practice.
©2020 by Sarah Mane. All Rights Reserved.
Excerpted with permission from the book: Conscious Confidence.
Publisher: Findhorn Press, a divn. of Inner Traditions Intl.
Conscious Confidence: Use the Wisdom of Sanskrit to Find Clarity and Success
by Sarah Mane
Drawing on the timeless wisdom of Sanskrit, Sarah Mane offers a practical confidence-boosting system derived from the deepest meanings of Sanskrit concepts, complete with practical exercises. She outlines the fourfold energies of Conscious Confidence and shows how to discover a steady inner source of compassion, self-direction, and self-empowerment. (Also available as an Audiobook and a Kindle edition.)
For more info and/or to order this book, click here. Also available as an Audiobook and a Kindle edition.
About the Author
Sarah Mane is a Sanskrit scholar with a particular interest in the wisdom of Sanskrit as a practical means to life-mastery. Previously a teacher and school executive, today she is a transformational and executive coach. Visit her website: https://consciousconfidence.com