The Monkey Trap

The boat can’t leave the Harbour until you raise the anchor and set course for a new destination. How do we move forward and change the situation we are in. It’s interesting to think about why we are so invested in situations that aren’t working for us.

With my clients we talk about starting to let go of what holds you there, perhaps anger, hurt, revenge, shame, or memories.  This idea about letting go of course may not be easy depending on the amount of energy invested in holding on.

This reminded me of a story: The Monkey Trap.

In the jungles of africa the natives would trap monkeys, by placing delicious nuts in the crevices of a rock wall. The monkeys finding the nuts too irresistible, would grab a handful and become trapped, being unable to remove their fist. Unwilling to relinquish their tasty treat they were captives and yet were free to leave at any time.

An old story but today we need to ask ourselves what are we trapping ourselves with? Are we our own captures? Even with our big brains, lets make the time to let go of what keeps us stuck and start being our free lovely selves. It’s your choice, if you can only see it.


Mindfulness is a skill

Mindfulness is the skill of bringing yourself into awareness of the moment. I share mindfulness with most of my clients, it helps to still the racing mind. What I really love about mindfulness, is that there is no one set way to find yourself in a mindful moment. Some people love to move; some love to sit still and gaze at a beautiful scenery, some love to bake or share a giggle with their child. Mindfulness is a skill you can allow to be in your normal everyday life.

The reality is we all find moments of mindfulness naturally. The trick is knowing how to bring your self into that awareness when you want to. If you were to think of activities that you find peaceful, pleasurable or even thrilling you are most likely engaging your brain and body in mindful activity. There are two really simple principles that help us to be mindfully present.

The first principle is being in your body, which means you are engaging your senses. What you can see, smell, hear, taste and touch. Right now you could take a moment to focus on something you can see, or something you can hear. See it’s simple, you can be anywhere, doing anything, with anyone to press the pause button and engage your senses. When you are focusing your attention on your senses your brain is working in a different way, it is taking in sensory information. The trick is however to stay in this sensory focused state. Thoughts move very fast. It is very natural and normal to think and evaluate what we sense when we need to.

Imagine, you were driving on a busy road, you take a snap shot of awareness. You might see the yellow light ahead and the 4WD behind you moving fast. There are cars on either side, the road is wet, you hear the rain, the tyres on the road and the windshield wiper. Then you evaluate and respond to your snapshot. So you slow, the car to an even pace in hope of signally to the car behind you to slow down and stop in time for the now approaching red light.

Mindfulness is the first part, the snap shot of awareness and the only way to really stay there is to focus on observing and noticing.  As soon as evaluation and judgement turn up you are stepping out of mindfulness. So the second principle is to just observe, notice and suspend judgement. For instance:

I might notice the glass of water sitting beside me. I can look at the colour and feel the weight of the glass as I pick it up, the smooth texture. Then as I bring the glass to my lips, I can notice my body movements, the touch of the glass and then the coolness of the water. I can notice the path of the water as I swallow and breathe. Observe and notice.

I might need to unhook myself from the thoughts of, “Marianne you don’t drink enough water, water is so good for, you are so lucky to have yummy fresh filtered water. Oh yeah … I wonder when I need to replace the water filter, where is that phone number again … I also need to replace the tyres on my car, better write that down. Stop now! You are meant to be practicing mindfulness! Observe and notice the water, the glass. lol”.

Like I said, it is a skill. It is much easier to practice a skill before a big event. So my homework to you is: Five minutes of mindfulness every day. No excuses! You could be sitting on the bus on your way to work; sitting in the pick up zone outside the school; cooking dinner; hanging out the washing or even lying in bed feeling how delicious it is to stop and stretch out from the day. Five minutes of blissful mindfulness, you deserve it.


The present can only happen without judgment

It is only natural to make judgments about the world, maybe it helps us to make sense of our experiences. ‘That’s good … that’s bad … here is a friend …  a foe”.

But we need to ask ourselves, “Is it really helpful to live a life full of labels?” To label something may help with clarity but really we are placing limitations on our understanding and denying the opportunity of possibility. Maybe our experience is just what it is?

This is a core concept in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy called Acceptance. Not acceptance in that it is okay (which is a judgment) but rather a state of curiously observing our experience in the moment it occurs. Allowing our experience to just ‘be’ without judgment or evaluation. I believe this is the secret to being in the present moment. The true state of mindfulness is being in a state of noticing; using our senses to observe what is real around us. What we can hear, see, smell, taste and touch without evaluation.

Here is an old Zen Tale told in a new way.

A mother was out shopping with her young child. She turned around but he had zoomed off … probably to the toy section she thought. She asked for help and the shop assistant stated, “Oh that’s bad!” The mother replied after taking a deep breath. “Oh we will see, it is what it is”.

The little child was indeed, quickly found amongst the lego holding a Scratchy Ticket. They scratched it together and won $30 000. “Oh wow, that’s good” exclaimed the shop assistant. The mother replied, “Oh we will see, it is what it is”.

With the winnings, the family car was upgraded. The mother not being familiar with the new car size, side swiped a car park pole damaging the whole left side. “Oh that’s too bad” those watching had said to her. The mother replied, “Oh we will see, it is what it is”.

So she went to have the car fixed and the mechanic was her long lost school friend. “Oh that’s awesome” everyone said. The mother thought, “Oh we will see, it is just what it is”.

Life isn’t perfect; there are joys and sorrows. Times of growth can be painful and also thrilling, thriving with achievement. Maybe experiences are, just what they are.  Some experiences you would repeat again and some you would learn from. The only place we can truly live, is in the now, this is where our power is, our power of choice. You can’t change the past, the future is yet to be and is actually determined mostly by what you do this moment. The present is truly a gift, so let’s enjoy the unfolding of this moment without judgment.