It is offered through an organization called The Regenerative Design Institute. Every time I find an awesome program that speaks to me, it always seems to be offered in California. I think it’s time to create a space on the East coast for such programs, which will serve to guide people back to their true essence—the place of infinite potential and possibilities where they are empowered to consciously choose to participate in the unfolding of their life stories instead of feeling as if they are at the mercy of an unpredictable “fate.”
Yes, I will disclose a highly personal and intimate fact about myself in that I have experienced “myself” in this place of wholeness and the moment that happened, my life changed instantly. My Vision involves designing a similar program to the one I want to attend, but instead of asking people to fly to California, I want to develop and offer it right here on the East coast which will take some time. The first step I have to take is to become the student first, and that involves flying to California four times within the next year. One of the program instructors, whom I contacted and shared part of my story, informed me that she has raised $1,000 in scholarship money and she is willing to give every dime to me, but that leaves me needing about $6,000 if you count 4 flights to California. I know I can personally come up with $3000, but the remaining $3000 tuition that is due in a few months is not something I can swing. To provide more insight as to why this program speaks to me and how your support can have a ripple effect to create positive change, please read the following blog. If my words speak to your soul, please consider making a contribution here. Thank you. ~Michele
Bear with me here. Before I can jump into this one, I need to lay some groundwork so we’re all on the same page. In this day and age probably everyone has heard of the term “Monkey Mind.” It refers to that inner chatter inside of our own heads that incessantly tells us “how things are going, who is wronging us, that we should be fearful of certain people or animals, that we deserve this or that, that we need to be planning ahead, etc.” In other words, it is the private narrative of our daily lives, the place where meaning is created, thoughts turn into ideas, and it is actually the place in which our experienced reality is created. What happens inside our Monkey Mind is what determines whether or not we have a “bad” day or “good” day. I put quotes around those two words because the reality is that a day is really just a day…neither good nor bad. It is our Monkey Mind that labels and judges all things as “good” or “bad.” So why all the judging?
Our Monkey Mind is 100% responsible for our sense of individualism and separation from other humans as well as nature. It is 100% responsible for our desire to compete and “prove ourselves” as better than other people, and it is 100% responsible for our need for predictability and stability, which are two pretty big fallacies as the only Universal constant is change. From its limited viewpoint all that matters is “me me me.” It is 100% responsible for the perception that something is either “good” or “bad.” It thinks in terms of either/or, black/white, right/wrong. This is dualistic thinking and I’m here to tell you it doesn’t work as pretty much everything in life is actually a both/and.
The Monkey Mind has one thing and one thing only as its priority….to preserve itself and its own perception of itself as all-important, right, and justified, even if that means telling you that you are “not good enough” (when you ARE) or that “all black men are dangerous,” (when they are NOT). See how this judging thing works? The Monkey Mind doesn’t really care about the truth, it just needs to feed itself in whatever way it can…oh…and by the way, it LOVES drama so it will often create scenarios that support some imagined drama or wrong-doing in your life, when the truth is, you don’t actually know why so and so isn’t returning your phone call....you just THINK you know why they aren’t returning your call. I've dubbed that the "fill in the blank" game.
Because of this, the Monkey Mind tends to think either in the past tense—which leads to feeling fear, guilt, and regret as you “reflect” on things that can no longer be changed, or in the future—which leads to feeling anxiety and worrying about all of the things that “might” or “should” happen. Another reality check here folks…the ONLY moment that actually exists is right now. Yes, we can think about something that happened or something we hope will happen, but neither of those things are presently happening in this moment.
The Monkey Mind is the part of you that makes meditation or mindfulness exercises so challenging. So here’s a quick exercise. Right now I want you to sit quietly, relax, close your eyes and try to “go blank in your head.” I want you to immediately notice that inner-conversation that is happening in this moment. What are you saying to yourself inside of your own head? Are you planning your to-do list for today (future), thinking about that awesome concert last night (past)? And by the way, the skill of “active listening” requires that you be aware of and be able to draw your attention away from the Monkey Mind, as you can’t be thinking about your own life and actively listening to another person speak at the same time. This is why people who aren’t listening to you because they are already forming what they want to say in response can be difficult to communicate with. They aren’t actually listening to you…they are listening to their Monkey Minds.
That voice in your head IS your Monkey Mind and it has convinced the vast majority of humans that “who they are,” is who the Monkey Mind tells them they are, but again….that is total bullshit. The Monkey Mind does serve the purpose of creating a sense of order which allows us to navigate through our lives…let’s face it, living in a state of constant chaos wouldn’t work either, so the Monkey Mind should not be banned (it actually can’t be as it’s part of you), but the great life-changing moment for most human beings is when they become aware that they have a choice to act from that Monkey Mind place or from a “conscious” place where at the root of all decisions and choices is love and compassion for self and others in the present moment.
If you can remotely understand what I’m saying, then you are exactly the person that I want to invite to attend my own program once I develop it. If this is getting a little too far out there, then guess what, YOU are exactly the person I want to invite to attend my program, as what I want to offer applies to every single living being on Earth and it can only truly be understood by experiencing it.
I want to share an excerpt from Eckhart Tolle’s book “A New Earth,” as he so clearly demonstrates how the Monkey Mind creates a false reality because of its own limited ability to perceive anything outside of its own interests or limited understanding of “how the world works.” He uses the term “thinking mind” for what I call Monkey Mind:
“When we go into a forest that has not been interfered with by man, our thinking mind will see only disorder and chaos all around us. It won’t even be able to differentiate between life (good) and death (bad) anymore since everywhere new life grows out of rotting and decaying matter. Only if we are still enough inside and the noise of the thinking subsides can we become aware that there is a hidden harmony here, a sacredness, a higher order in which everything has its perfect place and could not be other than what it is and the way it is.
The [thinking] mind is more comfortable in a landscaped park because it has been planned through thought; it has not grown organically. There is an order here that the [thinking] mind can understand. In the forest, there is an incomprehensible order that to the [thinking] mind looks like chaos. It is beyond the mental categories of good and bad. You cannot understand it through thought, but you can sense it where you let go of thought, become still and alert, and don’t try to understand or explain. Only then can you be aware of the sacredness of the forest. As soon as you sense that hidden harmony, that sacredness, you realize you are not separate from it, and when you realize that, you become a conscious participant in it. In this way, nature can help you become realigned with the wholeness of life.” (Page 194-195)
Ever wonder why so many people prefer to go camping in nicely groomed state parks instead of just walking into the wilderness? There's your answer. The Monkey Mind can't make sense of the wilderness so it tells you that it's unsafe. The Monkey Mind is the primary reason we've become so disconnected from the Earth. We actually believe nature is scary!
I absolutely love this excerpt as he hits the nail so squarely on the head that I’m not sure I’ll ever read a more succinct explanation of how our minds operate. In other words, we all have to take baby steps to start peeling back the layers of “input” that have fueled the creation of our Monkey Minds our whole lives. And how did these layers get built to begin with you might ask?
Think about a newborn baby. This baby is actually closer to experiencing life from a state of “wholeness” than you or I. This is because we have had x amount of years where we have interacted with our families, friends, and all sorts of institutions such as schools, the media, government, religious institutions, etc. Every single moment of contact we have with other people (if they are unaware of their Monkey Mind and the vast majority of people are), or organized institutions (which were mostly born from the Monkey Mind), starts to influence who we understand ourselves to be. We learn very quickly what we can and can NOT do as girls, boys, rich people, poor people, black people, or white people. This leads to the creation of self-limiting beliefs that actually inform the choices we make for the rest of our lives.
Young children have not yet developed this fully, so that is why when you ask a 6 year old child what they want to be when they grow up, you might get an answer like, “An astronaut, the President of the United States, or even a superhero.” When you hear that child respond, pay attention to YOUR next thought. It probably goes something like this. “Oh how cute, Sally wants to be the President of the United States, but we all know she doesn’t really stand a chance because she is poor, probably won't go to college, her parents are undocumented immigrants and they might be deported, and well…she’s a little girl with an accent. Nobody will vote her into that office if she doesn’t work on becoming more like a ‘typical’ American.”
Wow, judge judge judge. So all of the predictions and judgments in that thought are demonstrating the very moment that exposes how “conditioned” our responses have become because of believing what the Monkey Mind tells us. The absolute truth (and remember…the ONLY real moment is NOW), is that you don’t know if she’ll become president, but your Monkey Mind loves to think into the future and make grand proclamations as it thinks it knows just about everything. Imagine if it were up to you to advise her on her educational choices. If you really believe she doesn’t stand a chance, then you’ll be less likely to guide her down a path that would support her dream. This is how we limit not only ourselves, but each other.
Now I want to spend energy explaining the other option..the option that I hope to create.
Why are so many programs such as Outward bound, summer camps for at-risk youth, trauma-healing programs, soul-searching programs like Vision Quests, and empowerment programs rooted in nature? Why is nature the place that serves as the most effective teacher and teaching environment? Why do people go on week-long nature-based programs and come back feeling so alive as if they've just been given an injection of hope?
If you go out into the woods (leave the iPod and iPhone and iPad at home), and just sit there with absolutely zero distractions or “things to do,” what will you notice? First you’ll probably now notice that chatter going on in your head (that’s GOOD if you’re becoming aware!). So pick up a rock, hold it in your hand and really study it. Feel the textures, hold it to your face, smell it, look at its colors and edges. Bring your awareness to the present moment and really know the rock. Now imagine that you put this rock down, but after you leave your place, the rock gets all pissed off because it thinks a far better place to “be a rock” is a few feet over by another tree. Can you imagine how truly chaotic the Earth would be if everything in nature had a Monkey Mind and the ability to act upon what it was saying?
The truth is the ONLY beings on this planet with that ability are humans. We are surrounded every moment of everyday by the greatest teacher of all time…nature. Nature is teaching us how to “be,” how to accept “what is,” how to experience the present moment and only the present moment. Rocks, trees, animals, dirt, grass…all of these things exist within the present moment…always making choices based upon the right now instead of what happened 6 months ago…or 10 years ago…or in their childhoods. A tree doesn’t hold a grudge against a dog that came along and whizzed on it. A deer doesn’t stomp away mad because another deer ate from its favorite bush. The soil doesn’t decide to pick up and move because it happens to be in a high traffic area where it always gets trampled. In fact, these statements sound ridiculous….and the reality is that it is equally as ridiculous that we humans walk around in such a state of constant reactivity to one another and our own minds because we’ve developed so many conditioned responses to “life.” It saddens me to share that we’ve lost ourselves on the journey and have totally lost touch with our true nature...our essence...our infinite potential, but there is hope.
So what if rocks are wiser than humans? What if we summoned up the courage to consider that there might be another way of doing this thing called life? What if we reconnected to our roots…the Earth…but not in some Bear Grylls “Man vs. Nature” way. What if we, as a community, decided that it was time to learn how to honor both ourselves as humans and everything that makes up the natural world in the present moment? What if we chose to question what our Monkey Minds tell us is true, and what if we are bold enough to stop buying into the fear-based self-created dramas that take up most of our life’s energy?
It is my dream to one day create a space and an experiential nature-based program that will guide people into their own "knowing" and wholeness. Attending the Ecology of Awakening program is one more step in living my Vision and I plan to ask one instructor in particular to serve as a mentor. If by now you understand why this is so important to me, then please consider donating. The very fact that I am asking as many people as I know to support this effort is proof of how great things can only happen if a community supports it.
What if a better life for all people and our precious Earth actually is possible? And if you’re thinking “She really lives in fantasy-land,” then I suggest you give your Monkey Mind a banana to chew on.