Approaching Gorillas

Ajahn Pasanno

Approaching Gorillas

It’s good to remind ourselves of the importance of bringing mindfulness to our day to day activities. It’s easy to say “OK, just be mindful”. You hear it so often, if it becomes rote or trite it loses its impact.

A core part of practice is mindfulness, the application of mindfulness and learning how to direct mindfulness. It’s one of the key foundations of our practice and our training. When we really learn how to establish mindfulness and balance mindfulness that’s when we can start to understand the mind and its reactions more clearly.

There’s a biologist or primatologist, a scientist who studies primates, George Schaller. He was the first person to study Mountain Gorillas. He was actually the teacher to Dian Fossey. When he was studying them he was getting information back that people hadn’t know about the habits and social structure and use of a kind of language amongst the gorillas. And people asked him how he did it, because this was all very new. His answer was that the different way he did it was he never carried a gun. That allowed him to establish a trust with the gorillas and over time to approach them.

In the same way, if you think of what our minds are doing all the time, they’re not really being mindful. We’re carrying our weapons - our guns - of views and opinions, our moods and our biases, our reactivity and all of our extra baggage. So we don’t ever have a chance to recognize and see clearly what the mind is doing. We don’t see what the underlying tendencies are, nor what the underlying capabilities of the mind are.

So, to be willing to put down the weapons of our likes and our dislikes, our views and our opinions, and the constant chatter and commentary that we’re constantly having to overlay on the world around us. These things are constantly separating from this world, from our experience.

Get close with the fundamental quality of mindfulness, keep coming back to learning how to pay attention, to be attentive, to be aware. To do this without moving in with our reactivity; this is where we really learn about the mind. This is where we become able to establish a quality of real peace and learn to be close with our own minds.

Just putting a plug in for mindfulness.