What I learned from a monk
Life lessons can really come from unexpected places!
I discovered Arjuna, an Ishaya monk, during the first UK lockdown, after a friend recommended the Insight Timer meditation app to me. With normality suspended to the point of disbelief, listening to a daily meditation (something my busy, impatient mind had totally dismissed before!) provided a small space of calm relief and some structure to the free floating days.
I had imagined monks to be extremely solemn and serious, silently wandering around temples living by extreme vows. Arjuna was different. I described him as the “giggling monk”, as his meditations and talks were light hearted, accessible, fun. My natural curiosity piqued, I found his Facebook page, his website and his books.
During the continued lockdowns, he started posting live videos, small snippets of wisdom from his path and learnings. He loved ‘chatting’ to us watchers, answering questions and providing gentle, genuine guidance. He was so open, centred, and you could feel his beautiful soul.
Nothing about his teachings was strict or restrictive, in contrast I felt expansion and freedom. He helped me shift perspective and to keep me sane during a world altering time.
The profound lessons I took away from those talks have stuck with me, and so I share a few here (as well as links to his sites) because they genuinely made a real impact on me, and maybe will for you. I’ve summarised what they meant for me, or how I apply them.
“Prioritise your peace”
The real key to your inner happiness lies in your power. Prioritising my peace meant taking a deep look at what really mattered to me. It meant establishing new boundaries, particularly in the new reality I was experiencing. It gave a sharp focus for me on self care, looking after my mental wellbeing and getting really clear on what added to, or subtracted from, my inner peace.
Prioritising my peace means putting first all the things that contribute to it - my loved ones, walks in nature, gazing at the ocean, the simple pleasure of watching some of my flowers grow. It also gave me a new found appreciation of all these things, and in peace itself as a true life enhancing state of being.
Crucially, it helped me understand that what I was searching for was something inside of me. Focusing on the feeling of peace even when it felt near impossible to find stopped me searching for fixes, or others to fix me. It allowed me to re-centre on my own internal experience. That alone created some welcome stability in a very unstable world.
“Ending Self Violence”
When Arjuna used the words “self violence” to describe inner criticism and negative self talk it brought me up short. Then it hit me, being constantly critical of ourselves, feeling not good enough, was violence. Viewing it in this way was a sharp reminder to focus on the good, not in the sense of endless toxic positivity, but in the truth that we are all ok, all doing our best in this moment, perfectly imperfect beings. Self violence simply halts your progress as you cannot operate at your best from a place of distrust and fear.
If you can start from a place of more love and acceptance, what becomes possible?
“Go within or go without”
Within us all lies everything we need. Constantly looking outside of ourselves does not bring answers. I believe this to be the fundamental lesson for human development. It is also the foundation for all coaching - that every person already contains absolute power and potential.
Linked to ‘not good enough’, we are conditioned to not trust ourselves. Lacking this trust, ignoring ourselves, simply drives a cycle of endless searching, with everything we find lacking (ask me how I know!).
Really feeling into this, developing deep self trust, has given me the platform from which to spread my wings. I create my own safety, I am my own source of power. In the face of life’s uncertainties and challenges I can always return home - to Myself - where I know I have the resilience and wisdom I need. We all do, if we are willing to stop and listen.
It would take an entire novel to write about everything I learned and gained, and still do, from Arjuna. There can be a lot of “wisdom” imparted in spiritual teachings that actually feel like rules and restrictions. The beautiful simplicity and freedom in what Arjuna shares spoke deeply to my soul. Each lesson gave me a moment of calm reflection in a world that, at the time, felt like unstable madness.
Have I now embodied a monk-like Zen existence of endless contentment and peace? Nope! I am human, and like everyone else I can react emotionally, lose sight of what matters and stumble.
But the key thing I have learned from the lovely ‘giggling monk’ is that’s ok. It’s perfect to be exactly as you are, doing your best and trying again. I have a basis of self compassion and acceptance that, funnily enough, allows me the freedom to grow further.
Accepting all parts of ourselves in an ongoing journey. If you’re looking for guidance and support then surround yourself with those who can also accept and welcome all of who you are. You’ll recognise them because you will see clearly their own self acceptance and presence.
[This was simply written in gratitude to Arjuna and all he so freely shares, however I asked his permission to share the links]