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Observations placeholder

Thich Nhat Hanh - The Miracle of Mindfulness - The monkey's shadow



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

The Miracle of Mindfulness – Thich Nhat Hanh

The guard-or the monkey's shadow?

While practicing mindfulness, don't be dominated by the distinction between good and evil, thus creating a battle within oneself.

Whenever a wholesome thought arises, acknowledge it: "A wholesome thought has just arisen."

And if an unwholesome thought arises, acknowledge it as well: "An unwholesome thought has just arisen." Don't dwell on it or try to get rid of it, however much you don’t like it. To acknowledge it is enough.

If you have departed, then you must know that you have departed, and if you are still there, know that you are still there. Once you have reached such an awareness, there will be nothing you need fear anymore.

When I mentioned the guard at the emperor's gate, perhaps you imagined a front corridor with two doors, one entrance and one exit, with your mind as the guard. Whatever feeling or thought enters, you are aware of its entrance, and when it, leaves, you are aware of its exit.

But the image has a shortcoming: it suggests that those who enter and exit the corridor are different from the guard. In fact our thoughts and feelings are us. They are a part of ourselves. There is a temptation to look upon them, or at least some of them, as an enemy force which is trying to disturb the concentration and understanding of your mind.

But, in fact, when we are angry, we ourselves are anger.

When we are happy, we ourselves are happiness.

When we have certain thoughts, we are those thoughts. We are both the guard and the visitor at the same time. We are both the mind and the observer of the mind. Therefore, chasing away or dwelling on any thought isn't the important thing. The important thing is to be aware of the thought. This observation is not an objectification of the mind: it does not establish distinction between subject and object. Mind does not grab on to mind; mind does not push mind away.

Mind can only observe itself.

This observation isn't an observation of some object outside and independent of the observer.

The source of the experience

Thich Nhat Hạnh

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Contemplation and detachment