Back in the early 90’s when I was in my early 20’s, I backpacked across Thailand. During my travels, I took an overnight train from Bangkok to Northern Thailand, to a small town called Chiang Mai, home to a symphony of ancient temples.
When I purchased my train ticket, I hadn’t appreciated that at that time, buying a ticket meant ‘guaranteed passage’ on the train, and that it did not guarantee obtaining a seat. I didn’t discover this until I, alongside several hundred people attempted to board the train.
By the time I had been pushed, elbowed and indeed participated in the pushing, and elbowing onto the train, there were no seats left.
This was a problem. The train journey was 13 hours. It was 9pm at night and I was already tired.
The only option available to myself as well as 20 or so other passengers in the carriage, was to sit in the aisle – the walkway between the rows of seats. Just as I was getting myself relatively comfortable, thinking that maybe the journey wouldn’t be so bad after all, a Thai lady attempted to walk through the aisle to sell small bags of freshly chopped pineapple. Since she couldn’t get past all the people sitting in the aisle, we all had to stand up to enable her to ask the seated passengers if they wanted to buy pineapple.
No one did.
After she left our train carriage, we all sat back down again, only for her to show up again 10 minutes later!! To which we all had to stand back up again and let her pass.
And this scenario proceeded to take place throughout the night.
By 3am I was madder than a wet cat.
Why the heck is she forcing her pineapples on everyone?? No one is buying them!! Can’t she see that we are all trying to get some sleep??? Can’t she see that this is such a pain in the ass forcing us to get up every time she passes through the carriage???
And just as I was thinking these unkind thoughts, I looked at her. And I saw her for the first time.
She looked tired and worn out, her face sagged with exhaustion. She was barefoot and her feet were puffy from the heat. She gave me a weary smile. I smiled back. And as we exchanged smiles, I realised that she didn’t want to be futilely selling pineapples at 3am anymore than I wanted to be sitting in the middle of the aisle in that dusty, hot, dirty train.
It’s funny how some memories you lose and others you keep. That one I have kept and carried with me throughout my life. I think I kept it because that is one of the first and clearest times, I remember noticing my ego – the voice in my head that observes, judges, criticises and provides a running commentary throughout the day.
To be clear, no, I don’t hear voices.
We all have an ego. It’s that little saboteur in our mind that is our inner critic. Or to quote the Buddha – our mind is full of drunken monkey’s, flinging themselves from tree branches to tree branches, jumping around and chatting nonstop.
On that train, nearly 25 years ago, my monkey mind was in full force. Until I caught my drunken monkey in midmotion and told it to be quiet.
I am telling you this story because we need to be mindful of our drunken monkey’s, our saboteur, our ego or whatever you want to call it. We need to be mindful of what the ego is telling us, because quite often our ego will tell us to play small and will tell us that we are not good enough, deserving enough, smart enough, small enough, big enough, fill in the blank enough. We need to listen to this saboteur and ask ourselves if what it is saying to us is true. We need to listen to this voice to see what it is stopping us from doing and achieving.
We need to be mindful of the drunken monkey.
How do you do this? Watch to learn more…. youtu.be/MnDUbQe8ETw