We all know there are people in the world who seem to have monkeyspheres big enough to include everyone. They go by many titles: saint, bodhisattva, guru, priest, priestess, sister, father, brother. Many of them are well known such as Mother Theresa and Gandhi. Many of them, of course, are not known but are simply going about living their lives in a quiet yet meaningful way, loving everyone they meet and blessings those that hurt them with their seemingly boundless capacity for forgiveness. How do they do it? It seems some folks are simply born with the capacity for a universal monkeysphere, while the rest of us must work harder at it.
The key seems to be learning that all peoples the world over are just like you and I. We are all born, we all age, we all must eat and visit the bathroom from time to time. We all get sick, we all laugh and we all love our families and friends. We all get scared and we all die. But, because of distance, language barriers, politics and cultural differences we have a very bad habit of forgetting these basic truths thus allowing our monkeyspheres to stagnate or, even worse, shrink. The following ideas might help us fight that bad habit and grow our monkeyspheres.
I think that plain old education can help us grow our monkeyspheres. Pick up an autobiographical book written by someone in a country strange to you and I bet your monkeysphere will grow a bit. Make it part of your daily routine to read international news and don't just gloss over the facts and figures. Use those visualization skills and put their tragedies and triumphs in your home and see if you can't cultivate some feeling for those strangers. Read up on the history of U.S. involvement in places like Afghanistan and Iran and learn that they have plenty of reason to hate us. It might be unpleasant to do these things but a large part of growing one's monkeysphere is learning of the hardships and sufferings of others.
I also think traveling the world is a great way to grow the monkeysphere. And I don't just mean traveling on prepackaged tours; get out there and meet the locals. One must get off the beaten path to truly learn and experience a place and its culture. Learn about their daily lives, visit the local shops and really talk to people. It never ceases to amaze me when I hear of folks who save up for years to visit a foreign country and then spend all their vacation time in a small Americanized hotel and entertainment complex, never actually venturing into said country. I mean, really, why bother? But that's a rant for another time...
Meditation probably ranks pretty high up on the list of methods used to grow the monkeysphere. Meditation quiets the humdrum, mundane mind letting us get in touch with our deepest selves. We can use meditation to reach our monkeysphere and allow it to breathe and grow. Once we get past our petty daily problems we can more clearly see the lives, minds and hearts of others and see that they, just like us, have monkeyspheres in need of growth. Unfortunately, not everyone is capable of achieving a deeply meditative state on their own, thus opening the possibility for some chemical help in this arena.
Now we get to perhaps the most controversial method of growing one's monkeysphere, that is, entheology, which requires more extensive discussion. Dictionary.com defines entheogen as: any substance, such as a plant or drug, taken to bring on a spiritual experience. So, entheology is the study and practice of using entheogens for spiritual purposes. Now, to some people this is simple drug abuse and is right out evil. But that's a pretty narrow-minded view based on the overly publicized accounts of the idiots of the world and their stupid drug-related exploits. Let me put it this way: there's a big difference between simply getting high and receiving the blessings of entheogens. Some people take 'shrooms and spend a day being totally fucked up, laughing like a moron while listening to tunes. And I'm not saying there's necessarily anything wrong with that; I can think of many more destructive and pointless ways to spend a day. What I am saying is that that is a lot different from someone fasting for a couple days, purifying themselves and their ritual space and smoking salvia divinorum to bring about a deeply meditative state as a means of celebrating a life change or learning to cope with it. See the difference?
Now, of course, this method of growing one's monkeysphere isn't for everyone. Many entheogens are illegal and some are potentially deadly in the wrong hands. I think of it like this: some people can't handle alcohol, some people can't handle tobacco, or gambling or sex without ruining their lives, the lives of others and perhaps killing themselves. The same goes for entheogens and drugs of all sorts. Some people cannot handle them and will destroy themselves if given a chance. But many of us can maintain healthy relationships with entheogens and will, in fact, learn a lot about ourselves, the world around us and the human race itself through their responsible ritual use. I'm by no means an expert, having had only one hallucinatory experience via datura stramonium, but I can say this: I learned a lot from that single experience and will probably repeat the ritual in the future. That's not to say it was enjoyable or a big party. "Spiritual experience" does not necessarily translate to "fun". In fact, it can be very unpleasant physically, emotionally and psychically. There's no real way to be sure what you'll get. The only certainty is that, if you approach the entheogen with reverence, especially if it's a plant, you will learn and grow and change. In other words: you will benefit and your monkeysphere will grow.
So there you have it: my ideas for growing our monkeyspheres. I tried to look at the problem logically by making a list and expanding on it. I have no doubt that there are other valid methods and would be delighted to hear what my readers think of my suggestions. Would you use any of the above methods to grow your monkeysphere? Have you already incorporated some of them into your spiritual practice? What kind of results have you had? Have you gained wisdom from them? What other methods would you suggest?