What we focus on grows. I’ve written about this in my book, “Pathfinding: Seven Principles for Positive Living.”
An example of this is The Hundredth Monkey phenomenon. In 1952, on the Japanese island of Koshima, scientists fed monkeys sweet potatoes, which were dropped in the sand. The monkeys loved the sweet potatoes, but found the gritty sand unpleasant.
An 18-month-old female monkey named Imo solved the problem by washing the potatoes in a nearby stream. She taught this trick to her family.
Between 1952 and 1958, all the young monkeys followed Imo’s lead and learned to wash the sandy sweet potatoes to make them more palatable. Only the adults who imitated their children learned this social improvement. Other adults, stuck in the old ways, continued eating the dirty sweet potatoes.
Legend has it that in the autumn of 1958, when the sun rose one morning, there were 99 monkeys on Koshima Island that had learned to wash their sweet potatoes. Later that morning, the inevitable happened: The 100th monkey learned to wash potatoes.
Then something amazing happened. By that evening, almost every monkey in the tribe was washing the sweet potatoes before eating them. It appeared that the added energy of the 100th monkey somehow created an ideological breakthrough – washing the sweet potatoes became a cultural behavior rather than an individual choice!
Then the scientists observed something even more amazing: The habit of washing sweet potatoes jumped over the sea: Colonies of monkeys on other islands and the mainland began washing their sweet potatoes!
It appears that when a certain critical number achieves a new awareness, this new awareness may be communicated from mind to mind. Although the exact number may vary, The Hundredth Monkey phenomenon suggests that there is a point at which, if only one more person engages in a new awareness, a field is strengthened so that this awareness is absorbed by many more people, almost simultaneously.
One of my late father’s stories expresses this concept wonderfully:
“During World War II, I found myself stationed at Christmas Island in the Pacific for a short period of time. It so happened that it was the time of Jewish High Holy Days. I was leading the services in a little grass shack with open sides that served as a chapel. It seated about fifty people and we had about fifteen Jewish attendees.
“Towards the conclusion of the service, I looked up and there to my astonishment were about fifty natives who sat in the chapel and several dozen more standing outside looking in. They appeared to be interested and respectful.
“After the service was over, I asked their leader if he understood the service. He said he did not, but was told by the missionaries that whenever there was a service in the chapel, it was good and they should attend.”
When my father told me this story, he pointed out what a beautiful thing it is for people to attend a religious ceremony without knowing or understanding what they are listening to.
He said, “These people were seeking the spirituality of a religious service. If they could feel a warmth and spiritual uplift from something they didn’t understand, think about how much easier it is for knowledgeable people to get a spiritual uplift when they surround themselves with people who practice loving kindness and brotherly love.”
This high frequency of energy is contagious. When I think about The Hundredth Monkey, I realize how much energy we transfer when we learn, model and take action. When we are immersed in positive energy, we can tell immediately when something does or does not feel right, and it becomes much easier to make the right choices.
Editor’s note: While many scientific studies have discredited The Hundredth Monkey phenomenon, it continues to have believers.
PATRICIA RASKIN is the owner of Raskin Resources Productions, a media host, coach and an award-winning radio producer and business owner. She is on the board of directors of Temple Emanu-El, in Providence. She is a recipient of the Providence Business News 2020 Leaders and Achievers award.