Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Key to Letting Go

In some Asian countries there is a very effective trap for catching monkeys. A slot is made in the bottom of a coconut, just big enough for the monkey to slide its hand in, but not big enough for the hand to be withdrawn when it’s clenched. Then they put something sweet in the coconut, attach it to a tree, and wait for the monkey to come along. When the monkey slides its hand in and grabs the food, it gets caught. What keeps the monkey trapped? It is only the force of desire and attachment. All the monkey has to do is let go of the sweet, open its hand, slip out, and go free—but only a rare monkey will do that. And similarly, the twentieth-century Japanese Zen teacher Kosho Uchiyama speaks of “opening the hand of thought.”

The truth is we all have obsessions that trap us.  Our work, our stuff, our money, our experiences, our hobbies, our romances, our status, and our entertainment (at least we think all these things are ours) can all be things we believe will give us identity and satisfaction. When we hold this belief, we become enslaved like a monkey in a coconut.

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