how to let go

The Story of the Monkey

There is a story about how to catch a monkey in Africa and India. You grab a jar or vase with a thin neck, and place peanuts in the bottom of it.

The monkey comes along and reaches his hand into the vase to grab the peanuts. His hand becomes a fist to hold onto the peanuts, but then he can’t get his hand back out of the jar (because of the thin neck). He is trapped.

He has to decide: to keep the peanuts in his hand and remain trapped, or to let go of the peanuts and become free.

We are all like the monkey.

In reality we are free, but we refuse to let things go that no longer serve us, and so we become stuck.

We won’t let go of resentment and bitterness towards ex-partners, ex-friends or ex-bosses.

We won’t let go of deep regrets, embarrassing memories and painful mistakes that we re-live over and over in our heads.

We won’t let go of our obsession with what other people think of us, which keeps us from living the life we want to live, not the one other people expect of us.

We won’t let go of listening to that voice of fear building up nightmares inside our head.

We won’t let go of our quest for perfectionism, instead of getting things done and maintaining balance.

We won’t let go of our addiction to blaming other people and circumstances for our problems, instead of realising we are ultimately responsible for our lives.

We are free, but we let ourselves be bound by hate, anger, disappointment, false beliefs, fears, expectations and attachments.

We forget we have the choice to release our grip and let things go.

Where in your life are you acting like the monkey? What issues, regrets or beliefs are taking away from your freedom? What peanuts do you need to let go of in order to feel free?

Exercise: How to Let Go

My philosopher teacher once told a story about his 4-year-old son. He would pick up a rock, hold it up to the light, and marvel at it with awe in his eyes. Then, suddenly, he would toss it over his shoulder, not looking back to see where it landed. The rock had gone from his consciousness before it had even hit the ground.

This story inspired a trick I have used when I am struggling to let go – of heavy emotions, stinging words, disappointing results, regrets, cringe-worthy memories.

On my walk home, I would pick up a rock and examine it closely. I would squeeze it tightly in my fist, pouring all my negative emotional energy about the specific incident into it.

Once every last drop of bad energy was in the rock, I would toss it over my shoulder – not looking back to see where it landed, devoted to dropping it from my mind.

Most days, I could literally feel the shackles lift off me – I felt taller, lighter and more joyful.

If the issue came back to mind later (the ego is a persistent little thing), I would remember the rock, take a deep breath, and turn my attention to something else. Magic.

Give the rock exercise a try next time you’re struggling to let go.

Sidenote: There are some issues in life that we can’t let go of without unpacking and sorting through them a little first. This trick works best with something you know you need to let go of, but you can’t break free.

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