(This is a story I shared back in March on social media, but I thought it’d be of benefit to elaborate on it a bit and share it here as well.)
There’s a story that Deborah Adele shares in her book, “The Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice” that illustrates perfectly how the things we hold on to—physical, as well as mental and emotional—hold us captive.
She talks about the ancient process of capturing monkeys in India, where capturers place a banana in a small cage with bars just wide enough for the monkeys to fit their arms through but too narrow to get the banana out. The monkeys, being outside of the cage the entire time free to go as they wish whenever they wish, put their little arms through the bars and grab the banana, fighting furiously yet futilely to get it out of the cage. As the capturers approach, instead of letting go of the banana, the monkey continues to cling onto it, allowing the capturers to easily take the monkey into captivity.
Like the monkey with the banana, we are imprisoned by anything we hold on to too tightly—whether it’s material, physical, emotional or mental:
- The countless tchotchkes and trinkets that clutter our homes.
- The stuff crammed into storage units “just in case”.
- The expectations we impose upon ourselves to “keep up with the Joneses”.
- A soul sucking friendship/relationship.
- The grudges we hold toward people.
- The anger toward the jerk who cut us off in traffic.
- The anxiety over things we have absolutely no control over.
- The tension and stress in our bodies and minds resulting from holding on to everything listed above.
None of the things mentioned above really add value to our lives in the grand scheme of things, yet by holding on to them they hold us captive by demanding our time and energy to maintain them (as I previously discussed here).
Take a moment to think about those things in your life that don’t really add value, yet you have a hard time letting go of.
How does holding on to that stuff make you feel? Tense? Weighed down? Trapped?
Now think about why you’re holding on to those things.
How do you think it would feel to let some of those things go? Liberating? Terrifying? A little of both?
It can be difficult to let go of things we’ve become attached to. What we don’t realize, however, is the very holding on to the stuff we are so fearful of letting go of can cause even more suffering—not only from the time and energy it demands to maintain them, but by that same time and energy being taken away from the things that do add value to our lives.
What if we mustered up the courage to release our grasp on some of the stuff that doesn’t add value to our lives to make more room for the stuff that does? It doesn’t have to be some life-changing gesture of grandeur—start with the easier stuff and see how it feels to release that attachment.
That little clinging monkey resides within all of us to a certain degree. But with some practice, perhaps we’ll find that as we learn to shed the weight of the stuff that hold us down, the easier it will become to “let go of the banana”.