most of our suffering is caused by our inability to notice that we are lost as we swing from thought to thought and are caught in the conviction that ‘what’ we believe is true.
there’s a story used when teaching mindfulness about the way monkeys are trapped in southeast asia: a coconut is cut in half, a small hole is made in one side that is only big enough for its hand, and then a banana put on the other side. as you can imagine, it becomes a trap when the monkey inserts it’s hand into the coconut to grab the banana and, when confronted with being caught, won’t let go.
getting caught is easy!
sometimes this life stuff is hard – sometimes it feels thick and sludgy in ways that feel like i’m sinking into my thoughts. i could tell you about the big stuff – the mudslides – about my mother diagnosed with dementia, or my dear friend with stage four pancreatic cancer, or how my husband’s job was eliminated – but often, it’s the mud puddles of everyday living that come together as a mighty trap!
i felt this way this afternoon as i was readying myself to attend to my class lesson – to all the wonderful feelings and images that were coming together, excited to see how this energy would help me grow; i know that if i grow, it’s in response to your growth. often, this is not visible to the naked eye, but, immediately, in your willingness to be here, reading this blog, and in our connection as humans, it’s clear that we are brought here to learn how to be in life fuller … to make it feel less hard. we affect each other!
all this lit me up – to let it all spill out, to ooze and explode and dance and rain all over me. insideour home was joyfully full: my beautiful sister in law was visiting with her spunky friend, my son now home from an all summer internship excitedly editing film, and my husband managing a business call that might be the ‘lead’, all the while the wi-fi dude was pulling stuff out of our wall. it was all so good and so bad – all inspiring me to write, but also awakening a part inside that needed complete alone time – so i escaped to the upper deck off my master bedroom, only to find my husband continuing his conversation on the lower deck.
irritation screamed in my head, ‘I need space!’ i could no longer elude the feeling of feeling trapped. the pain made it clear that the small part of me was clinging onto that banana and it was saying, “i can’t create unless i am alone and you’ve trapped me in an inability to create.”
however, without the story of ‘i’m unworthy,’ or ‘i can’t’ what was left? what was true?
letting go can make us unstoppable!
i like to be alone – it inspires my creativity – but, clinging to this ‘idea’ – this condition of ‘i need to be alone in order to create’ was simply not true! my thought was causing my pain and i needed to let go of what it was to allow it to become – to change, to shift.
the movement between floors in my home allowed me the space to clearly see what this feeling – this irritation – was telling me: the clues were everywhere!
- let go of taking this personally and cultivate courage: nothing i could think or do could change the circumstances, and, though my family wasn’t aware that i needed space, that didn’t mean that i was undeserving of the space or that they didn’t value what I do i needed the courage to face what was really going on.
when we take things personally, we take on the story of others. though, they are included in our own, we are here to attend to our personal purpose.
- let go of the need to be someone else and cultivate possibility: i wanted to use this moment to teach – to be a teacher – but the base of who i am is a person having this joyful experience – of being surrounded by people that i love. on one level life is personal as a fingerprint – unique only to you – and on another, as impersonal as ‘finger’ – one does not consider the other as a part but come together as a whole.
looking toward the path of others or getting lost in some idea of who we need to be, leads us away from freedom, right into the coconut trap.
- let go of the idea of perfection and cultivate acceptance: yeah, i like to create a certain way – to be alone, sing and dance and inspire the writing gods that be – but this is not the only way. perfection is the ability to accept imperfection – to see the perfection in that acceptance. we have this idea of ‘how’ and ‘when’ because we want to be certain, however, when we become certain that everything is useful, there are no boundaries of how life should look or has to be.
freedom is based on qualities that are not certainty based – being spontaneous and in flow with life – and allowing the space to be ‘who we are’ constantly becoming is the perfection that allows for freedom.
- let go of making others responsible for my happiness and cultivate freedom: i am responsible for communicating my needs. and to do so, i need to know who i am – to know what i need – because everyone else is attending to their life, their own inner story – working it out, forgetting and falling all over the place.
when we make others responsible for our happiness, then life feels unfair, hard, unequal and when we take ownership, we can see what is really going on under, over and around this experience and take action.
freedom begins as a state of mind
the fear that we will loose control and that we will be overcome with pain is simply not true. as humans, this experience is very conditioned, but as beings (as spacious possibility), we are adaptable, and flexible. no form created by the mind can contain us.
understanding that we are not our thoughts or these emotions allows us to recognize them so that we can observe them and guide them. it is the practice and process of mindfulness – recognizing, accepting, investigating and noticing experience – that trains this muscle, this ability to be utterly present with the information of experience before we become trapped in some fearful meaning – suffering in the belief that this experience is ‘who’ we are.
letting go can feel terrifying, like falling off a cliff and scrambling for something to hold onto. but when we let go of the idea that we are falling, when we accept that we can fall and survive, then all sorts of shifts happen – bugs bunny floats on by snacking on a carrot and we forget we are falling! it’s all relative!
now, i can’t promise falling is going to be easy, or that there won’t some discomfort, but if you come honestly, without judgment, and do your best to see clearly, i think you’ll be surprised to find that holding onto that banana was what was keeping you from your unstoppable self all along!