Letting Go of the Banana


As the story goes, the ancient way to catch a monkey was to place a banana in a narrowly barred cage, and leave it in the forest. The monkey comes, sticks its hand into the cage and grabs the banana. But the banana is too big to fit back out through the bars of the cage. As the hunter approaches, the monkey won’t let go of the banana, and thus is captured, soon finding itself inside the cage, right along with the desired fruit.

Do you become imprisoned by latching on to things you want, think you need, and can’t let go of? For sure! Maybe it’s an insistence that your partner do or say a certain thing. Maybe it’s an object you desire. Maybe it’s an outcome, or a plan. Often the things we hold on to for dear life have to do with how other people will act. And other people, as you may have noticed, have their own ideas about that.

If we can take a deep breath and become aware of what we are clutching, we might find the courage to ease our grip, making space for all manner of other possible outcomes. In our desires and our anxieties, it is all too easy to focus on the one thing we deem essential, and to rigidify around that, shitting out everything else.

if you want to last,
hold on to nothing. If you want
to know love, let in everything.
If you want to feel the presence
of everything, stop counting the
things that break along the way.

- Mark Nepo

Anything we cling to begins to become problematic. The person who cannot discard anything becomes a hoarder, unable to utilize all the space around them. The person who harbors resentments, becomes bitter, unable to enjoy relationships. The person who insists things be a certain way cannot enjoy them when they inevitably aren’t. 

The invitation is to pack lightly for this journey in life. To carry as little as possible, making it our business to live deeply, openheartedly engaging fully in every moment, not trying to stow things away for the future, or hold on to things from the past. Now is the place to live with open palms.

Notice your breath for a moment; your willingness to release this breath makes space for the next breath to come in. We do this countless times a day — let go and receive, let go and receive. Cultivating the breath in relationships, in our expectations and desires can pave the way to living with more ease and enjoyment. The natural cycle is: If you let go, you will receive. It takes trust to do this, and a willingness to experience the breathless moment suspended between exhale and inhale. Here we feel our vulnerability, and are reminded of our mortality. 

And paradoxically, it is this awareness that perhaps most powerfully informs the wisdom of letting go. Someday we will have to let go completely, and nothing we are grasping for today can go with us. What better use of our precious days to revel in what is and not allow ourselves to be imprisoned by desires or regrets about what is not. 

Take a deep breath, let it out, and let go of the banana!