Many years ago I heard an account of a certain type of monkey that would reach its hand into holes, like hollowed out tree trunks, to get food. When the hand went in it fit fine, but once it grasped the food and the hand formed a fist to hold on to it, the animal sometimes would not be able to get its hand back out through the hole. The monkey would literally die there, fist still in the hole, unwilling to let go of the item that had rendered it stuck.
The monkey’s story may sound a little ridiculous, and perhaps a little extreme, but we all occasionally have things we cling to. Whether it be a tangible object, perhaps something we consider our possession or property, or something less tangible like a relationship, a job, a state of health, or a belief, we have all at some point had our version of clutching on to something so tightly – being so unwilling to let go – that we have paid the price. We pay with more than just money; we pay with piece of mind (or lack there of), failed health, increased stress, physical pain, tattered relationships…the list goes on.
Sometimes we even cling to the things that we know are best for us to let go of. We all know people who identify themselves with their problems like a bad marriage or traumatic childhood. Even after the cause of the problem has passed, they cling to the story about it, the victimization of it – they manifest the symptoms and behavior of it as if it IS who they are. They cling to it because to let it go is like physical death…who are they without it?
The irony of letting go is that we have to let go in order to be open to receive. In a literal sense (though it works figuratively, as well), when we hold on to something our hand is closed and can only hold the one thing that fits. We are bound to what we are holding, eliminating the possibility for anything else. When we let go, our hand is open to receive whatever comes our way, opening us to limitless possibilities.
You may be thinking, “If I let go, I may lose it forever.” Consider for a moment:
Anything you can lose was never truly yours.
So, as you start into the new school year, sending the kids off to school (and possibly feeling a sense of loss as they go), I invite you to take inventory of where in your life you’re hanging on to something that isn’t serving you. Experiment with letting it go. Try it out for a day. You may be pleasantly surprised by the freedom it brings.