Sunday, September 9, 2012

Letting Go - a lesson from a chimpanzee

Letting go is simply making a choice: to no longer allow the beliefs and attitudes that prevent us from experiencing the joy of the moment, to continue to have their grip on our feelings and behaviours and to imprison our thoughts.

A few days ago I happened to come across an old classic film from the 1930’s, Tarzan Escapes, and there is one particular scene I would like to share with you. The scene opens with a shot of a box of raisins and then cuts to a shot of Tarzans pet chimpanzee, Cheetah, enjoying himself stuffing raisins into his mouth.

After consuming those raisins that had been scattered about Cheetah looks around and moves very quickly over to an opaque vase-like container, and peers quite curiously inside. Cheetah then sticks his hand inside to grab hold of what he had seen. You then see cheetah jumping up and down to and fro frantically screeching with his hand stuck inside the container. You can see very clearly that there is a rope tied around the lip of the container and no matter where Cheetah tries to run or how hard he attacks the container, bangs at it, jumps up and down, screeches, tries to shake it, pull and tug at it he is unable to free himself from its grip. The camera then pans the length of the rope to reveal that it is fastened, quite securely, to a tree. With Cheetah now off camera not only can you hear his screeching, you can still see the movement and tension on this rope from his frantic struggle to escape the trap. Still screeching and struggling off camera, the scene fades to Cheetah inside a cage holding onto the crossbars, jumping up and down. Now confined, the camera cuts in and out several times to show Cheetah now struggling, and fighting with this cage within which he has now become imprisoned.

Now, at any point in time, could Cheetah have actually escaped? Of course he could. When he tightened his fingers around the raisins, his fist became larger than the hole in the container. All he had to do was to let go of the raisins. But Cheetah only knows he doesn’t want to let go of the raisins and that his hand is stuck. He doesn't see the connection and he cannot change his perspective. As a result, Cheetah loses more than just his raisins…he loses his freedom!

It’s not just chimpanzees who get trapped by what they are unwilling to let go of.  We too, get trapped, emotionally. We are trapped because we are unwilling to let go of something, some belief or attitude,  which is working against us all the while whining, fighting, complaining, struggling and tugging at it. While, most of us would not be tempted by raisins or sweets in a container, it’s amazing the things we will hang on to, rather than let go of them so we can move on. This, then becomes an obvious example of a situation in which our complex, conflicting thoughts and feelings are providing the framework for our behaviour.

Life is a series of choices about how to behave. Often we make these choices automatically, without really being aware of what we are choosing or why. But no matter what we do in any aspect of our life, it is still a choice we have made. And, of course, in making choices we also make mistakes. It is from those mistakes that we learn about ourselves and others. And we learn how to make different choices next time if we remain open to the process of making mistakes. But one thing stops us learning from choices and that is fear. Fear of judgement and criticism, which is usually felt as shame or guilt.

We have so many beliefs that prevent us from being in the here and now, from being content and peaceful within. The most important point to understand here is that making a choice is not making a judgement. It is just saying, ‘I choose not to behave in this way, at this moment’.

So, Stop and be still!. Just as when you stop stirring and shaking river water, the mud settles and it’s innate clarity emerges. If we could stop struggling and tugging irritably at the knots of our own entangled thoughts and feelings, and choose to let go for the moment, there would be more room for things to fall into place and for what really matters to us in the long run to make itself clear.

Now Let us Go Into the Silence......
and Go On In Full Faith
Donald Carty

No comments:

Post a Comment