Letting go vs. clinging : our mental banana traps
“Letting go”. 2 words which carry an automatic negative meaning such as “giving up”, cowardice and even failure. To let go without resisting with a good fight is simply not acceptable in our secular Western society. Obviously there are situations where resisting and fighting are totally justified such as defending a good cause or defending your position when facing wrongdoing for whatever moral, ethical and socio-professional reasons.
A part these extremes,“ letting go” that is “accepting as it is” should be considered.
The Buddha said many times “ I am teaching only two things: suffering and end of suffering”.
If we are clinging, that is if we do not let go a situation/ feeling that is out of our control or without a solution or both, suffering in whatever form is unavoidable because we will carry our emotional struggles day after day.
2 main causes of suffering and 1 culprit?
We talk about them many times but it is useful to refresh our memories.
1) The main sources of our suffering are internal coming from our ego-driven mind.
They are endless desires, endless hatred, on going expectations and illusions.
Pre-set mind full of beliefs, ideas, judgment and opinions.
Socio-professional behaviors and actions.
All of them cause emotional and physical suffering such as anxiety, anger, fear, resentment, doubt, etc.
2) The other sources of suffering, far less frequent, are external such as loss of a loved one, loss of job, etc.
Whatever sources and effects of suffering, the main culprit is mental clinging / grasping or attachment to the sources of suffering and its effects without being able to disconnect from them. This is a normal reaction since the ego is a fighter.
As long as the mind 1) grasps causes and effects of suffering 2) don’t want to accept them and 3) don’t want to let go there is suffering. On the opposite: when the ego mind releases its grasp, inner peace will appear for most of us.
The banana trap:
A classic monkey trap is a box with a small hole on the side and a large banana inside. The monkey puts his hand in the box and grabs the banana. Because of his grasp, he cannot remove his hand through the tiny hole and get caught. Our mind is acting like this box and our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and judgments are our mental bananas. We are trapped by zillions of self-made bananas because we –our ego–do not want or cannot release them.
As described before, the list of our “mental bananas” that we grab and refuse to let go is quasi endless.
Also too often we use, subconsciously, our mental banana traps for self-identification and , if we are not grabbing and use them all the time as crutches, our identity may suffer. This is pure self-inflicted suffering!
How can we be freed from these mind traps and, eventually, achieving serenity?
Clinging will always brings dissatisfaction, unhappiness and restlessness. This is a natural law.
Since these endless sources of clinging are ego-driven mind, the only strategy is to control its mental process. Learning to pay attention, accept and let go our bananas traps becomes key. This is why the practice of mindfulness meditation is so important.
Any grasping and untamed mind will produce suffering. On the opposite side, a non-clinging mind may bring serenity.
If you try to grab and hold a red coal, it will burn you. Same painful effect will occur with our mental clinging.
The key is to realize that “letting go” is not a sign of weakness or failure, especially when there is no possible solutions and when we are not in control of a given situation.
Imagine that you are angry against someone. If you carry your anger 24/7, it will grow like wild fire because
anger – the fire- is fed by our powerful ego acting like the blowing wind.
If you accept your ego-driven anger, there is a good chance that you will be able to let it go your anger because your ego is now under controland cannot fuel your anger any more.
Only after controlling your anger it is OK to look for a rational solution if there is one.
Letting go is perceived by the ego as a shameful weakness and this is why it is so counter-intuitive and difficult to accept and practice. But, if you practice this mental release you will discover a totally new world.
Write down a short list of your emotional and situational “banana traps” that you cannot control then:
First: pay attention, accept and let go your most destructive negative feeling using mindfulness meditation. Need daily practice.
Second: pick one of your bad situations that you can accept and let go because you do not have any control or because there is no solution to look for. The only solution to a situation that we dislike and which has no solution is let it go. If we cannot let go, we are trapped with them like the mockey with it banana for day, months and even years. This is pure self- inflecting suffering and this is not what Zen is teaching.