Seeking Connection: Don’t get trapped, just let go

Published 1:43 pm Saturday, April 22, 2017

By Erin Smith

Sun columnist

There is an Indian parable about a village that was overrun with monkeys.

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They would dig holes in the thatched roofs, eat the crops, throw feces at the chickens and steal fruit from the market tables. But they were too quick to catch.

So one night, the villagers drilled holes in coconuts, filled those coconuts with nuts and then tied the coconuts to trees.

At night, the monkeys shoved their hands down into the coconuts and grabbed a handful of nuts. The problem arose when they tried to slide their arms out of the coconut, as their fist would no longer fit up through the hole. They remained like that, hour after hour, unwilling to surrender the nuts.

In this way, their desire became their downfall. They were never truly trapped, except by their own desirous greed.

When the villagers awoke, they simply knocked the monkeys unconscious. Then they drove a truck full of monkeys deep into the jungle, where they released them, too far into the forest to ever find their way back to the village.

We are so like those monkeys, trapped by our own judgments, patterns and material desires. We adopt a world-view (hey, nuts are awesome!) and refuse to let it go, even when it no longer serves us.

Addiction is the most obvious example of this mentality, but we cling to all sorts of things and ideas that ultimately rob us of joy and peace.

Our nuts might be food, a toxic relationship, social media, alcohol, extra weight, a dead-end job, gossip, exercise, even prayer. Any habit or attachment awarded too much mental real estate can become a prison. If we use it to check out instead of dial into the moment, then it’s a nut.

Often, we are fully aware it’s time for a change. Yet we still clench our fists around the familiar.

To make room for the physical, mental and spiritual good stuff, we have to be willing to let go of those things that drain our vibrant energy.

Like cutting back a flowering tree, we lop off the unnecessary to reveal the beauty. The process of elimination lays bare the essence. But letting go is hard.

We stubbornly believe peace lies in the comfortable, the familiar. Then we relinquish those nuts for just a bit, and are amazed at the lovely energetic shift that occurs.

My own nut is the sloth habit I adopted this winter. The winter has been a much-needed cocoon for me, a chrysalis time of great stillness, introspection, resting, aloneness.

My 2016 was turbulent and amazing, but left me depleted and barren, nothing left to give, no words to share. Like a caterpillar’s insatiable appetite, it took, took, took.

To rebuild, I spent a lot of time in intentional stillness, breathing, reading, writing, pondering and stretching my legs up one wall or another.

My hikes got shorter as my writing sessions got longer. My pasta portions got larger and more frequent. My yoga practice consisted mostly of restorative poses and deep breathing. It was exactly what I needed to heal and feel grounded again.

But too much stillness has left my body a little weak, padded too much from comforting carbohydrates.

Our minds need stillness. But our bodies need movement. My gut keeps whispering that it’s time to regain my strength, my cardiovascular health. Not to look good in a dress, but to feel good in my body. Not to complete a challenge or competition or charity race, but to be a role model to my daughter, to run beside her, instead of behind her. Idleness is a nut I need to surrender.

How do we recognize our nuts in the first place? Letting go is a process, a conscious yielding to a higher power. We must consistently practice to make it a habit.

To practice letting go, get quiet and welcome your thoughts. When you notice a thought, simply let that thought go. A moment later, another thought replaces it, a plan, a worry, the lyrics to a long-forgotten song. Let those go too.

Don’t force it or try too hard. Every time a thought arises, gently and lovingly let it go. The good, the bad, the ugly…let go of all of it. You might even image your fist opening to release the thoughts.

Do this enough and you will start to have flashes of peace and clarity, small moments where you are dialed in to the divine.

When your nuts reveal themselves, compassionately attend to them.

As the Buddha teaches, “In the end these things matter most. How well did you love?

“How fully did you love?

“And how deeply did you learn to let go?”

Erin Smith is the owner of the OM place in Winchester, the author of “Sensible Wellness for Women” and the online host of a yoga and mindfulness channel for Eppic Films. When she’s not standing on her head, she enjoys being a wife, mother, dancer, reader, flower sniffer, guitar player and wine drinker. Send her a shout out at or play along at