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Lions Roar : Nov 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2007 68 THE PRACTICE OF LETTING GO As you meditate, keep bringing your attention back to what is happening in the moment: the breath, a feeling in the body, a thought, an emotion, or even awareness itself. As we become more mindful and accepting of what’s going on, we find—both in meditation and in our lives—that we are less controlled by the forces of denial or addiction, two forces that drive much of life. In the meditative process we are more willing to see what- ever is there, to be with it but not be caught by it. We are learn- ing to let go. In some Asian countries there is a very effective trap for catching monkeys. A slot is made in the bottom of a coconut, just big enough for the monkey to slide its hand in, but not big enough for the hand to be withdrawn when it’s clenched. Then they put something sweet in the coconut, attach it to a tree, and wait for the monkey to come along. When the mon- key slides its hand in and grabs the food, it gets caught. What keeps the monkey trapped? It is only the force of desire and attachment. All the monkey has to do is let go of the sweet, open its hand, slip out, and go free—but only a rare mon- key will do that. And similarly, the twentieth-century Japanese Zen teacher Kosho Uchiyama speaks of “opening the hand of thought.” Another quality that develops in meditation is a sense of humor about our minds, our lives, and our human predica- ment. Humor is essential on the spiritual path. If you do not have a sense of humor now, meditate for a while and it will come, because it’s difficult to watch the mind steadily and sys- tematically without learning to smile. Someone once asked Sasaki Roshi whether he ever went to the movies. “No,” he re- plied. “I give interviews.” Some years ago I was on retreat with the Burmese medi- tation master Sayadaw U Pandita. He is a strict teacher, and everyone on the retreat was being very quiet, moving slowly, and trying to be impeccably mindful. It was an intense time of training. At mealtime, we would all enter the dining room silently and begin taking food, mindful of each movement. One day, the person on line in front of me at the serving table lifted up the cover on a pot of food. As he put it down on the table, NOV 64-69.indd 68 NOV 64-69.indd 68 8/29/07 2:19:47 PM 8/29/07 2:19:47 PM