Life with an Open Palm
One of my favorite stories to share with my clients is the old parable about how to catch a monkey. My Inner Animal Activist always pretends it's not a real story, so feel free to imagine with me.
It goes like this:
In the olden days the hunters would carve a hole into a coconut, empty it out and put some delicious fruit inside.
Then along came the monkey, slipped his hand in and grabbed for the fruit.
But with the fruit in his tight little fist, the monkey couldn’t pull his hand out of the coconut.
The tighter he held on, the harder it was for him to escape.
The irony here is that if he were to just release his tight grip on the fruit, he could free himself easily.
But it’s not just the monkeys that fall for this trap.
We all have a fruit or two that we hold onto so tightly that it gets us into trouble.
What’s your fruit?
Is it the money you grab for in the trap of a job that makes you miserable?
Is it a relationship you hold onto so tight that your get repeatedly hurt?
Is it a negative belief? For example, a belief that if you keep working harder you’ll be better off… while in the meantime you sag into exhaustion and miss out on the beautiful experiences in life?
We all have our fruits. There is so much fruit to entice us!
But that doesn’t mean we have to hold on in a white knuckled grip.
In fact, try this out now.
Imagine you have a delicious piece of fruit in your hand and make a tight fist to grip it tightly.
What’s happened to your imaginary fruit?
Imaginary juice may be pouring down your hand and a mealy mess between your fingers.
Give your hands a pretend wash and let’s try this again.
This time let the imaginary fruit rest gently in the palm of your hand – don’t squeeze it.
Let your fingers relax completely and see how the Earth’s gravity holds this fruit right in place.
Take a deep breath and feel the connection between your palm and the fruit.
You may notice two things: it’s still securely connected to your palm while at the same time it’s also more vulnerable.
It’s true that a bird could swoop down at any time and snag this precious fruit from your palm.
Or maybe someone you know and even trust could take it from your hand.
By loosening your grip you are inviting your whole being into a new state of vulnerability. Because of this vulnerability, you have a more pure and honest sense of your connection.
One of my fruits is the persona of perfection. Because I have a lot of Earth energy in my astrological chart and also because I am a therapist, people often assume I have my shit together.
It’s SUCH a tempting fruit for me to hold onto: this idea that I have got it all figured out.
I mean, here I am blogging about things I’ve figured out!
If I hold on too tightly to this idea, though, I taint what I know with arrogance – an unappetizing quality in a healer! I also make no room for growth since there’s nothing more to learn when you already know it all!
What helps me to loosen my grip on this idea is a little mantra I like to use: “Know nothing”.
[my daily reminder to "know nothing" on a post-it note]
When I know nothing, I soften that crisp outer layer of protective arrogance and connect to an underlying truth that I didn’t have the space to see before. I can live in a humble openness to the wisdom that surrounds me. I can live with an open palm.
It takes trust and courage to live your life with an open palm.
Trust that your fruit connection is there as long as it needs to be, and doesn't require any effort.
With courage, resolve yourself to live with the inherent risks that come with loving something deeply.
The alternatives? Connect to nothing or get yourself into trouble.
See if you can find, even LIVE, by the middle ground: Don’t hold on too tightly while still staying in connection. Live life with an open palm.
Adrienne Cress is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Registered Expressive Arts Therapist in Portsmouth, NH. She is also the co-founder of The Loveliness.