Celebrating Letting Go

Clark Mumaw
5 min readMay 11, 2023

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You don’t need to read this. It might be there is nothing here you can learn. Maybe you have already experienced letting go. And you are now learning firsthand the benefits of letting go.

If so the concept of letting go or surrendering will be forever burned into your consciousness. You may forget it and have to re-remember it. But you will never not understand it.

A long time ago I read about how to catch a monkey.

Monkey Parable

I always thought this was a very apt parable for us human beings.

In short, the story says that you cut a hole in a coconut and put a bunch of nuts in there. The monkey comes along and reaches in the coconut and grabs the nuts but then can’t pull his hand out of the coconut because he refuses to let go of the nuts. The monkey could be free if he just lets go but he won’t. This allows the poachers and trappers to approach and grab the monkey.

We humans have all these beliefs and material possessions that are kind of like nuts to the monkey. Where nuts are used to represent letting go of our beliefs and material possessions. We could just be free if we did but we won’t do it. Letting go seems like the end of the world.

We don’t know how we will go on if we let go of XYZ. For me, XYZ was a belief in certain rules and feeling duty-bound to abide by them. I collected Rules the way a squirrel gathers nuts. Every year feeling the need to gather a few more and squirrel them away. My rules were practical and based on only what worked.

But my rules accumulated in my mind and dominated my life. My life was so rule oriented that I could not respond well to unexpected circumstances. I would usually get upset when things did not transpire the way that I expected or wanted. This was an emotional explosion, mostly internal but sometimes external. I allowed this external upset to cause me an internal upset.

I describe this rule set as having painted myself into the corner of the room and the door out was on the opposite side. I was carrying a heavier load of nuts than I needed. It took a stroke for me to open up to a different way of doing things. I gradually began to see how the opposite side of rules of stone was being able to flow like water. At this point I began to understand the eastern message of the Tao (the way that can be named is not the way).

Not intellectually but from personal experience. I gradually began to understand that I could control very little or almost nothing. That I had an illusion of control not actual control. That my rule-making way of life had hit a dead end and I needed to turn away from it.

It occurs to me that Boot Camp in the military was a similar type of letting go. Although not a voluntary one. The idea being that we need to break a person down or empty them before we can fill them up with our own ideas and make them in our own image.

There was a story about Bruce Lee using the same idea to train students. Putting a glass full of Coca-Cola in front of them and then giving them a can of Coca-Cola and asking them to pour the can into the full glass. He used the analogy that the full Glass was their knowledge and his can of unopened Coca-Cola was his own knowledge. He said he could not pour his knowledge into them without them first letting go of the knowledge they had. That he could never be successful in training them unless they first let go.

That he would be wasting his time unless they agreed to let go and do things his way. And at times you would have to remind them it was time again to let go of something and they would not like it.

From my own experience, the letting go does happen more than once although the first time can be the biggest and hardest. We have a ton of unhealthy beliefs and attachments to things that are holding us back that we don’t even know about. More often our friends can point them out and we still can't see them.

The spiritual journey can be seen as a succession of discovering what we are attached to and figuring out how to let go. Some of these are very easy and happen without effort. Some of these are hard and require repeated attempts before we let go.

For example, one that has been hard for me and has required repeated events, is my desire to be “right”. I’m sure it’s partly an ego thing. But it is also partly a survival thing. Fear that making a mistake will lead to some unfixable situation that will cause me continued pain or suffering. Even when I know their attachment is irrational or unhealthy I can still have problems letting it go. Grrrrr

Another is surrendering to, … Not doing things “my way”. But even the hardest ones have a way of dissolving if you stay on the path of spiritual evolution growth. And while I have not gotten rid of either of these two completely, they are both significantly reduced in how much they pop up in my life as an issue. They no longer pop up as frequently as they used to, and I find it is easier to erase them and remove then when it does come up.

My gains can not be seen from day today. I usually only see my gains (my growth) when I look at things from year to year.

Spirit has never directly forced me to give up or let go of anything. It has always been voluntary. Actually most the time I have really had to work at it in order to let go.

It is possible to say that Spirit is indirectly helping me to let go because Spirit created the system that causes events to pop up that trigger my wanting to be right attachment.

But I could also say that I was not forced to come here. At least I find it healthy to believe that I was not forced to come here. It seems much healthier to believe that I came here because I wanted to grow.

But the biggest thing I have realized on this journey of letting go. Is that, there are ever more subtle levels and layers to letting go. This applies to most facets of the spiritual journey for me. Sure I can take breaks and turn my focus somewhere else and my growth journey stalls (and times get easier). But when I pick back up and turn my focus back to my spiritual practices the journey continues.

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Clark Mumaw

ex-computer networking technician, post stroke survivor, metaphysical explorer, philosopher, interested in human psychology and spirituality