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Learing how to let go

Updated on May 7, 2012


"Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don't." -- Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free


It’s the monkey on your back. The bottle in your hand. The crappy relationship you can't seem to leave. The drug addiction, or the food addiction, the choice is yours. I will even be so kind as to leave the last few choices open for you. Please feel free to fill in the blanks with any current demons you might be battling at the present moment.

A few months back I came across a little idiom of a story about a monk named Fadeng. According to a Ming-Dynasty document, there lived a Chan master called Fadeng in Qingliang in the Temple of Jinling. He was a bold and uninhibited person by nature and would not pay much attention to the stringent Buddhist code. As such, all monks in the temple looked down on him, expect for the abbot, who had great hopes for him.

Once, during a preaching lecture, the abbot asked all the monks in the temple: "who can take off the gold bell tied on the tiger's neck?" Thinking it over and over, no one could come up with an answer. At that moment, Fadeng happened to be passing by, and the abbot asked him the same question. Without hesitation, Fadeng answered: "let him who tied the bell on the tiger take it off." On hearing this, the abbot knew that Fadeng could understand the Buddhist doctrine and praised him in front of all the others. Later, Fedeng's answer "let him who tied the bell on the tiger take it off" was handed down as an idiom meaning "whoever started the trouble should end it".

Since the day that I stumbled across this story, I have not been able to get its intended message off my mind. The more I pondered the story, the more in depth the message that I received. The deeper I traveled into its meaning, the easier it became to identify with a girl named Alice. How deep did I want to travel down this particular rabbit hole? When I re-read what seems to be a simple little story, the idiom does not seem to do it justice. To me, the moral means so much more.

There are so many souls which I run into on a daily bases which seem to be trapped in their own self- inflicted prisons. If there truly is a hell, then I believe that it is here and now, and I am being witness to the many living in it. Whether their cells are carved out of anger, frustration, addiction, fear or greed, these prisoners are able to touch the walls and deal with the torture of their daily confinement.

Hard to believe is the person who does not realize that the glasses that they so desperately search for are perched right atop their own heads. The same can be said of the person who so desperately spends their time aimlessly looking for the imaginary key, which keeps them locked inside their imaginary cell.

Years ago without even being aware of it we had somehow made friends with this tiger. We held it so closely that, we were not only able to embrace it, but to place the bell around its neck. Now years later we fear, and are tortured by the very thing which we once loved so dearly. The sound of the bell rings loudly in our ears and in our daily lives to remind us of who we once where. We spend days and restless nights trying to figure out how to reclaim the soul which we entrusted to place around the beast’s neck.

We come up with useless ideas on how to retrieve what once belonged to us without losing ourselves in the process. Perhaps it's the fear of losing ourselves which we fear the most, or has that already happened? We ask advice from others in hopes that they will have the answer to our question, yet deep down inside we know what needs to be done to free ourselves of the beast once and for all.

The prison grows darker and the torture continues. We hopelessly pace and act as if we don't know the answer to this riddle. How do you remove the bell from around the tiger’s neck? How does one let go of the useless things in life. The people, the habits, the addictions, our thoughts and actions.

Don't come to me and ask me for the answer. Don't act as if you don't know how to remove the bell once and for all. It was none other than you, who put it there in the first place! In order to remove it however, you would have to face the facts that you made a mistake trusting this beast. You were wrong to have placed the bell there in the first place. You must also come to terms with the fact that some form of action needs to be taken and that’s the hardest step isn’t it? Try to take into consideration the things you would be capable of doing, without the contestant ringing of the bell to drown out your hopes and dreams..

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    • Maddambutterfly profile image
      Author

      Marie V Stephens 5 years ago from New Mexico

      Angela you made me laugh! Thanks...I'm so glad you liked it! :)

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 5 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      Okay this is now my favorite hub ever! Don't act as if you don't know how to remove the bell once and for all. It was none other than you, who put it there in the first place!

    • Maddambutterfly profile image
      Author

      Marie V Stephens 5 years ago from New Mexico

      Thank you so much for the kind words Girishpuri, and the inspiration to continue forward.

    • girishpuri profile image

      Girish puri 5 years ago from NCR , INDIA

      very good message, nice hub, keep writing

    • jeugenejohn profile image

      jeugenejohn 6 years ago from Kerala

      The beginning is really interesting. The end though hard to digest is true to the point.

    • Maddambutterfly profile image
      Author

      Marie V Stephens 6 years ago from New Mexico

      Thanks for the comments and the votes. This message was a pretty powerful one for me.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Love you message my dear! Hopefully many will read this and absorb the message. Voted way up!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Excellent point. Voted up and awesome for a simple answer to a difficult question.

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