Dandelions and the Monkey Trap

Stories and metaphors can be helpful in understanding ideas. This is a story taken from Marsha Linehan's skills manual that I tell to clients often and many find helpful: A man bought a new house and decided that he was going to have a very beautiful lawn. He worked on it every week, doing everything the gardening books told him to do. His biggest problem was that the lawn always seemed to have dandelions growing where he didn't want them. The first time he found dandelions, he pulled them out. But, atlas, they grew back. He went to his local gardening store and bought weed killer. This worked for some time, but after summer rains, alas, he found dandelions again. He worked and pulled and killed dandelions all summer. The next summer he thought he would have no dandelions at all, since none grew over the winter. But, then, all of the sudden, he had dandelions all over again. This time he decided the problem was with the type of grass. So he spent a fortune and had all new sod put down. This worked for some time and he was very happy. Just as he started to relax, a dandelion came up. A friend told him it was due to the dandelions in the lawns of his neighbors. So he went on a campaign to get all his neighbors to kill all their dandelions. By the third year, he was exasperated. He still had dandelions. So, after consulting every local expert and garden book, he decided to write the U.S. Department of Agriculture for advice. Surely the experts could help him. After waiting several months, he finally got a letter back. He was so excited. Help at last!!!!! He tore open the letter and read the following: "Dear Sir: We have considered your problem and have consulted all of our experts. After careful consideration, we think we can give you very good advice. Our advice is that you learn to love those dandelions."  (Linhean, 1993, p.94)

What are the dandelions in your life?

This story can serve as an illustration of  resistance and move one toward cultivating acceptance. Fighting reality or ourselves doesn't create change, it usually gets us caught/stuck. Another helpful story I use comes from John Kabit Zinn, Ph.D. book "Full Catastrophe Living". The story goes something like this:

They say there is a clever way to catch monkeys. A hunter can cut a hole into a coconut just big enough for a monkey to put his hand through. Placing two smaller holes in the other end and a wire through, one can secure the coconut to the base of a tree. They then place a banana inside the coconut, hide and wait. The monkey comes down the tree, puts his hand in and grabs hold of the banana. The hole is made so the monkey's hand can go in but the fist cannot get out. The monkey is caught! All the monkey has to do to be free is Let Go. However, it seems most monkeys don't let go.

Despite our intelligence our minds can do the same thing. When do you get caught in monkey mind? Struggling, stuck and refusing to let go... the first step toward freedom is noticing that we are grasping/clinging on. Then we can move toward letting go, acceptance and freedom.