Monkey Trap

Have you ever heard the Asian and Indian folktales about the monkey trap?  Here’s Urban Dictionary’s definition:


1. A trap to capture various monkeys used around the world which consists of a staked container with a hole cut into it just wide enough for a monkey to stick it’s empty hand into (like a coconut).  The container is baited with something attractive to the monkey. The monkey reaches for the bait (often a banana or rice) but then won’t release the bait and therefore cannot pull its hand out of the trap with bait in hand. It is then captured.

Do you know what a monkey’s fist is?  It’s a type of knot named because it looks somewhat like the clenched fist of a primate.  Usually it contains a spherical object in the center and is tied at the end of a rope to serve as a weight, making it easier to throw. It’s originally a sailor’s knot, which helped throw a rope from ship to dock.  They used to tie these knots around cannonballs.  That’s one secure knot!

monkeys fist

moneys fist knot

These definitions show us two things about monkeys:  1)  Monkeys can easily become obsessed with something without realizing there are easier ways to get what they want and 2) They have extremely tight grips.

In the case of the monkey’s trap, the hole is made big enough for the monkey to stick his open hand into, but it’s not big enough for the monkey’s closed fist to take out.  The monkey wants the food too badly and doesn’t understand that if he just let go, he would be free!

I have a book that my mom gave to me called, “The Book of Awakening” by Mark Nepo.  It has daily readings and different topics.  The author’s intention for the book was to find inspiring quotes, scripture and wisdom that speak of “spirit and friendship, about our ongoing need to stay vital and in love with this life, no matter the hardships we encounter.”  They’re pretty encouraging thoughts from a cancer survivor!

For his March 7th entry, Nepo discusses these monkey traps; how as long as the animal maintains its grasp on the rice, it’s a prisoner of its own making.  The author relates it to a relationship and how he so wants this love to work that he holds onto it for dear life.  Then he realizes that love is all around him, and if he just lets go of the love he cannot have, he allows himself to accept the love of others that has been there all along.

He poses this question:
What is my rice?  What is keeping me from opening my grip and letting it go?


My mom and I discussed this predicament and various things going on in her life.  It’s so easy to become über-obsessed with holding on to something we think is going to be the end-all-be-all for our lives.  But if it distracts us and keeps us from all the other good that surrounds us, then it’s not really worth holding on to.  She said, “My prayer is that God will show me the rice in my life.  I don’t want to hold on to anything that is preventing me from walking in the fullness He has for me.”  Yeah.  That’s my prayer too.

So, what’s in your fist?


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