Do you know the fable about the monkey and the mango tree? It’s a lesson in Asteya, or “non-stealing”.
The monkey’s favorite mango tree was in the village near the jungle where the monkey lived.
This mango tree seemed to always be covered in big mangoes– so big, the monkey could barely hold a single mango in his hand.
And the mangoes were so colorful, fragrant and juicy that the monkey dreamed about them at night when he lay sleeping in his treehouse.
The only problem with this mango tree was that it was enclosed in a garden behind a very tall wall.
The only way monkey could pick his favorite mangoes was to scale the wall to the top, and, in doing so, the monkey usually slipped off the wall at least a couple of times before reaching the top. Ouch!
Then, once finally reaching the top of the wall, the monkey had to leap from the wall to the branches of the tree, praying to the monkey gods that the branch he landed on would be strong enough to hold his weight.
All this climbing, leaping and grasping made the monkey sweaty, dirty and tense, but the first bite into the sweet, juicy flesh of a mango from this tree was more than worth the sweat and risk.
One day when the monkey showed up to the wall for his mango meal, he stopped in his tracks and blinked. He couldn’t believe his eyes as he stood staring at the wall.
There was now a hole in the wall at exactly the height needed to reach in and grab as many mangoes as he wanted!!
As many mangoes as he wanted! Plus, the hole meant no sweat! No frustration! No risk! No climb, or leap– just reach in and pluck. And pluck and pluck and pluck.
“Oh boy,” thought the monkey, “I’ll eat as many mangoes as my belly will hold, and then bring some home for tomorrow!”
So the monkey reached in and plucked the first mango. The biggest on the tree.
But, alas. The hole was big enough for his hand, but not while holding a mango.
Poor monkey couldn’t get his hand back out of the hole. Instead of dropping the mango and reverting back to climbing, leaping and risking, that poor monkey just tried and tried to force his fat mango hand back through the hole. He couldn’t bear to lose the mango, which was so juicy that it would burst into bits if he dropped it.
So the poor monkey pulled and pulled, even though another part of his mind was telling him his hand was never going to fit through the hole unless he dropped the mango.
“No way!” thought the monkey. “I WANT THIS MANGO. Will. get. this. mango.”
Until he suddenly found himself ensnared in the gardener’s net.
The gardener suddenly yanked the net away from the wall and the mango was squeezed out of the monkey’s grip.
As the monkey was dragged away in the net, he continued to reach through the net, grasping for the wall until the wall completely disappeared from the monkey’s view. The monkey kicked and screamed over his lost mango.
And then eventually the kicks and screams bemoaned the monkey’s loss of basic freedom.
Whether the monkey’s unwillingness to climb and leap was out of laziness or caution, the appearance of ease and safety on the outset was his eventual demise.
Can you relate? I sure can.
It’s tricky. The fear of leaping and falling (failing) and still being left empty handed is a sensible fear. “Is the mango really worth ALL THAT?”
But the fear of letting go of our mango to free our own hand is a different kind of fear– the foolish kind of fear that is really only grasping, or maybe even greed.
I’m trying to unlearn this latter kind of graspy fear. And to see that greed is born out of fear, which was hard at first for my head to sort out….
The unlearning of graspy fear is called “Asteya” in Sanskrit. Asteya is usually literally translated as “non-stealing” but “letting go” makes this practice easier to understand.
We’re not born with graspy fear. As babies, we kick and scream until our needs are met, but once these needs are met, we sleep like babies or are otherwise content to lay on our backs and play with our feet.
And we don’t kick and scream again until sometime in the future when our needs are again unmet.
But somewhere along the way, our definition of ease and safety gets stilted. Our basic needs being met is no longer enough. We want more. More needs, more gratification. And we are willing to steal from ourselves in the long term to get what we want in the short term.
(In a way, this growing need is natural, but sometimes this naturally growing need grows a little too big– to an unnatural proportion.)
We become willing to risk more and more to get what we want. To steal more and more from our own future and the future of our children to get what we want.
Then, eventually, we can even begin to want what we want totally risk-free.
But there’s no such thing as “totally risk free”…..
The monkey thought the new hole in the wall was risk-free (because, yay, no more climbing and jumping) but in fact, the hole in the wall was a trap.
Why didn’t the monkey question this new hole in the wall? Because it offered him exactly what he wanted in the short term– with no work or risk involved.
We lose some of our wiser risk tolerance to graspy fear, which can make us fat. Physically and otherwise.
And ultimately, graspy fear causes us to get ensnared in some kind of net.
In working on my risk-calculation skills, I want to…
— GET REAL about risk
— To learn how to mindfully assess and take risk
— To be a ninja at respecting the sensible fears and releasing the foolish, dangerous ones that are only going to trap me and steal my future
Do you ever think consciously about risk management? Do you view risk management as an actual skill to be cultivated? If so, how and why?
I’d love to hear how you work with risk and the fear associated with risk…
— Maybe you work with risk on the yoga mat, if so how?
— Maybe you work with risk in life in a way that mirrors yoga in principle, if so how?
Or, if you’re paralyzed by risk, tell me about your fear. Seriously.
Hit reply to this email and lay it on me.
I’m so curious to hear your thoughts and practices around risk and fear– and to learn from you on this important topic!!
I’m beginning to see life as one big risk, one big challenge to work with risk. Because all growth involves at least a little risk, right?
So, hit me up.
Until then, enjoy your mangoes! And happy Summer!
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