Wholeness Healing Today

The Trickster Mind: Letting Go of the Past and Getting Past Your Own Beliefs, Guest Writer Ralph P. Brown

The Trickster is a well known character to Indian people. The Trickster is both figurative and literal, symbolic and allegorical. Awareness of him can be life-changing. At one point or another, the Trickster touches each of our lives whether we are aware of it or not. Here is a story to expose him, his role, and to familiarize you with . . .

“The Trickster”.

In the drier parts of Africa water is difficult to find. The bushmen have learned that the monkeys in the area know where the water is and how to get to it. When water is needed, the bushmen must capture a monkey. Since they have studied and know his curious nature, they use this knowledge to help them in the capture.

The bushmen scout out a group of monkeys and find a tree nearby. They cut out the back of the tree, making a big hollow. Next, they drill a hole just big enough for the monkey to stick his paw into it. Then, looking ostensibly sneaky, the bushmen find a stone, making sure the monkeys see their actions and especially the stone. They “hide” the stone in the tree through the tiny hole they have drilled. While waiting a short distance away, it is only a matter of time before curiosity gets the best of the monkey and he travels to find out what was so important that it was hidden from him in the tree. He reaches in and grabs the stone, but when he tries to pull it out, his fist is too big to back out of the hole. He is stuck.

The monkey could drop the stone and remove his paw, but certainly anything worth so much trouble that it had to be hidden must be worth holding on to. The monkey clutches the stone even as a rope is put around his neck, refusing to let go . . . and he is captured.

The bushman pries the stone from the monkey’s grasp and then sits with him until the monkey is thirsty and leads him to water.

Do you see the Trickster?

You may be inclined to say the Trickster was the man who caught the monkey because he tricked it into believing that he put something valuable in the tree. To a certain degree, you may be correct. But what was the monkey’s role in his own capture? It was the monkey that placed a value on what was in the tree. It was his nature and his beliefs that tricked him into this predicament.

I was talking with a woman whose husband was physically abusive and she asked me what she should do. I asked, “What do you want from life? What do you think you deserve?”

She responded, “I want a man who loves me and who is good to me.”

“For this man to come into your life, you must make room for him. You must leave the man you are with.”

A look of fear came over her face and she said, “I can’t do that. I am fat and old with five children. No one wants a woman like me!”

In that reply she told me exactly what she felt she deserved and what she believed she would get. I saw how these beliefs would keep her trapped until she was hurt, killed – or – until she was able to let go of these beliefs. She was caught in her own situation the same way that the monkey was caught in his. Sadly for her, no one can pry the “stone” from her grasp. She is the only one who can let it go.

The Trickster takes on many forms, internal or external, but for the purposes of this article, it is the internal that I want you to focus on. The ideas, beliefs and self-talk that whisper quietly in our ear that there is some other person or circumstance to blame is the Trickster mind. When a person is eager to avoid personal responsibility, he is primed and ready for the voice that tells him it is every thing and every one else who is responsible for life’s occurrences.

For the woman I mentioned, the first step to change was awareness. When she became aware of her own beliefs and the self-talk that helped her adapt her life to fit those beliefs, she was in a position to hear another voice. The Trickster told her that ,”If only he were a better man”, “if he weren’t so angry” or “if only he would change”, she would be happy. Realizing that it was not the person  abusing her who was responsible for her happiness was her awakening. Would she let go of the stone?

In both the story of the monkey and of the woman we have metaphors that serve to remind us of the many things we pursue or hold on to because we believe they are of value, only to find out differently when we are caught up in them. These stories also show the Trickster mind and how important it is to check our ideas, beliefs and especially, our self talk to determine their true value and merit. It is important to be aware of this Trickster voice and discern it from the voice of truth, but awareness is not enough. Awareness must be followed by action . . .

Let go of the stones!

In spirit, Ralph (Tawennihake)
Ralph P. Brown (also known as Tawennihake) is a Mohawk Indian of the Akwesasne tribe. He currently resides in Nebraska, creating his art and delivering his message from Earth Lodge Studios. Ralph is a pipe carrier, ceremony leader and spiritual adviser. He can be reached at

Visit his website at
www.mirroredwindows.com for additional insight, stories, lessons and visual creations.

Copyright 2008. All rights reserved worldwide; however reprints allowed if ALL artist bio information is included when published.

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  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
    Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner

  • Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.


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