I’ve always loved Banksy’s Balloon Girl. One year I even had Christmas cards emblazoned with this image (along with added snowflakes falling around the girl).
When I meditate I use this image whenever I need to address the so-called “monkey mind” by acknowledging my thinking, letting it go, and returning to breath. However, I realized recently that when envisioning this image during meditation, I was imagining the girl’s body to be leaning forward, reaching toward the balloon as if to grab it rather than release it. This, of course, is not my goal, but it is certainly telling of how I really feel most of the time. Letting go is not my forté.
I decided to post the image to Instagram and have folks weigh in on whether or not the girl is letting go of or trying to hold onto the balloon. I pretty much knew that most people would vote “letting go” (everyone who weighed in did), but I was curious if anyone might see it differently. I know that for some, the meaning, is still vague:
The assumption is that this image shows a love lost or innocence of childhood lost, and if it weren’t for the words on the wall there would be no question, however, the caption leaves the audience questioning what the real meaning of the image is, and wondering if the girl had released the balloon or is trying to retrieve it.
What ended up surprising me, however, was not the responses. Those I expected for the most part. What surprised me was the disconnect between how I keep seeing that much loved image in my mind and how the image is actually drawn. As most the responses point out, her body image pretty clearly shows she is letting go: she isn’t leaning in and her hand looks like it is releasing not grabbing.
It might be helpful to add this corrective to my meditation visualization: not grasping, not reaching, struggling, wanting, but true release, while standing steadfast.