A wicked storm blew through Connecticut today. While there was tornado-like damage to the west, we survived with a brief but torrential downpour and some hardy wind gusts. As it passed, the August-like heat of the day subsided just enough that it seemed like a good time for a walk.
But I forgot about the bugs.
I hadn’t walked five minutes up the trail before they ambushed. A swarm of gnats dropped down in front of my face like a thin, black veil. Two flies laid claim to my ears—bzzzzzzzzzzzzzing in stereo. Their siege left me breathless—afraid to inhale the little creatures.
My swatting was moot, and went something like this: swat, buzz, swat, buzz, swat, buzz, buzz!
I had just read a passage in Eat, Pray, Love where the author sits in meditation for a full hour while mosquitoes swarm and bite at her. She lets the small annoyances pass over her like a good meditator, and finds her way to stillness.
That’s not me.
I’m still dancing with meditation, and it’s no Waltz. More like the fifties’ Stroll, with me lined up on this side, and meditation way over there on that side.
Last winter, I went to a guided group meditation. A kind and creative soul gently guided us for an hour. We floated through the sky, over the ocean, into the stars—ok, THEY floated. I spent the entire hour imagining myself running after them, trying to catch up!
The truth is, I don’t sit still. I don’t, and my mind doesn’t either. We’re always running after something—the next project, the next errand, the next idea. Lots and lots of thoughts…like the lots and lots of bugs around my head!
This similarity did not escape me.
In her book Stop the Pain: Adult Meditations, my dear friend Dale Carlson explains that there are many ways to meditate. “If your nervous system is the result of an active gene pool or you are personally too frayed to sit down right off, begin with a walk.”
My walks have become my meditation, so today was particularly challenging. I wanted to find my way to quiet. Like the woman in EPL, I tried to just be with the bugs. I walked (swat), I listened to the birds (buzz), I looked up at the trees (swat), I heard the leaves rustle (buzz).
Over and over again, I tried to bring my mind back to the present—to “pay attention” as Dale often reminds me—walking on a trail, drops of rain on my head, the smell of damp earth. And over and over again, my mind would run after the bugs.
But, I am learning to let these annoyances pass over me. There are days, like today, when the bugs stay with me, buzzing their demands and nipping at my spirit for the entire walk.
And then there are days I walk with great ease—my breath is free, my mind is clear, and everything around me glows.
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Copies of Stop the Pain: Adult Meditations can be purchased here.
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Photo by Jen Payne