So, the mosquitos have arrived.
It’s not surprising. The Pacific Crest Trail is only a few miles away, and I’ve heard horrific tales about how bad they can be for the hikers this time of year. I’ve experienced it myself, too, when I lived in Bend, Oregon. Where I am now, we don’t have the snowpack the Trail gets, which means we don’t have the standing melt-off, either; a reliable source of the puddles that give the little devils their abundant breeding grounds.
Apparently, they found enough nearby to git ‘er dun anyway.
I like to arise well before the sun to begin my day. There’s something about the early morning that feeds my soul. The still darkness, fading. The planets and moon, the only objects left in the brightening sky. They seem almost conversational once the stars have left the party and gone off to bed. And meditation comes easily, the building blocks of the sense of Presence that I’ll rely upon all day.
But like I said, the mosquitos have arrived.
Sure, I could meditate in my tent if I wanted to escape them. But even though my eyes are closed when I drop into my meditation practice, I like to be outside if I can. I have a nifty outdoor altar complete with a bison skull, sacred stones, and gifts that people have given me for service over the years. It’s a place of peace for me. My tent is my home here at The Mountain. It contains my bed and other stuff that would be compromised in the weather – sun or otherwise. But for me, Nature is my real home; the natural habitat of the animal called in the Latin, “ericmarleycus aspenface.”
So, I donned my hooded poncho and went outside to meditate as the sky continued to brighten. The mosquitos heard the dinner bell and came a flying, as sure as the monkeys in the Wizard of Oz - and almost as fearful.
At first, I couldn’t help but fidget around in order to get them off my poncho or the parts of my legs or face that were exposed. But then, my metaphorical mind found the connection between the mosquitos and the triggers I will absolutely feel at some point as my day progresses. I decided to work with it.
I know that these tiny beasts can carry disease, but it’s pretty uncommon here in this land, right? The worse that might happen is a little discomfort from a “bite,” here and there. A mere inconvenience. Or, if my face ended up being the target, I might take a hit to my vanity – which could use a smackdown on occasion, anyway.
Settling in, I could hear the mini-vultures circling. I went to the breath. Ominously, the buzzing stopped; one had landed.
It was automatic to move my body. An entirely unconscious reaction. The buzzing started again, and I noticed that I had come out of my meditation, just that much.
“This is going to be good,” I thought.
I returned to my breath, and this time I “breathed into” the Earth. I felt not only the Connection via the gravitational hug She always provides, but the energetic connection upon which I have come to rely.
Breathing deep, I settled in.
Tempted to berate myself a little for again capitulating to the “trigger,” I gave that egoic desire away as well, and dropped back in. This time, I pictured my dear bison buddy, Number 8.
Number 8 was a bison Herd Bull that lived in the same pasture I did when I had my tipi out in his pasture for a big chunk of 2016. I came to love that Being. He inspired me. He taught me. We had a complicated relationship since he was a purebred bison, as they all were on this ranch. Hence, he was semi-wild, and pushing a ton on the hoof. After I literally moved to greener pastures, the rancher Alan “harvested” him. I was blessed enough to be able to purchase his skull, which is my main ceremonial altar, these days.
Now, I pictured him standing stock still in winter snows, always grounded, always present. Number 8 isn’t moving if he doesn’t want to. I had seen that fact, plenty of times.
Mosquitos aren’t bugging ol’ Number 8, that’s for sure.
Taking that energy, I went again to my breath. My breath rose like steam from the freezing air, my wet nose and eyes glistening in the sun. The other bison milled around me. My hooves sunk into the wet ground as a late Autumn snow began to fall. I was he, just for a moment.
A buzz and a shift later, I was back into my human form.
I went back in again, this time reminding myself as I did that I was acting fearful of a little potential discomfort. There was no real reason, just that. Pfft. I got this.
This little drama continued for the entire 20 minutes I sat.
I was tempted here and there to blame the mosquitos for my failure to sit still. After all, I normally don’t have difficulty sitting in a meditative position for long stretches. But the whole concept of blame is a non-starter when it comes to meditation. Since a meditation session can be a metaphor for life, as I processed my experience, I had to let blame go, just as I do off the cushion (if I owned one). After all, it’s not about the “evil” triggers in our lives, is it? That’s only part of the story, just as it was in my meditation.
Reaction – especially unconscious reaction – is all I can own, observe, and process.
Nor is the point the eradication of difficulty. Difficulty is a natural part of life, too. I’ve come to know at least that much in my half-century of life around here. In fact, I’ve consciously embraced it by my lifestyle, which is pretty rugged and exposed to the “elements” in more ways than one. You take away difficulty and you take away growth. Like you, I am a human being (when I’m not a bison). It’s a great blessing to be human. I want to grow and experience as much as I can in this sacred incarnation.
Hell, if I come back, I might be a mosquito with some weird human swatting at me (or fidgeting around while I’m trying to get a snack). Best make the most of this time around, right?
Neat story, Marley. What’s the point of all this? Bear with me.
Sometimes in life, we are going to be in a season when the mosquitos are thick. A mean boss, a flock of unexpected bills, a child that’s acting out… maybe a viral pandemic, and the removal of the ease with which we once lived. These are all “mosquitos,” aren’t they? Not life threatening, just annoying and in force, tiresome. I’m tempted to call them “distractions,” but that would imply that they don’t belong in my life. Sure, they might knock us off our comfortable routine, but the thing to keep in mind if that they’re all teachers if we allow them to be. They’re all opportunities to transcend our conditioned need for Convenience as Escape.
It’s natural to want to “swat at them;” to complain or spin out to the extent that we allow or even invite feelings of being overwhelmed. Even more commonly we go with a desire to “fix this.” Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with improving our lives in little ways. To go inside the tent, metaphorically speaking. It’s one of the other benefits of being human.
We have the power to do this, and occasionally it’s the right thing to do.
But it’s also good to keep in mind that difficulty is not the enemy. Nor is discomfort. And, if we do choose to change our situation to make things a little easier on ourselves, such changes are best made from a conscious place rather than a reactionary one. I submit that unconscious reaction is the root of nearly every macro social problem we have today. And it’s at the bottom of the bulk of the personal ones, as well.
From a place of consciousness, we make choices that are more likely to be beneficial to the whole – which we all share. We expand our ability to be conscious when we can meditate through the pain of difficulty and inconvenience, whatever form it may take.
It’s all a part of Life. It’s all growth if we allow it to be so.
I’m not saying that, in every instance, we should allow the mosquitos in life to have their way with us. I’m saying that when they come, in whatever form, we have a choice about how to work with them. The choices actually expand the more conscious we are.
To further illustrate, from a place of conscious non-reactivity we ascertain whether this is a serious threat to our physical health. If the answer is yes, we take action – and it’s already more conscious than a simple reaction, which is often from low-vibrational fear.
If the answer is no, we ask if it’s a threat to our emotional or spiritual well-being, including our personal boundaries. If the answer is yes to this, we take measured action that’s appropriate to the situation. Again, here we’re making a real step toward acting from the place of Soul, rather than our wounds or fear. Even if the answer is no, it’s not a threat to emotion or spiritual health, we can introduce compassion for ourselves. We might go into the metaphorical tent, for instance. But again, we’re making a conscious choice. We’re not jumping up from the pillow and running inside, swatting at the air and cursing the mosquitos.
They’re not the enemy of our peace. Our own minds are.
In conclusion, it’s 2020 and the mosquitos are thick. We are meditating our existence, right now. Ultimately, all is as it should be, given the circumstances – some of which we are aware, and most of which we are not. The pests we see all around us emerged from small pools of fertile waters, from eggs laid months ago. Now, they’ve hatched and here we are. I’ve outlined in metaphorical terms a few ideas about how to work with them for our personal growth.
My advice is to breathe deep, and settle in. Ground down and learn to feel and count on the Earth for support, as well as your soulful tribe. The buzzing is going to get very loud in the next six months, I guarantee it. But no matter what we go through, we’re going to pass through it together. What’s coming will work for our benefit if we choose to work with it consciously.
With an occasional visit to the tent, as needed.
Aspen is a principal at The Mountain, a new eco-spirituality retreat center in Northern California.
(art by Sayed Ali)