Dear Wandering Yogi,
I just came home from a yoga retreat. Much of the yoga retreat was outdoors and I often found myself dealing with flies and other insects landing on my body, including my FACE! I kept brushing them away and they just kept coming back. It was incredibly frustrating and I found myself getting very annoyed. Though I enjoyed the yoga retreat overall, I am hesitant about doing it again because of the flies! What should I do?
Dear Bugged Out,
Once upon a time I was at the San Francisco Zen Center. I sat down for zazen (meditation practice) at 5:40am in the basement zendo (meditation hall) on a chilly November morning. I paid attention to my forms, sat on my cushion, straightened my spine and closed my eyes about 9/10 of the way. The meditation bell chimed to start practice and all was good in the world. A few minutes later I saw from the narrow opening of my eyes that a small, black spider had somehow made its way down from the ceiling on a single web and stopped directly in front of my face! My first reaction was the desire to scream and jump up. Needless to say, screaming and jumping up from my meditation was not exactly an appropriate response, especially when meditating with 40 other people!
So I just sat there. I made the decision to notice my reactions and to meditate with all sentient beings – including my new spider friend.
After stopping in front of my face as if to taunt me, the spider finally preceded to lower down out of my view. At this point I figured it had landed on my body. I continued to sit.
Then after more time passed I felt like I could feel it on my arm. Then more time passed and I finally felt like it was sitting directly above my left eyeball. I continued to sit.
Towards the end of meditation I saw the spider start to make his journey back up his web. The meditation bell rang to close the session, and I gratefully moved on towards the Heart Sutra service.
I spoke of the incident to a senior dharma teacher and they laughed. How lucky I was, they said, to have such an experience with Mara (delusion) during my meditation practice!
Whether it was a “real” spider or Mara, I have to admit that I can’t help but feel like it was one of the best meditations I have ever had. It was a real learning experience of noticing what my initial reactions were and making the choice to allow them to flow instead of taking action.
As long as you feel you are not in danger from an insect I recommend you try viewing the occasional fly on the face as a blessing for strengthening your power of awareness and your ability to make choices versus allowing reactions to control your feelings and actions.
Do you have a question for the Wandering Yogi? Send your yoga and meditation questions to firstname.lastname@example.org