I’m back from my month away, feeling refreshed and carrying lessons from an unlikely teacher...a mosquito.
Over the last few weeks I visited Mexico to get in some rest and relaxation and then headed to California to see the Buddhist nuns I once lived with. They led a retreat at Spirit Rock where I led yoga sessions for retreatants. After a fruitful visit to the monastery we headed south to the retreat center. Feeling excited on Tuesday morning to begin our first full day of retreat I woke to welts on my face. Mosquitos had bitten my face during the night. Lovely.
I looked around my room to find several mosquitos attached to the ceiling and wondered how I’d get them out of my room. After all, they weren’t as easy as a spider to remove with a simple cup and piece of paper. I decided to leave them and try some bug spray measures later that evening to keep them at bay. A day went by without any bites. Later that night after completing healing work on one of the nuns I returned to my room happy and exhausted. I was excited for a shower. It’s the simple pleasures that feel oh so good when you are on a silent retreat and meditating or reflecting most of the day.
As I opened the water and climbed in the tub I turned around to put my head in the water and found myself facing a mosquito who joined me in the shower. Great. I thought to myself. Now I’ll get bit while trying to take a shower. I didn’t want to kill it, I mean we are on retreat after all and I took vows to do no harm to any living creature. So I splashed some water to invite it to move and it moved a couple inches further from me. Just as I was getting ready to think of whether to just suck it up and maybe get bit or try further to get it to leave the shower something inside of me urged me to have a closer look. So I drew close to the mosquito and then simply watched and observed.
To my surprise the mosquito was in fact...taking a shower as well. As it attached itself with four legs to the curtain, it used the two long back legs to dip into little water droplets on the curtain and rub the water on it’s legs, wings, body,and antennas. As I watched it, it even appeared to be as joyful about taking a shower late at night as I was, giving careful loving attention to each part of it’s body. Something inside of me shifted. Suddenly the creature I previously saw as an agitator was a fellow journeyer, simply looking for the same basic pleasure I was seeking...a shower. This dramatic shift in perspective cracked something open inside of me and in that moment I found my eyes tearing, welling, with a surprising love for a small creature that otherwise was my vampire visitor in the night. Loving kindness broke through to the surface and I found a smile spread across my face, an energetic warmth splash over my body. And for the next several minutes I completed my shower blissfully knowing I was having a communal shower of sorts with a fellow being.
As I stepped out of the shower to dry myself I wondered if the mosquito would change its mind and bite me while I was drying off, but it didn’t. It simply hung itself upside down on the curtain rod...perhaps drying itself off as well. And that was that. The next day when I awoke with some mosquito bites on my neck and face I smiled to myself. Rather than a rise of irritation, the same love that had arisen in my shower, came back. A visitor in the night, just seeking happiness and survival like the rest of us. I just happened to be the night’s meal and it just happened to be a little inconvenient for me. I embraced the inconvenience and felt grateful to be a source of sustainment for my fellow showerer.
Perception shapes our experience of reality, but does not make it real. Truth lies in the ability to take a step back and look closer. Allowing reality to reveal itself before our eyes. Even if it defies our pocketbook of already held perceptions.
By following the simple invitation to take a closer look, I was able to check my original perceptions. My initial perception of the situation told me that the mosquito had intentions to hurt me, agitate me. Upon closer look, I discovered that my perception was wrong. Within the period of several breathes, truth revealed itself. The mosquito was bathing itself as well.
“The feeling of being happy or unhappy rarely depends on your state, but on our perception of the situation…” ~ The Dalai Lama
If you are ready to feel more happy by shifting your perceptions, let’s chat. Creating joy in people’s lives and shifting perceptions happen to be my speciality. Click HERE to start a conversation.
How often do you believe you have things entirely figured out? When we notice our minds making ironclad stories about our experience it’s an invitation to get curious. Can we take a step back and take a closer look? Can we open our minds to the possibility that what we perceive is dramatically different than reality? Perhaps even a reality we never considered? Consistently, I find that my greatest insights come when I am willing to take a second look at my experience.
For this week’s Joy Tip, I want to invite us to check our perceptions. Here’s how:
Notice when your mind is solidifying a story about a situation. This is fertile ground for exploration. You can find these stories easily by the following identifiers: “I/they/it’s always like…” “I/they/it’s never…” “I/they/it should…” These identifiers often accompany tight knit stories with sweeping perceptions that coat over the finer details of a scenario that create more depth.
Take a closer look. Choose to open your mind up to the possibility that what you “know” is entirely different than what you think. Simply decide to take in the information that is streaming through your experience without coming to any conclusions. Notice what new and different information you can allow in.
Open yourself for several minutes by following your breathe while observing your experience. By keeping your attention connected to something concrete, for example your breath, you can stay connected to your actual experience rather than your limited stream of consciousness. If your breath is hard to follow, focus on anything else concrete. For example, with the mosquito my entire attention was focused on watching the mosquito and taking in its actions through my eyes.
Consider a new perception. After taking a closer look and directing your attention to your actual experience, imagine what is possible now with this new information and perspective? What shifts in your understanding based on the new information and experience?
I recommend you use this process with something simple to begin with. Don’t start with a heated, contentious situation between you and your partner, family member, or close friend. Instead, start with something simple like your belief that today might be a tough day. Consider something radical like, imagine what would shift if the day surprised you and turned out to be your best day.