Tuesday, January 26th, 2016
So I’m sitting alone in my cabin. It’s winter, 9,000 feet up – snowy and extremely cold. I’m meditating, and all of a sudden I see this little bug resting on my side table. It’s a green alien-like creature with delicate wings, about an inch long, and has a slim, pale body reminiscent of spring. I’ve never seen a bug quite like this one before. Since I’m all by myself, it’s like I have an exotic friend stopping by for a visit (very exciting). I start petting the little fella. I don’t think I’m hurting it; it’s letting me touch it and stroke its body. So I wonder: How on earth is this guy surviving in the middle of winter?
The cabin gets so cold when the fire goes out – I haven’t even seen one spider or fly since I’ve been up here. This beautiful, fragile bug shouldn’t be alive: Maybe he belongs outside? The sun is shining and the deck is warm – I don’t want him to die inside this stuffy cabin.
I imagine his life span can’t be too long, so I decide to put the bug on the deck. I’m going to let him have some sunshiny freedom, let his life take its natural course in the pine trees and fresh mountain air. I put the pale green fella outside, wish him well, and return to my meditation cushion.
Three weeks go by. I’m sitting in the same spot, looking out the same big window. An identical-looking bug lands on the outside of the glass. Now I can’t imagine it’s the same bug, but my mind lights up anyway: It’s My Bug! That guy! My little buddy! He’s back! But it can’t be him – how could he have survived three weeks of frozen winter? There have been at least ten snowfalls and the temperature’s dipping well below zero degrees Fahrenheit at night.
So I keep meditating; The Bug is resting outside on the glass (just like three weeks ago, when he or some lookalike spent time on my side table). What a treat! It’s so wonderful to see him again! A few minutes later, a graceful grey bird lands on the railing a few feet from where I’m sitting on my cushion. Beautiful – a private work of art.
Now I’m feeling like a true Mountain Yogi: This is totally cool! The animals are flocking all around me! I’m magnetizing natural wildlife right to my doorstep! I’m feeding the baby deer and chirping birdies! Such a blissful, serene meditation retreat! I’m happy, full of myself, and so gosh-darned content: I hope things never change…
Well, in a flash-of-a-second, things do change. I’m watching the bird and it takes off, flying right at me. It smacks it’s beak into the glass: Oh, no! It snatched The Bug! The bird has taken My Little Green Bug and flown onto a branch of a nearby tree. The bird is now feasting on the Bug – tearing him apart with its talons and beak, having a tasty meal, right in front of my disbelieving eyes.
What happened to my Blissful Bubble of Meditative Stability? Well, that’s how things happen, all right – impermanence and change, soaring straight at you, pecking it all to pieces right outside your oversized picture window.
It’s like this: you’re going about your daily life, counting on the (seeming) solidity of your routine adventures. Then: an emergency call in the middle of the night; a telltale pain in your chest; something “irregular” in a routine X-ray; a slow skid on an icy, curvy road. Something goes wrong, and the Great Big Unknown suddenly snatches up your whole wide world – just like the Great Grey Bird suddenly snatched up My Little Green Bug.
Why should you learn to meditate? Because, ultimately, every single thing is impermanent and subject to change – you’re comfortable life, your healthy body – nothing lasts forever. When the s@*t hits the proverbial fan, it’s just going to be YOU out there, all alone, hanging onto the window glass. Ready or not, when the Great Grey Bird comes a-pecking, you’re just going to have to deal with it.
You won’t have your car, your house or your money to save you – you might not even have your bodily functions, and you can’t count on friends or family, either. You’re going to have to rely on the stability of your own mind to see you through.
So get in some mental training today. A few minutes of Belly Breathing or a half an hour of Riding the Breath really adds up – you’ll be able to face all of life’s ups and downs with a clearer perspective.
Au revoir, Little Bug! Thanks for the lesson in Impermanence.
Bill Filter, Trainer & Co-Founder, VUmind