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The Skeptical Buddhist: Black Bugs and Bad Weeks
Submitted by Robert Colpitts on Sun, 4/29/2012, 10:31am
I noticed a manifestation of my meditation practice crawling across my leg in plain view as my practice was ending this morning. It was black—pitch-black. It was small—smaller than a ladybug, but also shaped like one. It was crawling slowly. At one point, it fell over and stretched one of its beetle-like wings out to right itself. What immediately sprang to my mind is that I could not kill this bug, which is the exact opposite of what I normally think when I see a strange bug crawling across my body.
From my seated position, I got an envelope, placed it so the bug would crawl onto it, got up, opened my front door, and violently whipped the envelope so the bug went flying somewhere into the hallway outside my apartment door. Immediately, I noticed how hasty and cruel this action was, and just as quickly wished I could take it back.
Then to finish my practice for the morning, I returned to my seat and said,
By this merit, may all obtain omniscience
May it defeat the enemy, wrongdoing
From the stormy waves of birth, old age, sickness and death
From the ocean of samsara, may I free all beings
By the confidence of the Golden Sun of the Great East
May the lotus garden of the Ridgens’ wisdom bloom
May the dark ignorance of sentient beings be dispelled
May all beings enjoy profound, brilliant glory
You can see the irony, right? It was not lost on me either.
Now, this post is not entirely about this black bug. It could be, but it isn’t. It is also about the difficult couple of weeks that I could have had, but didn’t. And about the nature of wisdom and when it is likely to manifest and why.
Things have been tricky. My father, since the last time I wrote this column, has been in the hospital twice: both times because he was so drunk and stoned that he, in the first case, was naked, mumbling, and threatening to cut himself with box cutters, and, in the second case, ended up blacking out on the beach.
My father, it should also be known, is an alcoholic. Alcoholism and drug addiction is a genetic reality for my family. The seeds of addiction are within all of us; but in my family, the potential is strong, and addiction does not need much watering to manifest. The fact that my father is returning to alcohol is not a good sign for him.
While this and the management of the situation could have caused me great heartache, instead these past few weeks I have experienced a lot of calm. It works like this. You meditate. You read a bit. You meditate. You read. Repeat.
Then, calm manifests. You repeat. Then, wisdom manifests. Repeat. Understanding manifests. All of these things are present within you, as in, they are available right now, but you know, the mind is a complicated friend, and it has its own agenda until we learn to manage it. Like, most of the time, my mind wants to kill black bugs and tell me how difficult these last couple of weeks have been.
This morning, a black bug presented itself to me. I see it is as a manifestation of my practice. It is not separate from me. It is not the bug and I. It is just the nature of things. The bug, and I, and wisdom, and meditation are all part of the same stuff, which is why it was present. It was like my confusion poop—confusion which was not really confusion, but wisdom waiting to present another tidbit to me in the form of bug as poop. It does not make sense to fling it away any more than it makes sense to fling away the wisdom I have by watering the seeds of addiction within myself.
This is a discovery that was always available to me, at any moment, but was not something that I saw clearly until the end of my practice this morning.
Here’s something else I deeply understood this week: Suffering is wisdom. Suffering is wisdom. If you want to see the nature of things, look deeply at your suffering. Whatever it is—your physical pain, your mental anguish, your unease, your discomfort, your unhappiness—look at it. If you take thirty minutes a day to meditate and really just see the nature of what your suffering is, your natural wisdom will manifest, and your “suffering” will disappear. The deeper your suffering, the more heartache you have, the deeper the wisdom that is right at the tip of your experience.
This is what happened to me. Things got complicated, so I upped the amount of meditation and reading I did. As I did that, things for me got very calm, and led to many discoveries.
I hope you, as the good skeptic I know you are, will up the amount of time you spend meditating, to see if this is true or not. Someone in your family going downhill fast? Meditate like their relief depends upon it, and see if you don’t see little black bugs too.
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by Mike Widman