I had a very surprising experience at Cape Croker this weekend. Over the last several years, Cape Croker has become a spiritual grounding point for me. Going there always presents opportunities for quieting my mind, and for clearing myself of the build-up of demands, expectations and dissatisfactions. Time takes on a different quality. Removed from all the things that would become chores at home, I'm left at peace to act on a whole different set of impulses. I always take my sax along, and being here always leads me to play. I hiked, I wrote, I napped in the hammock and I read, and I floated limp-bodied on the waters and let the tide carry me. And I had an experience unlike any I've ever had before and would never have expected.
As I wrote about awhile ago, I've been going through a kind of cleansing and regrouping during the last weeks. A major element of that has been regular meditation. Vipassana, the Buddhist tradition I practice, is all about acceptance of what is, and the means to the equanimity it offers is via a hyper attentiveness to bodily sensations. Unlike the foggy trance I once imagined meditation took one into, Vipassana meditation generates a really sharp awareness of all of ones sensations, but particularly the tactile.
Now, with all its wonders and beauty, Cape Croker also comes with its multitude of insects. The ants, flies and mosquitoes are everywhere, and it wasn't always easy to remain peaceful when the creatures were swarming, biting and stinging. But I've been trying not to have too much 'attitude' about insects. At home, I swat, squash and stomp them when they're on my food or in my face, but I try not to get angry or in a frenzy about it, or to go out of my way to bring death to their entire populations.
Over the weekend the creatures were maddening some of the time. But with the help of Off!, it was mostly tolerable. Until it came time to meditate. Coming out of a swim, and before I'd applied any Off!, I decided to do my sit yesterday and I determined that I wouldn't let the insects detract from it. I was going to take the notion of acceptance to a new level. The insects are natural to this environment I love so much, so couldn't I simply accept them as that, and overcome my usual aversion?
It was difficult at first. When the first ants began to crawl, and flies descended onto my skin and scurried about, and the mosquitoes buzzed in my ears, it took everything to remain still and to continue my sensory scan. I recognized how geared up I was for the anticipated bites and stings. And I realized how uptight I was about the creatures invading my ears and nostrils. The sensation of them on my skin, in rapidly growing numbers, was repellant and provacative; it felt so unnatural not to react.
And then, my sensations underwent a shift. As the bites and stings did not come, and as the creatures approached and skirted, but didn't enter my cavaties, I began to relax. And then I began to take in the sensations they produced in the context of the natural setting. The feel of their scurrying legs and wings was accompaniment to the brush of the grasses and twigs surrounding me, and to the breezes that danced in the air, and to the droplets of moisture that descended from I can't imagine where. The movement across my skin was no longer bothersome, and in fact, it soon became pleasant. The totality of all the faint, light lines of movement became like a shimmering, tickling caress. And finally, on top of that, came the sense of curious, exploratory life that all this tiny movement represented. And then it began to feel almost that life was lightly tickling me. What a surprise, what a pleasing joke, that just as the sun presses down with its warm embrace, and the waters cradle my body like an infant's, that so to, even the insects could welcome me with their touch, and leave me feeling so at home.