Spider Webs ~ part of the Spider Web series ~ by Chris Yeomans

This week, we begin the theme of Spider Web on the Dew on the Grass blog. Our first offering is from Chris Yeomans and in it she describes how the practice of meditation changes our relationship with everything, including the spiders that live in our bathroom.

I have an affectionate relationship with one, or maybe more than one, spider in my bathroom.  When I say spider, I think it may not technically be a spider.  Wikipedia tells me that it is an arachnid or spider-like creature.  It is supposed not to spin silk.  There are definitely no spider webs around it, but when it moves about, it looks as if it is using a silken line to suspend it against the wall.  The bathroom has no window and no foliage, and I wonder what on earth it lives on.  It thrives, and I may have established a relationship with several generations of this creature that I have always thought of as a harvestman spider.  Perhaps it lives on things we call house dust mites.  There’d be plenty of those in our house.

To me, the distinguishing feature about this creature is its utter fragility.  It is so fine and delicate that I wouldn’t even think of touching it. I am astounded that such a creature even has life.  What a miracle its legs are.  When I meet with it, I look upon it with wonder that such a thing could even exist.  I am struck by the tenderness and protectiveness that I feel towards it and realise too that I have come to feel like this (if not quite so acutely) about other living creatures such that I liberate them from buzzing in windows or hastening across carpets.

It has not always been thus.  Decades ago, I would have been influenced by my mother, who did not hesitate to swot flies, stamp on ants, kill wasps.  These things were regarded as a nuisance, unclean and to be eliminated.  I didn’t think too much about it.  Then I got involved with Buddhism and began to think more carefully about such things.  Did it matter if I washed a stranded spider down the plughole instead of relocating it?  What about drowning rats?  Shooting grey squirrels.? All taken for granted in my childhood.

Then one day I watched a monk rescue an ant, which had strayed onto the dining table at a place where we were having a weekend retreat.  He spoke to it, brushed it into his hand, and put it out through the window onto the border.  Seeing this compassion in action was a game-changer.  I was at the ‘trying very hard’ stage of practice, and this seemed like something I could manage to do.  And over many years now, thanks, I am sure, to the practice, this compassion towards all living things has grown, almost regardless of any effort I might make, until it has become second nature.

As any senior monk will tell you, ‘Meditation works.’

A Garden Reflection by Karen Richards and Calm Abiding by SiafuAntony ~ from the Small Moments series

In this week’s post, in the Something that Happened in a Small Moment series, Karen Richards shares an experience of sitting in her garden, this past summer. This is followed by a reflection, in a similar vein, by SiafuAntony.

What a privilege it is to sit amongst the flowers and watch the workings of the garden.

All morning, I have tussled with bed linen, managed the washing, prepared vegetables and cooked.  Now, as my energy slackens – I used to be able to do this stuff all day long; not so much, now – I retreat to a quiet corner, while the sun lasts, and listen to the insects quietly hum.

I watch a bee dancing on the head of a clover. He makes the blossom shake. A small fly rests upon the page as I write until the vibration of my pen, against the paper, makes him fearful of the human who has just invaded his space and he flies away in fright. This quiet place, in the undergrowth, is their domain after all, not mine.

I hear a lorry rattle along the road and voices in adjoining gardens, where neighbours talk and children play. Somewhere, in the distance, a lawn is being mowed and, through open windows, kitchen sounds of saucepans, cutlery and plates clattering in preparation for the midday break.

And as I reflect, my mind turns to thoughts of other souls in less idyllic surroundings than mine.  Those being born and those dying; those in places where war is rife or personal liberty is curtailed. To those whose suffering seems to know no bounds, I offer the merit of this small moment and then, rising from my seat, I bid my leave and go and wash the dishes.

Karen Richards

*********************

A daily ‘small moment’ that has regular healing potential for me, follows immediately after the two bell chimes on completion of morning zazen.
I am fortunate indeed to live in an area which is generally almost continuously silent and peaceful. Usually, I find myself in a state of ‘calm abiding’ following meditation; these two chimes quietly ‘roar’ into the ‘ether’.

 

I visualise the sound they produce simultaneously echoing right across the entire universe, all universes, travelling at inexpressible speed, moving and yet not moving. So their effect is immediately felt by all sentient beings both on our tiny planet and also each and every planet in the universe.
It brings me a ‘small moment’ of harmony, joy and connection with everything.

SiafuAntony

Shame ~ part of the Something Done in a Small Moment series ~ by Anna Aysea

As part of our Something Done in Small Moment series, Anna Aysea writes about a very poignant experience and her response to it.

As I turned left, into the long aisle with the detergent, I walked in on the heated brawl between mother and son. The boy could not have been more than five or six. Standing a few feet away from his mother, his little body was shaking with heaved sobs. Tiny fists clenched, and in between sobs he was yelling “No” to his mother at the top of his voice. She stood half turned away from him, without looking at the boy, she spoke to him in an undertone, without expression. Her words were like soft dripping poison, she was taunting and humiliating him. She told him that everything was his fault, that he should be ashamed of himself, that everyone in the store was now looking at him thinking he was a bad, foolish boy, that I was looking at him, thinking he was a stupid fool.

The mother spoke in a foreign language and was clearly under the impression that I could not understand her words, not realizing I happened to speak that language.

It was a battle of wills. She told him she needed apples and if he wanted to make himself useful, instead of making a fool of himself, he should stop making such a fuss and go and get some apples. Fists clenched, still shaking with sobs, the boy stormed off through the aisles.

Witnessing the drama up close, I had been pretending to be immersed in the various detergent choices. My mind on the tormented child, I made my way to the produce section of the large supermarket.  Still sobbing, the boy had found the fruit on the low display and started putting apples in a plastic bag.

“Hi there sweetheart, can I help you with something?”

Not looking up, continuing to shake with heaved sobs, there came a vigorous “No” shake with the head. I followed him as he walked to the self-service scales with the bag of apples. He tried to put the bag on the scales but the counter was way too high for him.

“Would you like me to help you weigh your apples sweetheart?” Again a vigorous “No” shake.

“You like to do it yourself, don’t you?” A vigorous “Yes” shake. Such determination.

“Shall I maybe lift you a little so you can reach the scales and weigh the apples yourself? Would that be okay?” A curt nod.

I lifted him, apples and all, and hold him high enough so he could reach the scales. Shaking and determined, he put the bag on the scales, found and pushed the image of apples and then the price sticker button. I carefully lowered him again.

“Well done, sweetheart! Yeah, I get you, I also like to do things by myself” A wan smile. The interaction seemed to to be calming him somewhat.

“Can you remember something for me, sweetie?” A nod.

“You are very brave, and a good boy. Never forget that. Always remember that, okay?” A nod.

I watch his tiny back as he walked away, returning to the battlefield. I felt powerless, wondering about the kind of adult he would become after the long war of childhood.

Singing in the Choir ~ part of the Something Done in a Small Moment series by Mo Henderson

Continuing our Something Done in a Small Moment series, Mo Henderson describes her experience of singing in a choir and how one small moment changed her understanding of what it is to “‘sing’ together “
Many years ago while attending a long retreat at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey in Northumberland, I had the opportunity to practice with the choir. My only previous experience was at school when I was chosen to be in a choir by the music teacher. At that time I was rather reluctant and thought I may not be too good at singing. The experience of practising with my school friends was actually very enjoyable, we even won a competition at the City Hall in Newcastle. I will never forget the sense of being together and the mutual support and happiness I felt. In hindsight I believe this must have brought confidence to many of us, it certainly helped me.
I had never put myself forward to join a choir again, until years later having the opportunity to practice with the monks’ choir at Throssel. I was asked to intone a few notes to find out what kind of voice I had, then I was allotted a place to stand in the choir. As I was there for a few months, I was able to share choir practice on a number of occasions and just as at school, I enjoyed the experience immensely. I gradually came to realise the gifts of being part of a choir.
I think the main one was simply playing a part with others, hearing all their different voices including my own voice to create a whole harmonious sound. I found the concentration on listening and following the music, although not easy at first, eventually became effortless. Then, during one practice, something happened, time seemed to stand still and the joy of it all seemed like one endless moment. There was a deep appreciation for the mutual support of everyone, while at the same time the synergy of sound was as one voice.
I have not had the experience of singing with a choir since that time at Throssel. However, in my daily life, I like to take time to reflect and to recognise how others, things and nature around me are showing helpful support and how I can appreciate and mutually help too. In the past I know I have not always looked in this way and know there must have been much support I have not noticed. This does not involve needing to sing, but I believe there are many ways we can ‘sing’ together if we take a moment to listen.
Mo Henderson