It is day 11 of the meditation retreat I'm attending. I’m sitting on my cushion. Mid morning after breakfast, my energy is still strong and I’m intent on staying focused on breathing and body sensations. Yes, there’s still a desire to enter that effortless state when the boundaries between body experience and mind dissolve and I can enter a state of absorption that feels very much like being in the moment forever. Ah, goals of meditation, the traps of the mind!
The day has warmed up already, and as I did my morning walking meditation in shorts, I sit with bare knees and lower legs. My breathing becomes regular and my attention deepens. Thoughts are fleeting. Yes, there are always thoughts, I think. Isn’t that the point, to notice the thoughts and let them go? Back to the breath, the body.
The fly lands on my knee, crawls around, flies away. Lands again and walks around my knee. I swat at it and it leaves me alone. For a little while anyway, then the fly is back. My attention is now fully on the fly, not on my breath, but on the tickling sensations the fly is causing. Tickling, tickling. How long can I stand it? The fly leaves, restless being that it is. I’ve taken a vow not to kill during this retreat. Maybe I can catch it, maybe I can cover up and not give it attention. I put a shawl over my knees and for a little while, the fly comes and goes and walks around on my clothes. I open my eyes, see the fly sitting on the shawl, slowly move my hand to cup the fly. No luck, the fly escapes. I wait for it to land again, try again; escape artist, that he is. Since the fly is a living being, maybe if I repeat my loving kindness phrases, the fly will calm down and sit somewhere quietly.
The fly lands on my face. Sensation galore! This is too much! I will have to hide from George, which I’ve named this being by now. I pull the shawl over my head, covering my hands and knees and face, with just a little breathing opening. Thoughts of the flies during my first meditation retreat in India float through. Thoughts about the women pulling their saris over their heads. I go off on a tangent of thoughts about head dresses in the Afghan desert. Are all these turbans a way to keep the flies off your face? Back to breathing, back to body sensation, I remind myself. Heat under the shawl, sweat dripping down my face. I observe, I react, not liking what I experience. George finds his way into the crack of my shawl and walks around on my cheek. Well, if it’s going to be like this, then I might as well take the shawl off my head and cool down! I readjust, check my watch, 25 minutes to go to th end of this session. George is gone, it seems, maybe, maybe? I observe my breath, body sensations calm down. I focus.
Soon George is back, on my left cheek, on my eye, my eyelashes. I experience less reactivity, I can handle the eyelashes twitching. George walks along my eyelid and enters the corner of my eye. George stops moving, George stays, I observe and wonder how long?
George doesn’t move. What is it about the corner of my eye? Is he drinking from my eye, bathing in the eye liquid? Has he been thirsty, flying around in my house for the last 2 days? Thoughts keep coming, but at least I’m not swatting, reacting, hating this creature. I’m calm, I’m focused on George. Then I have a thought: maybe I can cup my eye with my hand and catch George before he can fly out of the cavity. Slowly, I move my hand. George is still sitting in the corner, inebriated. Lightly, I bring my hand down. I cup the corner of my eye. George flies up, but his wing is under my hand. I’ve caught George!! Slowly I get up, holding my hand over my eye socket, walk outside and let George fly away. I return to my cushion to finish the session.
I didn’t kill; I kept a kind attitude; I stayed even-handed. I focused on the sensations at hand and deepened my understanding of what meditation is about. Sometimes insight is delivered by a fly. The 36 Buddhas on the thanka in my meditation corner would make an affirmative hand sign if they could.
P.S., I’ve been quick with opening and closing the front door and keeping the flies outside. One session with George is enough.