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The Biting Truth

Once, when I was learning a form of meditation, I was given an insight into our relationship with nature. I was sitting on the hot sand of a pine barrens, surrounded by low-bush blueberry shrubs, scrub oaks, and small, scrappy Pitch-pines. The August sun hammered me into the earth like a nail. I struggled with letting go of my physical discomfort so I might touch a deeper meditation. As it happened, I was sitting next to an ant nest. It did not take long for the ants to respond to my agitation and discomfort so close to their home. They began ranging about my naked legs and torso, biting me. Suppressing panic and an impulse to smack the ants or to get up and move someplace else, I had the idea that the ants were there to help me. Perhaps it was not an accident that I chose this spot to meditate. Still, like many people, I have an automatic response to certain insects touching my skin or darting across my living space, so letting them be was not an easy thing to do at first. 

Ant on aster flowers eating pollen.As I worked to calm myself down, I began to be present to the situation, doing my best to fully experience each piercing bite along with the sensation of all those tiny ant feet touching my skin. A curious thing happened then – I stopped thinking of the sensation as bad or painful, and I began to really look at the ants. I tracked one ant on my thigh as it wandered here and there, occasionally biting me and I realized that it wasn't angry at me or trying to hurt me, so much as it was trying to learn about me in some way, or communicate something to me. I became aware of the nature of the bites – most seemed to be a slow, testing sort of bite, and I could gauge the degree of pressure applied by the ant; as if you or I might test the ripeness of a plum or melon. 

My curiosity about this particular ant gave way to admiration and respect, then, to my surprise, I felt a familial sort of love for this ant that was not intellectual, or based on any aesthetic appeal. I touched the spirit of the ant and of nature that surrounded us, and I experienced a kinship. This was astounding to me, but what happened next was even more amazing to me. As I experienced this oneness, the ant I was looking at stopped walking and laid down, as if resting like a dog on a lazy afternoon. In fact, all the ants on my body stopped biting me, their antennae relaxed.

After a while of being inside this experience, I decided to try something. I deliberately broke my meditation and returned to my ordinary consciousness, and in that instant, the ants began moving again and I received a few more bites. I laughed at this very obvious confirmation – or reprimand. I got up, carefully brushed the lingering ants from my limbs and left the area. During that timeless interval when our spirits met, I discovered the quality of ant-ness, and I saw past the illusion that seems to rule the human mind – that we are superior to other life forms.

While not necessarily difficult, it takes time to touch the deeper levels of nature consciousness, and there is nearly always an admission price of some sort in order to gain entrance to this realm. Ultimately, what has to be sacrificed is the notion that we are separate from the totality of life on earth. We are part of the spirit-that-moves-through-all-things.

Reader Comments (2)

Michael, what a lovely website! It has such an authentic spirit, as well as magnificent photography.

Feels like a mini-vacation. :-)

August 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Moldow

I love this story and can relate to the experience. Now if this trust and understanding could be successfully applied human to human ...

August 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristine Boyka Kluge

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