Friday, May 30, 2008


I have spent the better part of the last few days chasing flies. Thankfully this spectacle was not captured on video or audio - especially audio! My language has been a bit crude, even for me. My ability to formulate an endless array of possible loopholes, exemptions and exclusions to the first precept has been impressive! These critters have given me quite a workout, physically and mentally. So what led up to this invasion? (I've never actually seen this many house flies in one place-certainly not MY place!)

It started several weeks ago when my husband took down a large section of the backyard fence that was damaged in a storm and needs to be replaced. (This is starting to sound like that story about a butterfly flapping it's wings in Africa and...) Anyway, to keep our dogs from getting out, he built a temporary fenced in area adjacent to the back door. To be blunt, that created the conditions for a lot of uh, dog poop to be concentrated in a relatively small area. Fast forward to Monday, which was my son's birthday and also Memorial Day. We opened the pool, fired up the grill and had a great family get together. Lots of food, lots of spills, lots of people leaving the door open... Yeah, the flies couldn't resist a temporary change in diet and discovered there was plenty of food to check out just around the corner, so they went for it.

How can one actually become angry at a fly? I mean REALLY angry! These things are incredibly difficult to catch for one thing! Much easier to whack them with a rolled up magazine, or better yet a nice fly swatter. I don't own a fly swatter, but I did roll up a newspaper. Yes I did. And I swore like a sailor and threatened to use it. My threats fell on deaf ears. Can flies hear? It was around this time that I realized how glad I was that there was no one around to witness this whole thing.

It was time for some "lying down" meditation. What came to mind was Ajahn Chah talking about how when we are about to do something wrong we tend to look around to make sure nobody will see. But we often don't consider that WE will see. All the more important to understand this teaching when what we may be thinking of doing would be seen as absolutely the right thing to do by most other people. In fact NOT doing it would be considered, well, a bit crazy!

I learned that it's impossible to catch a fly, let alone dozens of them, when angry or frustrated. I learned that with a calm and focused mind, compassionate heart and patience, it's not that hard to round up a bunch of rowdy intruders and show them the door. A much better result for all concerned than what I had first considered, though briefly!

As Sunday and the start of my retreat fast approaches, I can't help but wonder what the challenges will be that are sure to pop up along the way. And will I be able to see them for what they are, opportunities to strengthen this practice, and not obstacles that get in my way.

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