Last week I was enjoying just being in the garden. Letting the skin tingle with the pleasure of the sun’s kisses and the eyes with the beauty of the flowers and plants. Then I spotted a little creature moving about in my garden. This creature was small and kind of shuffled along.
I find it interesting that my first thought was “What is this creature and what is it doing here in my garden?” followed immediately by an automatic emotional reaction along the lines of “It should not be here, I need to get rid of it!” What thought came along with this emotional reaction? “Let me frighten it away and if necessary kill it!” Why? Simply because I have it that the garden belongs to me and anyone / anything that turns up there without my permission is not welcome and has to be got rid-off!
Wow, what a thought! This thought, which I’d like to think is not me, got my attention and stopped me in my tracks. Given that I have been involved in ‘gratefulness meditation’ a higher self kicked in and I chose to just be with this creature. To be grateful that it was in my garden. And to get to know this creature better. At some fundamental level I also got that we both belonged in that garden along with every other plant and creature that was there. If you zoom out and look at the planet Earth you can totally and logically get that all that is here belongs here!
When I did that I realised that this creature is simply a baby hedgehog. And I got curious and just watched it. This hedgehog did not appear to be sensitive to noise. He moved slowly – shuffling along the floow. And he made for the areas of the garden that was covered with lush green plants full of soft leaves. When he got there he hid or became hidden under the leaves. All I could hear was the sound of shuffling and munching! He entertained me for at least ten minutes. And now I look forward to the day that I will see this chap again. He has enriched my garden and my life. He has also taught me a valuable life lesson.
So what do I take away from this experience?
‘Stuff’ turns up in our lives and frankly we do not have as much of a say about it as we pretend we do. When this stuff turns up in my life, your live, each of us has a choice as to how we are going to be about it. Rather like I did with the hedgehog. You and I can choose to get rid of that intrusion or we can embrace what has turned up.
If we do not embrace what turns up despite the fact that it is right there then we are creating our own suffering: we are arguing with reality and reality does not respect our needs and wishes. This is what the Buddhist say that there is pain in living yet suffering is entirely optional. We suffer when we argue with reality rather than work with reality. Zen has a visual for this picture: the tree that survives a strong wind is the one that is young and simply bends with the wind, the tree that is blown away is the older tree that has forgotten how to bend!
If on the other hand we embrace what turns up then you and I can learn what there is to learn, do what there is to do and most importantly be what the circumstances call us to be. Sometimes the only choice we have is how we choose to be in light of what is so. I believe that Viktor Frankl called this the ultimate freedom in his book Man in Search of Meaning. Frankl should know given that he is a survivor of the WWII concentration camps.