My eyes were unfocused, staring blankly ahead. I wasn’t paying attention to what I was looking at. I was sitting trying to watch my thoughts. Instead, my awareness fluttered about. What was I thinking?
Abruptly, my eyes were drawn to motion. On the back of a woman two rows in front of me, a caterpillar crawled. Even this slight movement was enough in contrast to the surrounding stillness to grab my wandering attention. The morning light cast long shadows off the straight-spined backs sitting around me. The caterpillar slowly moved down towards the ground. At first I resisted watching. “I was to focus on my thoughts!” I thought. Amid that strained confusion, I became thankful for the caterpillar for providing clarity, and giving me an interesting place to rest my awareness.
An experience from the day before was fresh in my mind, and made me want to get up and take the caterpillar out of the meditation hall. Yesterday, after plopping down on my cushion before a long sit, I felt a tingling sensation on my left ankle. Lifting up the hem of my pants, I saw a tick crawling up towards my leg. In a thoughtless second I flicked the tick, and stomped it out with my water bottle. The metal bottle was worn and had a rounded bottom from a time when it had frozen full of water. I rolled it around on top of the tick as if grinding herbs in a pestle. In that instant, I imagined the flicked tick finding its way onto an unsuspecting practitioner and having a meal.
Not wanting the caterpillar to find a similar fate, I wished to remove him to safety. I sat with those feelings and watched the bug crawl down the woman’s back towards the ground. He reached out from the edge where her body met the mat; his flipper-like back side holding him while the rest of his body reached out and waved left and right looking for a place to grab. The curve of her body made it so he could not find a handhold on the cushion below. He paced back and forth along the bottom of the woman’s blouse, trying repeatedly to find a way down. Eventually, he fell to the ground.
Slowly, he made his way towards me, then veered back around. I willed him to come to me, but he moved about aimlessly, aware only of his immediate surroundings. “What is his world like?” I wondered. He disappeared around the edge of an unoccupied cushion.
Time passed. The gong sounded. I rose up from my seat and found him under the lip of a mat. He crawled onto my outstretched hand. I looked at him closely as I carried him outside. His body was green, and he had a blue sine wave streaking along his length and spots of blue between the curves. The design was formed out of a mass of course fibers jutting out like antennae probing for a signal. As I stepped outside, a strong smell of lilacs hit me at the same time as the blinding sun. I placed him on a leaf and returned to my cushion for the next sit.
Again, I sat trying to watch my thoughts, and I felt I was having trouble with it.
“They’re not here,” I thought.
“Oh we’re here, you just can’t see us! Ha! Ha!”
I told myself that I am not my thoughts. I need to let them go. I don’t have to try to make them in order to watch them. They will come. I tried to find their bubbling source.
I like my thoughts, mostly. If my thoughts aren’t me, then what are they, and what am I? They are a manifestation of my personality, but what does that mean? Why do I have certain thoughts and not others? They arise based on the choices I have made in my life. Down the rabbit hole of my ego, everything seems to narrow the further I get. The choices I have are limited by the choices I have made before. My prior choices shaped my personality. My personality now generates my thoughts. However, no matter how constrained my thinking becomes, one choice always remains: the choice not to choose. Therein starts reflection, contemplation, and the creation of new choices; with the realization that you are not these thoughts or this personality. You are the capacity to observe them, and to start anew.
“So, you thought that you weren’t aware of us, huh?”
“You are all my thoughts!”
Suddenly I am filled with joy. I have a burst of energy and a desire to get up and run, to yell and dance, yet my legs burn from sitting and I can hardly move. Laughter wells up in the corners of my mouth and eyes. I am flooded with warmth. I remembered the feeling of the sun outside on my skin. I imagine the caterpillar, and see images of a blue butterfly drying its wings, slowly flapping up and down. I sit and watch.