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Snakes and spiders

A spider crawled out of my bag this morning. I let out the kind of involuntary girlish yelp that I reserve for spiders and mice. It was the same spider that I had seen on the ceiling two days prior while vacuuming.

I remember observing at the time, that whilst it might have been highly convenient to hoover the spider up, thus removing any real or imagined threat, I wasn’t able to do it. This evoked a feeling of curiosity with a tinge of self-satisfaction. Had the Buddhist teachings started to penetrate at last? Had I finally begun to feel compassion for all living things?

Another thought accompanied these musings: hoovering it up wouldn’t actually get rid of it. It would still be there, inside the hoover bag. Dead or alive, it would sit there, in the bottom of that bag, as a consequence of my action.

Perhaps this was about responsibility. When I throw something away, I want to imagine that the responsibility for that rubbish leaves me the moment the rubbish leaves my hand. But somehow these days that story doesn’t sit quite so comfortably with me.

Every thing we throw away goes somewhere. Nothing is completely eradicated out of existence – it just changes into something else. This is the case with things, but also thoughts, emotions, they’re all energies – they have to go somewhere. I wonder if in some way this is what karma is all about.

The next day I saw the spider again in a different corner. A shorthand version of the previous days musings played over in my mind, along with the thought: ‘ah, there’s that spider again. still there. hmmm.’

This spider gave me two warnings that an intimate invasion might be forthcoming, and yet I did nothing.

I wonder how this translates to my behaviour in other areas of my life. Do I push away unwanted thoughts like unwanted rubbish, only to find them manifesting later more vividly in physical or emotional ways that I can’t control?

Quite possibly.

I think about Robert the Bruce, who also famously learnt something from a spider. The moral of that story was, we were taught, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’ You can’t really argue with that. How many people succeed by giving up first time?

It inspired me to construct my own proverb:

‘Ignore a spider on your ceiling and the next day you’ll find it climbing behind your eyeball.’

OK I dressed it up a bit for the sake of the drama, but you get the idea. I wonder if it’ll catch on.

On a related topic, I released an EP this week. Not about spiders, but snakes. Water Snakes, to be precise. It’s about not ignoring what’s there – rather embracing it. It’s about a journey – the kind of journey that starts by letting go of your baggage. If you’ve ever travelled with Ryanair you’ll probably have experienced this kind of thing already.

Looking at what’s actually there is really, really uncomfortable a lot of the time. But in my humble experience, ignoring what’s there and trying to work with something that’s not there, only to find the taut facade of your own fantasy come crashing down at the most inopportune moment, usually in public, is marginally worse.

If that doesn’t tempt you to have a listen to the EP, I don’t know what will.

I could also add that it’s got some nice songs on it, possibly some of my best work so far. And there’s more to come.

Incidentally there are a few particular doses of inspiration to which I am indebted, and which I shall note here, for those who may be interested: The teachings of Chögyam Trungpa, Coleridge’s The Rime of The Ancient Mariner, and TS Eliot’s Four Quartets, in particular, Little Gidding. I’ll end with a quote from that as it says it all as eloquently and succinctly as I could ever wish to do.

‘We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.’

And now the music.

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