This past Saturday, as I made my way to the shed with the intention of fishing through some old boxes, I found myself pausing to admire the beauty of our backyard. Although our yard is not much to look at (other than the well cared for grass that my husband tends to each year), I could feel the warmth in the air and the rays of the sun as they kissed the earth. The smell of fresh cut grass was pleasantly overwhelming and for some reason always takes me back to 8th grade typing class with Mr. Klick in the late afternoons of a May school day. The sound of the birds and lawn mowers in the distance grazed my ears and a smile played across my lips as I embraced the moment.
Halfway to my destination I realized that I had stopped, although not sure as to why, I turned around and made my way to the play structure that took up a large bit of landscape in the yard. I climbed to the platform and sat cross legged with the sun beating down on my back. I closed my eyes, somewhat aware that neighbors could probably see me over the fence, and settled somewhat hesitantly into my breath. Grateful for a moment of silence and the opportunity to be still in the midst of a busy day I slowly released my anxiety and turned my attention inward.
As I began to drop in, I became acutely aware of a large carpenter bee buzzing nearby. Anyone who has a wooden play structure knows what I mean. Come early spring, just when the children actually want to use the swings again, the carpenter bees swarm the structure, dancing around the slide and the monkey bars with their loud buzzing and impressive size. They often scare us off, forcing us to vacate that area of the yard until the summer heat settles in and the bees find a new home.
I decided however, in this moment, not to react. Rather, I found myself noticing. With my eyes closed I could only hear the bee as it whirled around me, coming in and out of my awareness as it made it's presence known and then flew off again. Once I muscled past the urge to open my eyes and/or move away, I was amazed at how easily I was able to observe my body's response to what I perceived to be the bee's antagonistic behavior. As the buzzing grew louder, I knew the bee was closer and acutely felt my body tense and my heart quickly accelerate as if in unison with the growing intensity of the bee's buzz. Then, as the bee flew away, I was simply left with the sound of my heart beat vibrating through my body and hastening my breath. Noticing, just noticing. Tuning in again, to my breath I purposely inhaled just a bit deeper and exhaled just a bit longer, effectively slowing my heart rate and coming back to calm.... no sooner would I drop in and the bee would be back.
As if it was actively engaging in this game with me, the bee would approach and retreat, sometimes staying longer, other times a quick buzz and it was gone. This dance went on for quite a while, and after a time I realized that the bee was not antagonizing me anymore, although it's behavior had not changed. In fact I welcomed it's approach, and felt pride in how it's presence pushed me beyond my normal limits. Rather than reacting, I noticed, I observed and I controlled what I could. I wish I could say that eventually I could sit with the bee without bodily response, perhaps if I had lasted another hour or two it might have happened. What did happen though, is that with each pass the bee made I was able to come back to center quicker and easier.
And this is where the story begins, because in real life bees happen all the time. How often do we find ourselves reacting to events, people, stress or trauma without noticing and observing? Our lizard brain response takes over and we fight, flee or freeze, reacting from a place of fear because that is what our body is telling us to do. Although useful when in serious danger, more often than not there is space to come back to center, if only we were able to stop and just notice. And maybe, just maybe we would realize that sometimes the bees are not really antagonizing, they are just simply being. We could then respond, or not, from a place of calm and love instead of fear.
I will try to remember this experience the next time my kids are fighting, or someone cuts me off in traffic or someone's anger is coming toward me. I now know that I have complete control over how I feel and I am able to choose how I will react to the bees in my world. Hopefully with practice I will reach a place where I stay close to my center and respond from the place I found on top of the play set while meditating with a carpenter bee!