It's been pretty warm in San Jose lately, and my teacher decided to open the door to the studio to let in some cool air during my class the other morning. After my asana practice, I practiced a contemplation sequence that includes cultivating forgiveness and friendliness towards all. When I completed this practice, I dropped my chin towards my chest and opened my eyes, and looked right at a large mosquito helping itself to my femoral artery (okay, it probably wasn't that particular blood vessel, but I assume we all don't want an anatomy lesson here)!
If all life is to be respected and all harms forgiven, could I let this mosquito live? Could you?
Let me explain how much I dislike mosquitoes and why. It begins with the fact that in any possible situation where I might get bit, I will get bit. I once stepped out of the Houston Airport and was only 2 steps from the sliding glass doors when I was bit 3 times! My family jokes about not needing citronella when we go camping; instead, they set me far away from them and let the bloodsuckers at me.
Not only do they like to bite me to an unholy degree, but my body reacts to the bites with a disproportionate amount of swelling. Once, while on vacation in Hawaii, I was bit near my knee and the entire front of the joint inflamed so much my husband considered taking me to the hospital. I declined, and after we iced it and my inflammation response calmed down, we were able to see a dime-sized bump where the actual bite was.
I have struggled all my life to answer the question of why mosquitoes exist in the world today.
I typically don't include them in my loving kindness meditation. I reserve that work for people who I have wronged, people who have harmed me, thoughts I've had that harm myself, madmen (and women) who bully, terrorize and murder others in this world... These days, there seems to be no shortage of material to build a compassion practice around. On this particular morning, my practice went a little like this:
I thought of my words and actions towards my family that may have harmed them and I asked forgiveness.
I looked into my heart to see if there was space to hold the police officer who hit my son at a Trump rally, reminding myself that this man thought he was doing what was right.
I swept away thoughts of judgement around extremists who say and do hateful things, and wrapped them in so much love and light that they hopefully don't feel the need to be hateful.
I imagined a wave of friendliness washing out from my heart and rippling into the world until it covered the entire planet, for one entire breath.
When I felt my need for violence is abated, I opened my eyes...
... to the view of a mosquito biting my leg. Without pause, I killed it and felt no small amount of satisfaction in doing so.
It appears I still have a lot to learn about non-harming, ahimsa.