Ajahn Mosquito, Part 2

“Why do you gesticulate so frantically when mosquitoes come close to you?,” asked Ajahn [teacher, in Pali]. “Well because the buzzing is annoying, and because they sting. They are annoying pests,” I replied. “So they disturb your peace, and you get angry?” he asked with a faint smile. I knew I was in trouble. “Well, if you  put it that way, it seems pretty foolish…” I said tentatively. He looked at me for a second. “And what other way would you put it? You’re letting insects determine your state of mind. And if an insect can do that, what about life itself? What about the people out there insulting you or cutting you off on the road, or giving you bad news? What about when it rains on your wedding day or you don’t get the job you want? Or when you lose a loved one?”

 

Hmm, interesting point, I thought. “It’s about not reacting so mindlessly, isn’t it?,” I asked. He looked at me intently for a few moments. “And what about the mosquitoes in your head?, he asked. All those thoughts buzzing around in there, making a big noise. Thoughts about the past, about the future, about what so-and-so did or didn’t do, about how great or lousy you are, about the guy who sent you abusive emails, about the ants in your cabin, about this or that worry, about the ice cream you’d like to eat. How do you deal with those mosquitoes?”

 

I imagined swarms of Canadian mosquitoes and black flies eating me alive while I sit there with a beatific grin on my face. “Well I guess I’m not really sure how to react less strongly when things don’t go my way,” I replied. But he must have read my mind: “It’s not about being passive while your house burns down. It’s about not letting external conditions rule your mind. The Buddha says we can find an inner refuge in which we become like a mountain which is unmoved by wind and weather. If you’re constantly reacting to external conditions and to the thoughts in your mind, you’re just being blown about like a leaf in the wind. Who’s living your life then, and how can you have peace? Your mind wants you to react, but you can learn not to listen. You take action if necessary, like when your house is burning. But you’ll be more effective if you’re not flailing wildly.”

 

“You should be thankful to Ajahn Mosquito. He teaches you all day to watch your mind and not let events shake your peace. And isn’t it a relief to not have to get all worked up? Isn’t it nice to know you don’t have to waste your energy if someone treats you badly? If a negative thought floats through your mind, you don’t have to act on it, what a relief. You can just watch it float away. The world can get excited, but you keep your peace. This is the lesson of Ajahn Mosquito. If you can learn to not lose your peace over insect mosquitoes, then you will be better prepared when life sends other kinds of mosquitoes your way.”

 

 

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