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Mindfulness and Spiders

Can they go together?

Red row boat on grass by a lake
Rather than scare you with a photo of a spider, here's one of the red boat by the water's edge at Evergreen

I was racing in my car along the ribbon of South Coast Highway, sunk in a state of what I considered perfectly enlightened mindfulness, when a huntsman spider the size of a Winnie the Pooh cereal bowl emerged from behind the sun-visor. I have short legs, so my seat is positioned as close to the steering wheel as possible, which meant this spider was only inches from my wildly curling hair.

Enlightened mindfulness went out the window.

Ram Dass once quipped that if you think you live an enlightened and mindful life, go spend a week with your family. Actually, one second with a giant spider can do the same thing — you suddenly realise you’re not a highly developed spiritually conscious human being. You’re just a quivering mass of concentrated primeval fear.

I put on the brake and looked ahead for a place to pull over safely. My curling hair was now standing on end, and I could hear strange throaty moans I initially thought were coming from the spider. But they were coming from me.

It was the spider who was in a mindful state. She was highly alert, silent, and very much focussed on the here and now. Me? I wanted to be in the future, preferably next year, and a long way from where I was. China perhaps, or Alaska.

The spider moved to the window, her long, crab-like front legs leading the way. I pressed the button to open the window, but instead of hurrying outside to freedom, she retreated from the icy blast and paused on the glass near my ear. I decided to stop making noises.

I pulled off the road and opened the window again. She slipped outside and I closed the window with relief, took a calm breath, and proceeded on my way. A kilometre down the road it occurred to me that if she hadn’t found her way to the ground as I hoped, she was thin enough to squeeze back through the door crack again.

I stopped the car once more and got out. My fears were justified. She was on the door, now the window, back down to the door handle. Looking for a safe place. Moving fast.

Using a stick found on the ground I flicked her off the car. She scurried away and I shakily drove off.

It’s easy to be mindful sitting on a cushion with calm music and a candle flame. But when life chucks you an unexpected event and you really need to be mindful, that’s when mindfulness can run away as fast as a huntsman spider.

During my encounter with the huntsman, I was tapping into the mental baggage of thousands of years of inherited arachnophobia and thus wanting to be anywhere else rather than in the moment presented to me.

I could’ve been calmer and more accepting.

I’ll try to do better next time.

With love, Marlane

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