Healing In The Holy Land

Sea of Galilee
When I introduced myself to the man sitting next to me, who would become my brother on a tour bus that would become our home for ten days in Israel, I mentioned that I wrote for Let Yourself Learn.  He asked me how the blog started and I was brought back to over a year ago when I experienced the traumatic series of events that became the basis for the first trilogy of posts on this site entitled, “The Bed Bug Incident: Parts 1, 2, and 3.”

This WayNot only did those little bugs teach me about inner surrender, acceptance, and becoming comfortable with the unknown, but they also prompted the attempt to manifest my inner lessons into words to be shared with others, that we might mutually benefit from the experience.

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to embark on an adventure in Israel, despite the turmoil in the Middle East, and decided to trust the voice of silence within myself that prompted me to pack my suitcase and head to the airport.

After the first few nights on the trip a couple of the participants suffered from several uncomfortable bug bites.  A visit to the doctor and the verdict was in: pishpeshim.  What were the pishpeshim you ask?  None other than bed bugs themselves.

At the Market

Over a year later, half way around the globe, my pesky spiritual teachers returned with a new lesson.  In the first series of posts for Let Yourself Learn I had been shown the areas within myself that needed healing.  I was relying on non-existent outer security and comfort. I was holding onto pain long after I had experienced it. I allowed the life of my mind to thrive at the expense of my own enjoyment.

Now, in a land of both great pain and unimaginable joy, holy to generation upon generation of human beings, I was being shown the ways in which I had been healed.  The pishpeshim became one of the more hilarious foibles of the group, and the ridiculous amount of education I had acquired about bed bugs from my own experience became beneficial and happily utilized by those who were affected.

The experience of time is but a question: what is good and bad?  The present is the punch line.

Israeli FamilyThe pishpeshim incident was just a small moment in what turned out to be one of the most monumental experiences I have yet to witness in my short life. No story, no combination of words, can express the gratitude of my soul more than the tears of joy that still come to my eyes when I take a moment to notice the overwhelming love from the people I connected with that continues to linger in my heart.

So what was the main lesson that I was being taught by my experience in Israel? I learned that it is impossible to understand the real situation and life experience of a person, a nation, and a society, by mere words uttered in a news program. I learned that the brilliance of our tour guide, Iftah, wasn’t born just of his knowledge and expertise, but of his unwavering request that we remain present. I learned that there is courage, bravery, and the strength to persevere in depths of the human heart that I have yet to penetrate.

Tel AvivBut the lesson that brings tears of gratitude and peace to my being, is that no matter where I go in the world, I can always be loved. Whether we are far from home, or in an unhappy home, the love that is the makeup of our being can be reflected back to us through the eyes of another.

In the post right before I left, I mentioned that inner security is the only true security. But that isn’t entirely true. Outer security can be experienced in the form of love. Our love for one another is our greatest security and our purest freedom.   To all those I encountered on this journey, thank you for your love. Know that I love you more than there are stars in the clear desert sky. And even if you weren’t physically on this journey with me, whenever one is loved, one is loved by all, and I thank you.

consciousness, spirituality, Uncategorized

The Bed Bug Incident Part 3 – Conclusions

As the days passed before the extermination I experienced great fluctuations in my state of consciousness.  There would be brief moments of clarity where I felt fine, peaceful, above my circumstance.  Then I would soon despair again.  I had to pack up my apartment as if I was moving, treat all my clothes.  I had to live apart from my boyfriend who graciously stayed at the apartment, per instructions from the exterminator, while I fled to my parents’ house in the suburbs.  We’ve lived together for years and now we were in separate places, both without any of our “stuff.”

My mind constantly tormented me with the fear that I was going to bring the bugs to my parents’ house.  But as the days went by, my moments of clarity were able to shine through more and more.  I was learning to bring acceptance to my outer circumstance.  The negative thoughts were so obviously unwanted and unhelpful at this point that I made the choice to start letting them go, one by one, as they came up in my mind.  And they came up all the time.  So this was a lot of great practice at letting go of negative thoughts.

I then had to go back to the apartment to “test” the results of the extermination.  Everything was fine.  On my fifth day back I woke up and went to work.  As I was typing on my computer I noticed one of my fingers was swollen.  Then I felt something on my thigh, went to the bathroom, and saw it had swollen up the size of a large tomato.  I had been bitten.  I left that morning assuming I would see my boyfriend after work.  But now I’d be driving back to the suburbs, living apart for another two weeks while the second round of treatment took effect.  I emailed the exterminator.  I called my boyfriend to tell him what had happened.  I called my mom to tell her I was coming home.  And I was okay.  I had been through this once before, I was learning how to let go of the circumstance.  I was learning to be okay with uncertainty.  I was learning how to accept what happens, because to not accept what happens is to cause yourself unnecessary suffering.

The universe gave me a round two, another opportunity to try again.  And this time it was easier not to freak out.  It didn’t feel like a horrible struggle prepping my apartment for extermination, or commuting to work from the suburbs, or not knowing when I would live at my apartment again.  I’m still learning to accept that bugs exist.  But now, in comparison, the other ones don’t seem so bad.  I’m now back at my apartment and haven’t had any bites again.  Although that doesn’t mean they won’t come back.  And I am okay with that now, I have learned to be comfortable with the not knowing.  I really don’t know what is going to happen, where I’ll be living day to day, if the next apartment I get will be bed bug free.  From experiencing the suffering I caused after having bed-bugs I have learned that it is much more helpful, peaceful, and joyful to let go of those fears and be in the moment I am in.  After all, it is the only moment I will ever be in.  So if I’m afraid and worried now, it is likely I’ll continue to be afraid and worried.  But if I’m peaceful and accepting now, it is quite likely that my future moments will also be peaceful.  After all, the future never happens, when it does it is called the “now.”

So what can you let go of now?  What uncontrollable circumstances in your life can you bring acceptance to?  What negative thoughts repeat in your head that you are ready to let go of?  The bed bugs taught me many things; the universe always gives you the lesson that is most helpful for your state of consciousness at that moment (as Tolle puts it).  And while I perceived the situation as suffering while in the midst of it, it was for my learning, for fostering greater peace, joy, love, and awareness in my life.  What a gift.

PS- I also have a different relationship with things now.  Although I don’t perceive “stuff” as a burden as I did after getting bed bugs, I am not as interested in having more “stuff.”  I would rather have just a few things to tend to.  It has actually stopped me from wanting to buy clothes and other things.  All I wanted after having bed bugs was to be just me, to feel clean and untainted.  While that is an extreme that would be detrimental to stay at, it pushed me more to the middle in terms of my desire for objects, another blessing in disguise!

consciousness, spirituality

The Bed Bug Incident Part 2

I never found out what had been causing those bites for so many months. But the situation developed when I learned a couple apartments in my building had bed bugs and were having exterminations. I freaked out. Freaking out is a good sign that you are totally taken in by a circumstance and cannot view it at the higher vantage point of the true self, the watcher which is unaffected by what “happens” and is always whole. I wasn’t being the watcher, I was being a body threatened by outside forces. I took many precautions after learning my neighbors had bed bugs, putting things in trash bags, keeping the lights on at night, spraying poison around my door. But to the universe all of those precautions were really just me saying, “I’m afraid of something, this bothers me, I’m totally attached and identified with this situation.” That was the truth of the matter. I hadn’t let go. I was clinging to circumstance.

I was living in fear of bugs. For you this experience might have manifested in another form in your own life. About a month after the bed bug incident I thought I was in the clear. Everything was going to be fine. And when the thought that everything will be fine occupies your mind, that can be saying that you don’t feel fine in this moment, the only moment you will ever actually be experiencing. That very week I woke up with bug bites. These were very different from the ones I had been having all year. There were multiple bites and they were on my upper body not my legs. I even had bites on my fingers. The only thing familiar about them was the terrible allergic reaction. But the itching was even worse. I called the exterminator to inspect, and sure enough I had bed bugs.

The morning I found out I fell to pieces. You would have thought a real tragedy had struck. I was distraught, beside myself. I felt completely contaminated, as if everywhere I went would become infected by bed bugs. I didn’t want to tell anyone, I didn’t want to hang out at other apartments. Mostly, I never wanted to return to my apartment ever again. I no longer cared about my stuff, I did not want any of it anymore. In my eyes, the place would be forever contaminated.

This is a great example of a strong reaction. My reaction was a clear message of the feelings, fears, and beliefs I had been holding onto ever since my first bad bite from October. It was now May, and there was no more fooling myself. I was completely attached to my outer circumstance, and when my outer circumstance did not fit with the picture I had in my head of what I needed to feel safe, comfortable, and at ease, I caused immense suffering for myself. Suffering is often created by the outer circumstance not matching up with your thought’s picture of how things “should” be. This cannot be reconciled by more thoughts. The only way to stop the self created suffering is to recognize the thoughts and how they operate. The thougths don’t really want problems to be solved, even though that is what they claim. They want to keep thinking, that is their whole life up there in your head. They just want to stay alive. So when the outer circumstance doesn’t match with the thoughts’ visions, your mind will take that opportunity and run with it. Literally run, you know how thoughts run on and on in your mind. It loves doing that. But you are the observer of your thoughts, you have the ultimate control once you recognize that they are not helpful and in no way actually improve the uncontrollable circumstance.

When you have thoughts like this that keep running and cause you great emotional suffering, become very alert. Say to yourself, “what is my next thought going to be?” and then watch your mind until one comes in (a great tool from Tolle’s The Power of Now). Don’t judge the thoughts, allow them, give them your fullest attention. In this way the light of your presence will shine through the illusion that your thoughts can help you with their insane ramblings. Another way to quiet down an insane thought pattern is to bring complete inner acceptance to your outer circumstance even though your thoughts don’t want you to. Allow a situation to be. It will be the end of the mind using you, and the beginning of you using the mind.