Dharma Glimpse by Dave Smith
I am a very lucky man.
As part of my job, I get to go out into the countryside and carry out ecological surveys. I get paid to look for bats, reptiles and dormice amongst other things. It’s a bit of a dream come true in some ways, but its not all skipping through meadows and sniffing flowers. The going can be really tough, you can be out in all weathers, sometimes in very inhospitable conditions and in tricky terrain.
A few weeks ago I had to travel down to Somerset to check some nest tubes that I had put out earlier in the year to see if any dormice had made nests in them. I think it was April when I put them out, I had placed them along the hedgerows bordering an agricultural field which is going to be turned into a quarry at some point in the future.
It was during one of our mini heatwaves that I was carrying out this check and the vegetation had grown up quite considerably since April. What was once an empty field, had now become a tall crop of corn, and the headland between the corn and the hedgerow was waist high or higher with grasses, nettles, brambles and thistles. I was struggling to travel from one nest tube to the next, and having great difficulty finding them in the overgrown and bramble covered hedges, which had earlier in the year been easily accessible.
As it was so hot, I was dressed in a T shirt and light trousers in an attempt to keep cool, unfortunately this did not give me much protection from the stinging nettles and thistles that I was literally surrounded by. To add to this, I was being bombarded with midges and other small flying insects that seemed to be attracted to my sweaty head.
I was hot and bothered and getting quite annoyed, desperately trying to avoid getting scratched and stung, weaving my way in and out of the aggressive vegetation flinching at every sting and scratch. After a while it dawned on me, the futility of trying to avoid this situation, if I was going to do my job I would just have to put up with it and wade in. Once I had accepted this reality and stopped worrying about my discomfort everything changed.
To be honest the pain was not actually that bad, and as my focus shifted from avoiding my relatively minor suffering, I began to look around and take in my surroundings with a calmer perspective. As well as the annoying midges and other flying insects that I mentioned previously, there were bumble bees, honey bees, hoverflies and dragonflies, and as I got deeper into the midst of the thistles, there were more and more butterflies. Dozens of them, big ones, little ones, about six or seven different species, all brightly coloured flitting from thistle to thistle and flying around my head. Purple flower heads and butterflies for as far as I could see. Once my perspective and focus had changed I was transported from my minor personal hell into paradise!
Buddhist teachings tell us that it is often our reaction to suffering that cause us the most distress, a secondary suffering of our own making. This was clearly brought home to me on this beautiful sunny day in my field full of butterflies.
Namo Amida Bu