Life is about choice. Difficult or easy, exciting or calm, exotic or common; all outcomes we experience directly or indirectly result from our choosing them.
A common example is as follows: I decide to holiday in the bush for a week, semi-primitive style; taking only a hunting knife and the clothes on my back. Regardless of my reasons for wanting to make camp, I am going to come across several obstacles through the experience. For drink, Iâ€™m going to have to set up near a water source; a river, spring, lake, etc. Depending on my immune system and resistance to bacteria, I may or may not need to purify the water. I must think about food. Is there fish near the water source? How about other game I can hunt or trap? What edible local flora is in season to gather? Are there laws prohibiting some of things I am considering, and if so, do I risk breaking them, willing to except consequences if caught? What time of year is it and how do I prepare for climate challenges? How do I protect myself from dangerous insects and animals? How will I repel ticks, mosquitoes, and leeches, or do I not worry about it? How adequate are my fire making skills, and is there enough wood supply to fuel a fire? What about a shelter, can I build or find one given my area, natural supplies, and survival skills? How will I stay clean, or will I not worry about it? Are my tracking skills up to par for hunting, exploration, and hiking? What is my level of personal health at the time, and how do I go about setting up emergency search and rescue should an unforeseen accident occur?
In the above scenario, how I answer those questions, my level of previous camping experience, and my physical, emotional, and spiritual strength will determine the success and quality of the trip. Depending on the aforementioned variables I could come home relaxed and revitalized with extra food and souvenirs, stressed and shaken, half starved and battered, or dead. Whatever the final outcome, I made the choice to go in the first place. The results of all my subsequent challenges are likewise dependent upon my choices, molded by personal temperament and previous experience that were also the result of past choices. I could have chosen not to go and remained weak and ignorant to the challenges to a survival experience, therefore making stagnant in myself an aspect of Earthly existence. Choosing to go, I could end up more wealthy in temperament and experience, weaker but gaining a lesson, injured and damaged without learning, or dead. Lessons learned also include those of a metaphysical nature, highly connected to temperament, awareness, and self control. The following is a true example.
When I was younger, I moved to a small Caribbean island for a couple of years. It was a wonderful time of my life, but when I first arrived there were three personal challenges that were immediately evident. Food selection was very limited, and required much of the same cuisine over and over again. Second, the humidity and heat were intense living as I did without air conditioning, and there were no seasons to speak of including temperature change; hot and humid all year, all day and night. The third challenge was the mosquitoes. Living in a rainforest, as I did, lent little barriers to the little blood suckers that would cover any exposed skin in seconds in the evening and nighttime hours. It is that last challenge that I shall briefly discuss, comparing my handling of the situation with two other Americans I was there with.
In the very beginning, all three of us used repellent, with the highest amount of DEET we could find. This worked only partially, as the swarms of these little parasites were usually hungry enough not to mind the noxious poison.
Bob (not his real name), continued with the repellent, bought mosquito nets, and remained indoors as much as possible. Susie (not her real name) and I, rather disliked the odor of repellent, and disfavored its continual use as DEET is carcinogenic and unhealthy overall. Bob succeeded in mostly avoiding mosquitoes, but not Susie. The entire two years in the Caribbean saw dozens of continual bites anywhere skin was visible; arms, legs, neck, and even the face occasionally. Constantly itching, she forever was cursing her tiny tormenters. I attempted a different approach.
Noticing that the locals were hardly bothered by mosquitoes, I questioned how this was possible as us foreigners were plagued by them. Maybe it was diet, or genetics, or some type of acclimation less tangible. Focusing on the last possibility, as I was determined to overcome the problem. I set myself up to practice certain types of meditation along with altering my mindset on a daily basis regarding the matter. This involved a kind of spiritual communion and communication with the insects. Without words, I first began to see through the eyes of a mosquito in order to understand their life, urges, and awareness. I became them. Next, again without words, shifted the spiritual resonance of my own physiology. Concentrating on myself and the mosquitoâ€™s bloodlust in tandem, I felt my blood and scent becoming something repugnant, innutritious, and unhealthy for the mosquito. I proceeded to let them bite me, focusing on their receiving intense dissatisfaction from the meal, and passing this experience on to their mates, children, and fellow mosquitoes on the island. Keeping subtle awareness focused on my body, even while I was at other tasks, I reminded myself of, and felt the awareness of the physical shift I had initiated.
In about a week, I stopped being bitten. I could sit out in the grass at night without protection or care. Occasionally, I would get the odd bite, but I summed this up to a confused or retarded mosquito. Even when this did happen, there was almost no itch, and the bite mark would completely disappear within hours.
(Strangely, after returning to the States, I found that my immunity to mosquitoes disappeared, and chalked the difference up to local types and differences between the strains of mosquitoes on the island compared to the mainland. )
Three people, three choices on how to handle an unpleasant situation. Bob avoided and defended against the challenge to the best of his knowledge and ability, but made some sacrifices in the process. Susie suffered through the experience. This made her stronger as a person, but she had to deal with suffering and the side effects that contained. I overcame the challenge within and without, recognizing myself and nature in ways deeper than before, gaining strength, awareness, and ability in the process. Without these mosquitoes, I would have never have learned those lessons or gained that power. In the end, all three of us gained something differently that we wouldnâ€™t have if we never had gone, all thanks to an often ignored and commonly maligned Caribbean mosquito.
What unpleasant experiences are you going through? What are you seemingly dominated by? How do you respond to these challenges? Whatever they are, you chose them. We are here to learn, grow or change in the manner we dictate to ourselves. Often this process is unconscious; a pattern set up in the foggy mists of the past as we stumble in the dark, slogging through the mud. Maybe you thought camping was a picnic, unconcerned with how you would feed yourself, stave off bears, or handle mosquitoes. These little things, and great things too, make up the adventure, challenges, and lessons of life. However you choose to respond to your brief sojourn here, you will be forever changed when you return home, for good or ill. And in the final equation, there is no one to blame for your circumstances or state of being than yourselfâ€¦ The hardest road generally contains the greatest reward and lesson.