I live in a simple room in my grandmother's house. A bed. A cushioned, wooden-framed chair from the 1970's. A shelf of books. Candles. Incense. A row of plants that lines my window sill. An iPod Dock. A multi-picture frame with a few of my spiritual teachers. It's sparsely furnished, organized, and cleaned regularly - just the way I like it. Silas once likened it to a prison cell; but to me, it's an airy haven - the cell of a monk, perhaps, but not an inmate.
It's a space I hardly ever invite people in to. Everything is in its place; there's a chill vibe maintained. So it's a little jarring when people do come in for a spell. Not terrible, really; just jarring. But even more unsettling, I found last week, was spying a dark, crawly intruder creeping along my carpet. In the past I've not hesitated to kill insects - they're weird-looking, they're gross and uninvited - but recently, I've taken the attitude that there's no need to punish them for looking how they do. Ideally, I'd like just to pick them up and usher them out-of-doors. The way I see it, if I were a little insect walking around in some land inhabited by enormous, towering creatures, I'd probably be just as likely to mistakenly wander in to a place I wasn't welcome. As could be said of us, they're just weird little dudes going about their day. No harm, no foul. This cockroach in particular crawled out of sight before I had the chance to consider how I'd respond - because honestly, as sympathetic as I am to their plight, the sight of them makes me cringe.
Later I recalled the story I've heard Byron Katie share about the moment of her great spiritual awakening - the moment she says she "woke up to reality." To my mind, that's her way of expressing her "enlightenment" experience - something I personally believe she's had. Katie tells how she used to sleep on the floor because for years she was clinically depressed, unhinged and miserable, not even believing she was worthy of a bed. One morning while sleeping on the floor in a halfway house, a cockroach crawled over her foot and woke her up. And as she woke from her physical sleep, she also woke up to the spiritual nature of reality - and since that day, has only known peace. As I remembered that story, I decided to view my encounter with the cockroach as a positive omen, the Universe letting me know my own awakening is at hand.
A couple of nights ago, before dinner, I was on YouTube - where a majority of my satsangs take place - watching interviews of Katie and other various videos people had made with photographs and quotes of Ramana Maharshi - and of course, was feeling the Love. I needed to pee so I got up, and as I walked in to the bathroom, I saw a cockroach on the floor. Startled, I jumped back. Every impulse was to grab some toilet paper and flush the little bastard down the toilet. But instead, I forced myself to stand there and behold him...or her, whatever. I never realized how repulsed I was by roaches until I allowed myself to be so near one. I kept expecting it to crawl over to me and I couldn't help but imagine how gross and creepy it would feel. I noticed all of the uncomfortable sensations in my body - What is this? Fear? Disgust? What is this slight tremble? - and allowed myself to feel them. Just maintaining my gaze towards it was a feat. We stood there quietly together for at least a couple of minutes. If I hadn't needed to pee and if I hadn't been looking forward to my veggie burger as much as I was, I probably would have tried to commune with her longer; but as it happened, I left the bathroom relieved to have those other urges present. I decided to call him "friend" and let her wander where he would. I shut the door, leaving him in the dark and quiet.
What I love is the symbolism. It's the things we fear that keep us from realizing our true nature. It's the ego, that sense of separation. It's the things we pull away from and try to keep at bay. Here comes a little cockroach, something I'd designated as an omen of impending enlightenment, and I'm repulsed by it, tempted to flush it down the toilet. Always asking for signs, I believe I received one with my little crawly friend. Especially after the association I had made with the roach to Katie's story. And then after being in such a state of joy from satsang, to walk in to the bathroom and find another one waiting for me. Call it a coincidence if you want, but I haven't been a believer in those for a long time. I'm gonna go ahead and continue seeing them as little messengers letting me know that I'm on the right track, creeping around waiting for just the right moment.
One of these days, any morning now, a cockroach will crawl upon my foot and wake me up.
It's a story, true. But just as good as any other.