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I was at the edge of a small river in western Thailand, near the Myanmar border. I had abandoned the strategy of jumping rock to rock a few streams back. Now I was wondering how to cross the one before me. The water wasn’t a problem. The leeches were.
On this school field trip, we were hiking 16 kilometres through the jungle to a forest monastery. This was real jungle, which meant that tigers, elephants, and leeches were all around us. I hadn’t seen any of those before and I wasn’t planning on starting. Thus, I was trying very hard to stay out of the water. It didn’t work.
I grudgingly waded in with bare feet and scrambled to get my shoes on when I reached the other side. This repeated every 5-10 minutes and I lost count of the bloodsuckers that tried to come along for the ride. It was mentally tiring.
Eventually, it hit me: I was being too rigid. I was insisting on constantly having my way. I wasn’t being responsive to my surroundings and was putting most of my energy into resisting the full experience. It was time to adapt.
I began crossing the rivers without taking my shoes off. After the fear of the unknown quieted down, the trip was much more fun. I felt invigorated and everything became much smoother, although we were still regularly removing leeches. When I found the big one that sneaked into my shoe, I laughed. It was all part of the experience and I was finally participating fully.
This is what meditation does: it changes our relationship to difficulties and things that trigger us. They become less threatening. We start to have a broader view of what’s going on and our discomfort shrinks. We just need some calm and clarity to be able to tune into the experience instead of being triggered by it.
Are you participating fully in how things are?