Feed the Buddha, Love the Bees
My sons’ first encounter with a bee sting created much more than a swollen patch of skin. A situation that could have been a regular and simple occurrence of childhood resulted in his deep concern for understanding the ways of the world and my first attempt to truly teach the lessons of acceptance, impermanence and Oneness.
With annual blooms, fruits, sages and lavender bushes adorning our yard, bees have always made a home amongst the sweet nectar we provide. Many afternoons are filled with bee (and bird) watching.We curiously peek into the center of the flowers witnessing the bees delicately hover while adding to the bundles of pollen stuck to their furry legs, then watching them in awe as they take flight to mix their magic. We watch them drink from the fountains and puddles, and on one special occasion, three bees landed softly on my sons arm and drank from the droplets of water he presented to them. He demonstrated no fear, no resistance and took it upon himself to remind me, “we are here to help care for the bees; they are our Flower Keepers, mama.”
The day came, however, when a bee left a sting on tender flesh. After the initial shock, and when the burn subsided my son accepted the pain as part of the bees’ inherent nature to sting, he found relief and simply ensured me,” the bee was scared, he will now go help the flowers spread and leave me alone and be happy.” But when he discovered that bees die after they sting he was overcome by a deep sorrow.He slowly, over the course of many days, processed the events of ‘the sting’. He experienced feelings of guilt: had he not scared the bee, it wouldn’t have stung him and lived longer. He felt pain: the bite of the sting through his fair skin, sadness for the loss of the bee, and anger because it, “wasn’t fair!” He felt fear: “even little things die for no reason?” He began to look into the idea of death; that things do not live forever and that life is unpredictable. I was not prepared to address these subject matters with a five year old, but none the less took it as confirmation that even the subtle events can contain potent information for understanding and accepting the depth in all things.
I shared the story of Siddhartha as a wealthy young prince leaving his fathers palace. As he ventured into the streets of the common man, he witnessed for the first time in his pure and sheltered life of 29 years, filth, poverty, old age, sickness and death. Siddhartha recognized change, impermanence and discomfort and was committed to comprehend the cycles of life as well as the nature of suffering.
I explained to my son that it was from witnessing the painful aspects of life that Siddhartha was inspired to seek Knowledge and find peace. We must first be willing to see the pain in the world and accept it as another part of the human experience; an aspect that can not be avoided or denied. Everybody and everything can relate to suffering on some level. I continued to explain how his feelings of sadness, anger, fear and guilt were normal and a necessary part of the process of ‘feeling better’ about unfortunate circumstances.We spent time exploring his feelings and discussed them each; bringing awareness to the sensation of emotions in body and our capacity to release the grip through awareness and acceptance.Lesson # 1 from Buddha and Bees: To overcome sorrow is to move through our suffering, rather than becoming bound to it.
We then reflected upon and dissolved the discomfort and uncertainty that comes with change and death. Just as with pain and suffering, everybody and everything gets older and eventually dies. It is one of the most natural parts of life, one that unfortunately, in our American culture we try to avoid. It was important to me to present aging as a sign of experience, wisdom, and respect and death as a part of a greater transformation. It is my belief that an aged body is a temple worn well; a transcended body is a temple without walls.Though we may leave our physical body, the part of Self that is Soul lives on forever.I reintroduced the concept of karma and reincarnation. I invited him to contemplate that perhaps prior to becoming the Buddha, Siddhartha was a scared bee who, by default, sting a boy and died. Had that bee not died, he would not have transformed into the enlightened child the Sages predicated would come. I further suggested if a seed remains a seed forever it will never reach the scent of full bloom.If we stay a seed, a bee or a boy we will have no knowledge or experience of our greatest capacity.All things must change, fall away and have the potential to be reborn. Change and death are to be welcomed and honored as opportunities to reach our greatest Self. Lesson #2 from Buddha and Bees: Impermanence is an opportunity to open to infinite possibility.
I have taught my children that we, as humans, share in a brotherhood with all living creatures. We are not separate or better than the world around us, we are equal parts; simply another unique expression of creation, a part of the landscape cast between the highest clouds and the tiniest critters; our closest neighbor and a stranger a million miles away. It is our collective experience that weaves the spectacular and mysteriously diverse and dynamic web of life. I invited him to see himself as the bee, and we invited the bee to see its’ self as boy. In doing so there was empathy, there was no separation, no resistance, and no struggle. If we recognize the interconnectedness of the world, then we can develop a deep sense of compassion. If we have the heart to honor ourselves, then we have the courage to honor those things that have caused us separation, suffering or challenge; remembering, ultimately the pain is an integral part of personal evolution and transformation. Lesson #3 from Buddha and the Bees: With acceptance and possibility we merge into a Oneness where an element of everybody is held within everything, and everything is held within everybody.
Our experiences with the nature of bees lead us to a deeper experience to the nature of life as well as the nature of Self. It resulted in a profound demonstration of the way the world moves, as well as the complex internal world of emotions, perceptions and choices. Not only did the, “Great B Sting” present an unforgettable opportunity of teachings, it has been an event that inspired one of our most regular and beautiful ceremonies. In one of our magic gardens we have a very old, weathered Buddha figure surrounded by the lush green growth of elephant’s plants, succulents and jasmine vines. There he rests with us, a reminder of his kindness, light and the true knowledge he holds that gracefully guides us to place of peace. After our discussion on Oneness, we decided that we would bring both the Buddha and the Bees a bouquet of fresh flowers as an offering of our gratitude and a willingness to continue to honor and feed these lessons into our daily lives. We chose roses and lilies for our first blessing. Half a dozen petals went into the Buddha statues’ mouth and a broken crack in the center of his full belly, the other half was placed along his feet. We sat and waited for the bees to come, and as they found their way into the sweet nectar we felt ease and trust knowing that even the sting of a bee can remind us of the sweetness in life.
Many blessings, love and kindness,
NOTE: I will only be posting once a week, every SATURDAY!