All separation, every kind of estrangement and alienation is false. All is One – this is the ultimate solution for every conflict. ~Nisargadatta Maharaj
Seeing the world as you is a way out of inflated self-importance, or what Buddhists would call self-cherishing. I’ve learned about this the strangest way, through my life-long arachnophobia, or terror of spiders. I should call it my slowly-but-steadily-waning-fear of spiders.
For as long as I can remember, spiders always paralyzed me. If they were bigger than a quarter, forget it; I’d run screaming from the room like a six-year old. I can’t say the number of times I’ve frantically begged a friend or partner to come airlift one outside. At least I knew enough to not kill them.
A psychic once suggested that in a prior life I died in a whole vat of them like something out of Indiana Jones. Charming image. And really, who knows?
Some years ago in India I was at a special fire ceremony for Lakshmi, the revered Goddess of beauty and wealth. At one point, a spider the size of a kumquat scurried over my hand. I gasped and swatted it away.
One of the Hindu priests nearly boxed my ears off. “What are you doing?” he yelled. “Mahalakshmi Herself was giving you Her darshan, Her private blessing. Are you insane?” Then he turned to another monk and muttered, “I told you we should never let the idiot Americans come to this stuff.”
Well, this got me thinking.
Here I am projecting all my fear on this poor creature, and here She is, the Goddess herself, coming to bless.
What if She is a disowned part of Me?
I prayed intensely to be healed of my fear.
I was in bed one night ready to turn out the light when suddenly I saw a golf-ball-sized spider on the wall.
Panic, sweat, pounding pulse.
Then I thought, “Hey, why not just talk to her?”
“Look,” I started, haltingly. “I’m delighted to have you visit, and even come so auspiciously into my bedroom.” I took a long deep breath, trying to calm down. “So just let me promise from the get-go, in case you’re worried about this all yourself, I won’t hurt you. I finally know who You are.” I gazed at her with as much affection as I could muster for something that had filled my nightmares forever.
Then I continued, “But let me be honest, you really, really scare me. And you know, I actually wonder right now if you might be a bit scared too?” This idea actually calmed me down considerably.
I took another breath. “So I’ll tell you what, my adorable Goddess. It’s a big room. How about if you take the ceiling, I’ll take the bed. You just stay up there, my darling multi-legged Love, and we’ll share a beautiful night.”
Perhaps it was chance, perhaps not. But at the exact moment I finished, she began to race up the wall and slip into a dark corner of the ceiling. She tucked in her legs and became a nebulous shadow I could barely see.
I bid her a good night and peacefully fell asleep.
In the morning she was gone.
Later that day I received an email from my friend Erin. On a whim, she had sent me a column she had just written… on arachnophobia.
She said it came from fear of one’s own power. I mean, really. Is anyone ever out there but our Self?