It is possible to adapt our fears so that they serve us rather than dominate us.
Today on the drive to one of the schools where I teach English, I rolled down my window to enjoy the fresh mountain air. Unfortunately, I also startled a giant huntsman spider (literally the size of the palm of my hand) who proceeded to scurry from the window column just behind me and scamper back and forth across the inside of the front windshield looking for a way out of his predicament...
Luckily for both of us I've spent the last several years building up an immunity to giant huntsman spiders, so I was able to calmly find a wide turnout on this narrow, winding mountain road and stop safely. He was totally flipping out, looking desperately for a place to hide and finding none on the wide expanse of the front glass. Fortunately I was able to reach across the car to open the passenger door just as he started to drop down, and he jumped right out.
Unfortunately, because I had stopped on the opposite side of the road, this put him right on the edge of the roadway, and because I prefer not to drop off passengers directly into danger, I got out to find a way to coax him into the bushes on the shoulder rather than crossing the street and getting run over... Well, he wasn't willing to climb onto my boot (understandably I suppose) for a walkover, so I looked around and found some random bamboo branch to scoop/chase him in the right direction. In the end, my stowaway and I were both saved from high-impact deaths and I happily arrived just in time for my first class.
If you detect a whiff of affection for my unwitting passenger, you wouldn't be wrong. I do actually admire and respect these gentle but impressive giant spiders that share my environment and home. But it definitely wasn't always the case. In fact, I used to be terrified of all spiders as a child and young adult, and killed them on sight, without mercy and no questions asked.
So what changed? How did I trade such a common spider phobia for my current calmness in the face of giant arachnids? Well, there were certainly stages to the process...
First of all, there was an odd but practical decision to be made. I went through a pretty serious goth phase during which I thought authentic spiderwebs made for excellent room decor. And of course, having authentic spiderwebs decorating ones house means that there must be some real live spiders dwelling there at least part-time. So I made an uneasy alliance with the smaller spiders that as long as they stayed (and decorated) in the corners, they could stay. If they ventured out into the living spaces I frequented, they would be killed immediately. I also began carefully researching which spiders might actually be safe so that I could sort out the truly dangerous ones and continue killing them with extreme prejudice.
Along the way, through research and simple observation I learned some things about their lives and habits and the fact that, like my predatory pet cat with mice, they kept the local fly population down. Slowly, I began to get used to them and got lazy about enforcing my territorial death sentencing. Around this time I also became a vegetarian and eventually began thinking that if I was changing my diet to avoid killing cows, I should also probably start applying that same logic to the smaller creatures in my environment...
By this time I was moving out of the cobwebby-style goth and into more glamorous goth stages and instead of killing the spiders whose spinning services I no longer required, I was catching them in a glass and relocating them outside where they could continue to keep the local environment pest-free and I could feel good about not murdering them unnecessarily. This kind of constant close contact with them helped retrain my physical aversion to them so that I could calmly scoop them up without any fear or loathing. I had befriended the spider.
This process came in very handy when I ended up moving to Japan where lives the giant huntsman spider. These spiders are confrontingly huge and shockingly fast. And they are everywhere. They don't spin webs but just hide out in corners and then suddenly run across the floor or wall or ceiling... I was certainly intimidated. But I had already researched what creatures are dangerous in Japan and these monsters are definitely not on that list. So I knew I just had to reapply my previous training on a larger scale...
Through research and observation I found that they are actually pretty much blind and they run after things that vibrate the floor like bugs, or my feet. So yes, they do sometimes run at my feet aggressively but as soon as they notice that I also happen to carry a big shadow they instantly retreat with equal speed from whence they came. And if I try to move them off with a broom, they rear up and try to look like bid baddies at first, but on the second try they give up, flop over, and pretend to be dead, just big and dead. Oh, and they eat cockroaches, which are also big and everywhere here...
So by the time I moved out here to the mountains of Japan, where relocating each individual spider would be a hugely pointless waste of time, I had made my peace with the giant huntsman spider. Now we coexist in a kind of partnership with them eating the more unpleasant pests of the humid summers and me providing them with plenty of corners to hide in during the cold winters...
So what is the point here? Well, first perhaps something about how a reasonable concern about something as dangerous as black widow spiders needn't prompt us to also kill cute little helpful jumping spiders on sight. And how that can be logically extrapolated up to more intimidating but equally harmless creatures as well (including, umm, the infinite variety of humans).
Second, fear itself. Fear can certainly help keep us safe, but it can also harm us. My old fear of spiders could have just killed me on the road if I hadn't already dealt with it. Yes, that's a rare case of serendipity, but fear can easily push us into poor choices in the mundane situations of daily life, and it can limit us in some of the life-changing opportunities that do sometimes come up.
And finally, adaptation. I adapted to living with spiders (and a lot of other creatures actually) through the practical realities, then research and observation, and then familiarity. It is possible to adapt our fears so that they serve us rather than dominate us. Each fear and each person will have a different process, and some will probably benefit from including therapy of some kind... But if you have some fears that are limiting your life, consider processing them too. It can be so freeing--
After injuring my back in early summer, I finally started running again this morning. It was only about one kilometer, and it was basically three short runs interspersed with three short walks... but it felt great to be breathing hard and sweating a little from physical effort (rather than just sweltering in the summer heat). I followed up with some easy yoga and then a bath with relaxing epsom salts.
If you have also let your exercise fall by the wayside for some reason, now is an excellent time to start it up again... Why? because Fall brings back cool mornings that are refreshing but not too cold to easily get moving. And if you can get out to a park or other natural space, experiencing the change of the season can give you a fresh, motivating feeling. There's just something in the air...
A bit of advice though, don't let that invigorating feeling in the air overstimulate you into jumping right back in where you left off. Autumn also says, "Take it easy..." Start slow and gentle so you don't injure yourself and set yourself back even further. If you do muscle training, maybe start with just your body (pushups, etc.) before doing the heavy weights or machines. If you run, begin with long, slow strides that gently stretch and warm up your muscles, and intersperse your running with periods of long, slow walking. Or try some leisurely cycling... Focus on your breathing, and don't forget to enjoy the air and signs of the changing seasons around you.
Autumn with its colors, smells, foods, and traditions is my favorite season and no matter your favorite season I think we can probably agree that there is a certain magic in the early fall. If you are able, I urge you to get out there and soak up that magic right into your physique with some refreshing, reinvigorating, but also relaxing physical activity--
Last night I went to a local poetry reading for the first time in almost twenty years. I felt wonderfully outclassed and it was so pleasant to have that chance to be swimming in the spoken words and emotional currents of such skillful artists. An enthusiastic ¡Thank you! to those poets who shared their hearts with us--
I was also confronted with the reality that while my literary critical sense has grown richer and more nuanced than ever, through my personal reiki and hypnotherapy work I have successfully therapied my internal complexity and tension right out. I'm still a fun and interesting person, but I have released the layers where the engine that drives powerful poetry is moored. Along with all those wonderful books I ended up shedding through Marie Kondo, I have no regrets --I'm surprisingly happy being deeply happy-- but I suddenly realize that I am now doomed to sketching out well-crafted but simply pleasant moments in haiku.
Oh, yes, and then expressing my surplus poetics through densely complex prose in these blog posts... sorry!
Photo evidence of me smoothly rolling out one of my English haiku just after fumbling through my Japanese tanka version of the same ...all gracefully wrapped up "saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry" sharing my favorite Robert Hass poem 'Meditation at Lagunitas'
From today the Year of the Boar officially begins.
Here at Sant-o-menel we are celebrating with our own local boar family. So precious!
The traits of the Boar are tolerance, optimism, and sincerity. I hope we can all follow the Boar's example this year and infuse our world with such virtues--
Boars are also known for being a little on the lazy side, which I think is just fine. Maybe we can all use a little more time to relax and release the stress which permeates our life with disease and disharmony.
But Boars are also all about making steady, determined progress. So to inspire you to keep on going in this exciting new year of opportunities-- cute little boar butts!
Don't get left behind!
The most beautiful and grand Japanese-style Christmas cake I have ever seen/eaten. Lovingly hand assembled with the Rainbow View Miyazaki LGBTQ community. Not quite straight but standing tall, which I think is just perfect. In unity many hands make monumental work and bring joy to all--
After a quiet afternoon visit to the Miyazaki Shrine, I was 'Spirited Away' by the Studio Ghibli exhibition at the nearby art museum. They had thousands of pages of original layout drawings drafted by the directors' own hand and intention, marked up with staging directions and filming cues. From this world of increasing polarization, it was a magical escape into the deep nonjudgmental acceptance and integration that Ghibli consistently portrays from the very first scenes of the debut 'Nausicaa' through classics like 'Totoro', 'Kiki', and 'Mononoke' to the most recent 'Marnie'. This is the summer that Miyazaki came to Miyazaki--
Thank you to EarthWalkers for providing support opportunities such as this--
Clear skies, deep blue twilight, and not too cold-- a perfect evening for 'hatsumode'. This is the time when everyone in Japan goes to the local shrines to connect with the spirit of the land for an auspicious new year. From here in Miyazaki, I'm wishing you a happy and successful 2018!
Happy New Year!
This is 'osechi', traditional Japanese New Year's cuisine. It comes in a giant 3-tiered wooden 'bento' box filled with symbolic foods such as shrimp for longevity, lotus root for success, candied chestnuts for wealth, and candied black beans for vitality. May your life be filled with all of these--
Live long and prosper--