Monday, September 23, 2013

Angels and Messengers

It's interesting to me that in my entire lifetime, before coming to Nashville, I think I may have seen two praying mantises, and in the seven weeks since I've moved to Nashville, I've already seen three!  Also of interest to me, is that in each instance here in Nashville, someone has called my attention to the creature in order for me to notice it.  

Erin, Hayden's mom, called my attention to one that was perched on the top of the bird feeder on her deck.  It took flight almost immediately upon my seeing it.  The second sighting occurred on the sidewalk outside a Big Lots store.  (I try to stay away from those stores, especially when I don't want to spend money and have nowhere else I have to be next.  My mother said they were her worst shopping nightmare when I would drag her with me on a shopping excursion, because I had to walk down every aisle to make sure I didn't miss a bargain!)  But sometimes I have absolutely no will power, and as I approached the store on this particular day, the sales person who was outside arranging the shopping carts, called my attention to the second one.  It was clinging to the handle of one of the shopping carts, and was the biggest praying mantis I'd ever seen! 

I was so enticed by it, that I took out my cell phone and took a picture.  It was sitting at an angle, head facing into the bottom of the cart and looking straight ahead.  By this time, the sales person had gone back into the store, and looking around to make sure no one else was close enough to hear me, I whispered, "Do you think you could look at the camera?  I'd like to get a better picture."  No sooner did I finish the sentence and the mantis turned and looked right at me!  I quickly snapped the picture.   (When I came out of the store forty-five minutes later, it was still sitting in the same place, once again appearing to be staring at the bottom of the cart.)

Outside of Big Lots: first picture
After I asked it to look at the camera!

And two days ago, when I was taking my morning walk, one of my neighbors walked out of her condo and toward her car sitting in her carport.  We both waved and said hi, and as I was going to continue past her, she looked down at her tire, and back up at me, and called out, "Hey, what is this?"  and pointed at something on the rear tire on the driver's side.  I walked over ( I was about twenty feet away when she called out to me.), and looked down at where she was pointing.  There, clinging to the center of her tire, was a small brown praying mantis.  I said, "It's a praying mantis."  She said, " I thought so, but I've never seen one that color."  She looked around for a stick, picked one up, and flicked the insect off her tire onto the asphalt, saying, " I don't want to run over it."  It promptly scurried under her car, and she spent a couple more minutes coaxing it out and into the flower bed at the side of her garage.  We said our goodbyes, she got in her car, and I continued on my way.

The first time my attention was called to the insect, I went home and looked up praying mantis in Steven Farmer's book, Animal Spirit Guides, just curious to see if the messages seemed to fit.  (I like this book because he tells you what message the animal/insect is bringing you when it just shows up in your life, as well as what it means if it is a power animal for you.)  When I checked it out, the messages all seemed to be exactly what I needed, because I'd been letting myself float through my days without a particular schedule or routine, as I was trying to get used to being in a new place.   Here are the messages:

* You could benefit from studying and practicing a martial-arts discipline.
* Make prayer, meditation, or contemplation part of your daily regimen.
*Listen to your instincts as to when to move forward and when to retreat.
*Spend some time in the natural world, and practice being as still as you can for as long as you can, with nothing else to attend to except your breathing.
*Consider redirecting your energy by withdrawing it from whatever isn't working in your life and focusing greater attention on what is working.

After seeing the first praying mantis, and noting the messages, except for taking up the practice of a martial -arts discipline, I'd made a concerted effort to get back on track with my spiritual practice and follow the rest of the advice.  And although I was doing better, seeing the second mantis and reviewing the messages again, put the icing on the cake for me.  I've been even more focused on starting out each day making time for Spirit, being present 'in the natural world' and directing my energies in more productive ways.  (I have to believe that if God makes the effort to provide a human angel to make sure I see the messenger and get the message She is sending, rather than just counting on my noticing it on my own, it must be a really important message, so the least I can do is take Her advice!)  

So when my attention was called to the third praying mantis (and in such a dramatic way, this stranger calling out to me from twenty feet way to come look at something on her tire!), I was a bit puzzled, because I thought I was following the Guidance I had received really well, except for that martial arts thing, of course! 

As I continued walking, my mind kept going round and round, wondering what this third sighting meant.  Since I was already following all the other items in the message, was God trying to tell me that I still needed to address taking up a martial arts practice? 

By the time I got home, I was feeling confused and frustrated.  I got a glass of water, toweled off the sweat that was dripping down my face, and took my camp chair out to my deck, deciding I would sit in stillness "in the natural world," as the message had directed, and see where that took me.

As my heart rate slowed and my breathing deepened, what gradually began to surface were thoughts of my upcoming road trip to Pennsylvania, and the difference that trip would make in my daily routine:  I'd be staying in unfamiliar places; I wouldn't be completely alone in my own space; my schedule would be very different; I'd be working almost full time again; my eating habits would most likely change, etc., etc., etc.  In other words, my daily adherence to those messages from the praying mantis that I'd worked so hard to implement and maintain after those first two sightings, were going to be sorely tested by this change in my schedule and God brought my attention back to that messenger and those messages, to make sure that I recognized the importance of not slacking off, of maintaining those practices that have been supporting me so well these past weeks, even though I wouldn't be in the familiar surroundings that supported them.

Not a mind blowing realization by any means, but certainly an important one.  God knows me well.  She knows that when I'm outside of my usual routine in some way, I am really good at finding excuses for why I can't do, or don't have to do, the things that I should do, the things that I know I need to do, the things that I have been doing, that have given me what I've needed to facilitate the state of mind and being that have led me to where I am. 

So I guess that lady yelling at me from twenty feet away to get me to look at that praying mantis on her tire, was God's way of calling to me to take another look at the message from the mantis, to remind me that I need to continue doing what I've been doing, if I want to continue going where I'm meant to go. 

I'm not sure how I'll make that happen during my trip.  I know it might be a challenge.  I also know I like the receptive, open state of mind I've been in these past weeks, as well as the results of focusing my energy on the things that are working for me, as I've followed the advice the mantis offered.  This third sighting may be just the heads up I need to keep my ducks in a row, even though the row isn't in its usual place.  At some point I have to stop making excuses and start being accountable.  

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