Yes, so as I was saying, there are many squirrels in Dhammagiri, Igatpuri. We all have seen squirrels in so many places – residential areas, parks, public places, in India and abroad. The law of nature is consistent with all these squirrels. In fact it is difficult to know which squirrel is from where to our non-discerning eyes. Some are plump and some seem a bit slender, all on a strict balanced diet of nuts and stuff, subject to availability – and vigorous exercise.
As I roamed around the campus during our brief free times, I would feel I am alone and then suddenly a brisk movement would catch my attention from the peripheries somewhere and I would find a squirrel doing some random work.
There would be a rustle above me and looking up I would see a squirrel on some branch. It wouldn’t wait there of course – it would dart away to some other branch, apparently for some other equally important errand. Then it would jump to another and then another. Every jump appearing equally important and apparently purposeful. As if the squirrel was going somewhere FOR something. Sometimes I would have crept on a silent squirrel figure holding some fruit or nut in its forelimbs, perched on its backside on the ground. I would still my breathing to observe consequences and freeze my movements so as not to crumple the dry leaves below. And yet, and yet, there would still be some sharp sound from somewhere, to startle the hurried nibbling of the squirrel and it would briskly look up and dart away within moments, leaving its prey/target lying desolately on the ground. On further waiting, once or twice it would come back. Or sometimes the nut/fruit would be taken over by one of its colleagues.
Small little squirrels – running around – scampering, jumping, frolicking- unreasonably startled, alarmed, aimlessly happy, and eager.
That’s what it was like inside- right since I sat for the first session of Anapana (watching the breaths go in and out at the nostril) – trying to focus intently on the HERE and NOW, till the 8-9th day. Thoughts and thoughtlets would arise, seemingly out of nowhere. I did not know their purpose.
Sometimes I did not even know them- these thoughtlets in my mind space. They were equally quick and darting – running around – scampering, jumping, frolicking- unreasonably startled, alarmed, aimlessly happy, and eager.
I would focus on the breathing , planning to not think and suddenly there it was, this little thought, at the periphery and on the horizon. And of course I would watch it. And it would dart away. Only to come back again from some other branch, this time with a nut. I did not know that nut either. And some other thought would startle it away. If I did not watch, it would stay and so it’s stuff. One the first day especially, as I started the procedure of watching my breath, planning to completely surrender to the Masters instructions, there were dream-like images on the mind screen – with life-like people I did not know, attractive unknown scenarios seemingly trying to make sense of something for me. Some might fantastically say they were images from past life, some would psychoanalyse and say that my mind was acting up to protect me from getting to its depths. Squirrels in camouflage – I think. Distracted and distracting. Later, as someone inside became more receptive, the past started opening up and a new batch of thoughtlets were released in the mind forest, gradually getting denser as one went inside. Known and unknown mingling with each other. As I resisted, they got startled and flew away, only to come back when I wasn’t looking. We went around in circles like clowns in the circus. There was plenty of time for interactions, plenty of time for surprises – 10 days of solitude and silence.
We were given similes and metaphors for the mind by our instructors. They said repeatedly that our mind was a monkey, jumping from branch to branch within minutes. Some minds may be monkeys (more on this later) – planning, plotting, teaming up, gathering, watching out, vandalising, greedily grabbing from trees. Maybe. (Reference to this later).
But I also found an additional quality of squirrels within. Quick, small, apparently purposeless, fascinatingly agile and light footed, arriving without warning and leaving likewise, existing quietly, noiselessly and very busy, impossible to catch and difficult to ignore.