When the student is ready…the spider will emerge. By Victoria Jackson
They say that teachers come in many forms if only we can open our eyes to the possibilities and learn the lessons that are presented to us. We don’t have to go to a studio or even to a class: if we’re really ready to learn, the teacher will appear. My current guru is manifesting as a spider that lives under the dishwasher. This spider is teaching me a lot.
First up is the inevitable lesson about Ahimsa or non-violence. I’ll admit my first impulse was to squish it – if I wasn’t too scared to get close enough, that is! But actually that’s just the pre-yoga version of me talking. Now I practice greater compassion to all creatures, even the eight-legged ones that I irrationally fear.
Even so, I catch myself plaintively wondering why it couldn’t have been a cute stray kitten that took refuge in my kitchen. The spider hears the unflattering comparison and silently offers me a lesson in accepting things as they are, rather than wishing they were otherwise. As I fill a glass of water before bed, tracking the spider for any sudden moves towards my bare feet, I mutter to myself: “grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…”
The following evening a friend comes round for dinner. It turns out that she’s even more arachnophobic than I am and is really uncomfortable about my eight-legged house guest. So in the end I screw up my courage and capture it in a glass and release it into the garden. I feel heroic, overcoming my aversions and conquering my fears. Perhaps the spider is teaching me about seva, selfless service. I only got over my fears once I’d realised that I needed to act for the sake of someone else.
Of course this wasn’t the final lesson from the spider guru. The very next night there’s another spider in the kitchen. Did my spider develop the power of travelling through space (one of the yogic siddhis or accomplishments)? Or is reincarnation? No, I’m thinking of it simply as a reminder that I’m not in control and the world doesn’t move to my whim just because I want it to. It’s a lesson in humility and realising that I’m a small player in a universe full of other creatures.
At the end of my spider-inspired philosophical ponderings, I’m reminded of the practice of the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh to be truly present and mindful during domestic chores: “wash the dishes relaxingly, as though each bowl is an object of contemplation” he urges. If I followed his advice I wouldn’t have an electronic dishwasher in the first place and there’d be no hiding place for a spidery teacher. Plus no dishwasher would mean more room in the kitchen for that cute kitten to make its home…
Victoria Jackson lives and practices in Oxford. She is registered with Yoga Alliance as a vinyasa yoga teacher