During my morning stroll through Facebook, I came upon the following story, posted by Upworthy. As I read it, I began to think about how important and uplifting it is when we can adapt to adversity, change, or unexpected developments with new, creative, and compassionate responses. Here’s what I read on FB:
“My dad has a massive vegetable garden and it is his life. Whenever I ask how things are going, he tells me about the garden. Periodically he will text me a picture of the things he’s harvested and ask when I’m coming to pick them up. And for a while, the biggest bit of garden gossip has been his nemesis, the gopher. This gopher was consistently ruining his day by pilfering the best of everything just before my dad could harvest it. Anytime I talked to him, all he had to tell me about was ‘that damned gopher.’ He dreamt about killing the gopher, his truest enemy. He tried to train the dog to hunt the gopher, but the dog is a pacifist. He led some of the barn cats to the holes, but the barn cats have unionized and refused his offered rate. He then laid no-kill traps (can’t risk having poison near the crops) with eventual gophercide in mind, but then suddenly he was faced with a cute and terrified animal and didn’t have the heart. He released it. ‘He was SO scared, he’ll never come back.’ The gopher was back the next day, with a vengeance. That was some weeks ago. Today, my dad sent me pictures of his garden, and I saw a squash gently laid by the gopher’s hole, like a package left on the doorstep. I said ‘Dad, what’s that squash doing there by the gopher hole?’ He said ‘Oh, he likes squash best.’ In an effort to appease the gopher, my father now gives him a little squash everyday, like leaving an offering for a garden spirit. This apparently works well as a compromise; the gopher has stopped stealing, content to have his meals delivered to his door.” Originally posted on FB by filmnoirsbian.
Notice your response to reading this story and, in particular, notice the response of your heart-based awareness. Next, imagine how your life would be, or how our collective life would be, if we all could arrive at this kind of resolution. In the story above, a response that embraced collaboration rather than combat arose, with some compassion thrown in.
This story reminds me of the inescapable fact that we live on a planet that thrives on cooperation and active collaboration. For sure, there’s also competition but as Elisabet Sahtouris, the evolutionary biologist found, while young species may emphasize competition, more mature species move toward expressions of cooperation and collaboration.
I have experienced a very minor example of this with my apartment, when I moved my office home in 2020. Apparently, I brought some carpet beetles home with me that must have been in my office. Or, they came from somewhere else that I’ll never know about. Because I live with three cats, I can’t use insecticides when bugs appear, so I have had to find less aggressive ways to respond—ways that not only protect the cats but that also cooperate with environmental well-being. I found that vacuuming thoroughly, and I do mean thoroughly, every single week without fail, using certain non-toxic powders, and responding immediately, whenever three cat noses dove to the carpet, things are now pretty much resolved. The energy involved in dealing with the beetles was non-aggressive and rather relaxed, which surprised me. Because I couldn’t risk the health of the cats, I felt I had no choice but to find a more collaborative way to do things (even though the beetles probably didn’t find it so collaborative when I vacuumed them up or took them to the toilet to flush them down).
For this week’s practice in conscious living, I invite you to explore your responses to challenging situations and to notice where it’s both possible, healthy, and constructive to move into a resolution that engages cooperation, collaboration, and compassion—or at least a greater sense of ease in the process. Of course, if you find yourself in a situation where those responses would put you at risk, or involve you in a dysfunctional or destructive kind of pattern, it’s important to take care of yourself in ways that are healthy and safe.
As with all these practices, please remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion. It supports orienting to being open to new possibilities as you ponder a dilemma, problem, or situation. Also remember to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise, letting them flow on by without your having to do anything with or about them, and be sure to allow room for mixed feelings, as well. Very often when we are challenged to adapt to something unexpected or new, we find ourselves feeling quite an array of mixed feelings.
Here’s an audio version of this practice, if you prefer to listen to it.