Monday, March 15, 2010

The Spider and the Fly

Three days, it has been already, since a big fly landed in my web. And I still have not made it back to the center. Instead, I have been lingering close to the point of impact, unable to put the fly away. This morning, I sat with heavy heart, and confused mind. To hang on? to take action? or to just let go? . . . 

Ajahn Chah makes it sound so easy:
Try watching a spider. A spider spins its web in any convenient niche and then sits in the center, staying still and silent. Later, a fly comes along and lands on the web. As soon as it touches and shakes the web,“boop!” – the spider pounces and winds it up in thread. It stores the insect away and then returns again to collect itself silently in the center of the web. . . “Coming to the center” means living mindfully with clear comprehension, being always alert and doing everything with exactness and precision – this is our center. There’s really not a lot for us to do; we just carefully live in this way. . . Our mind is comparable to the spider, our moods and mental impressions are comparable to the various insects. That’s all there is to it! The senses envelop and constantly stimulate the mind; when any of them contact something, it immediately reaches the mind. The mind then investigates and examines it thoroughly, after which it returns to the center. This is how we abide – alert, acting with precision and always mindfully comprehending with wisdom. Just this much and our practice is complete . . . If you know that these things are impermanent, bound up with suffering and that none of it is you, then you would be crazy to go after them! If you don’t see clearly in this way, then you must suffer. When you take a good look and see these things as really impermanent, even though they may seem worth going after, really they are not. Why do you want them when their nature is pain and suffering? It’s not ours, there is no self, there is nothing belonging to us. So why are you seeking after them? All problems are ended right here. Where else will you end them? 
(in "Coming to the Center", from "The Two Faces of Reality",  The Teachings of Ajahn Chah

Investigating, examining the pain. Not holding on to it. All within an atmosphere of meditative joy. That is the task at hand.

Where on the web are you? What does your fly look like? What is your relationship to it?


  1. I like the metaphor...or comparison that Ajahn uses. Our mind is kind of like a web and our thoughts often get tangled up in this web, making it 'messy.' The key is to not get attached to these thoughts and start creating stories (more thoughts) around the thought. This can have a rippling effect that never ends, causing suffering. What I'm trying to do more is be aware of my thoughts and see them as just that...thoughts. No need to try to suppress them or think they're 'good' or 'bad.' Just notice them and let them go.

  2. Yes, Nate. I am with you on the not creating more stories around the fly, which has been my challenge lately . . . Of course, a gradual unfolding! :)

  3. Hello Dear Badger, I can always count on you to ask THE question! My sense of it, is the fly vanishes into thin air, under the gaze of sustained mindfulness. So, in a way it gets killed, but there is no need to eat it . . . :) What is your take?

  4. Just a on a web spider--savor the fly when it is time. No need to tell the story of magnificent webs, heartbeat reflexes or the pierce of fangs.

  5. Right now, holding tension of not knowing :)

  6. Perhaps another facet of this metaphor is that the spider exists to catch flies, not to simply sit peacefully in the web. A purely peaceful spider is a hungry one. :)

  7. Thank you Ian, for your beautiful reframe! Yes, back and forth, the spider goes. The center is nice, but so is being at the periphery on the web, where much purifying takes place . . .