On two different days this week, I found a big, praying mantis in my Texas kitchen. The first one was perched on the coffee maker; the second was on the toaster. With each discovery, I scooped it up, took it outside and placed it in a bush. They were not afraid of me, and because in the fourth grade, I had a praying mantis, I was not afraid of them.
My praying mantis lived in my fourth grade classroom, in a large aquarium with a vented lid. One morning we all arrived to find hundreds of baby praying mantis crawling along the walls, the student lockers and across the desks. My praying mantis had been pregnant. It was her babies that had invaded the school, and by the shrieks coming from the teacher’s lounge, they’d made their way there as well.
THE MANTIS NEVER MAKES A MOVE UNLESS IT’S CERTAIN IT’S THE RIGHT THING TO DO. IN THAT MOMENT, I REALIZED THAT WITH MY BUSY WORK SCHEDULE, I’D ABANDONED MY MEDITATION PRACTICE.
I don’t remember how we got rid of them, but I do remember my name became attached to each and every one. Miss Tillett even confronted me and asked if I had a plan to get rid of them… like I was their baby daddy. Then there was Zennia Lee Hamlin… Dozens of baby mantis had made their way inside her shoulder length, red curls. The same red curls that bounced when she walked, in that prissy way she had about her, but I digress… I can only hope the two praying mantis I found in my kitchen this week haven’t laid eggs in my house.
Since I’d forgotten most of my fourth grade praying mantis facts, I went online. One source said praying mantis are a sign of good fortune. Another said they come to us when we need peace, quiet and calm in our lives. They’re thought to make an appearance when we’ve flooded our lives with so much business, activity and chaos, that we can no longer hear the still, small, voice within.
If you look at a praying mantis, it does radiate a certain calm and control. This week, as I scooped each one up, they stayed very still and looked at me like I was the insect, and they were the ones with the higher intellect. Over the centuries, perhaps that accounts for why the Chinese have held the praying mantis and their mindfulness in high esteem. The mantis never makes a move unless it’s certain it’s the right thing to do. In that moment, I realized that with my busy work schedule, I’d abandoned my meditation practice. I needed to make more time to be still, and go within.
I won’t tell you I’ll do it every day, but I’m making a conscious decision to step away from the computer; put on my black sleep mask; stretch out and breathe. So I’m wondering: Do you take time to meditate, to be quiet and still? Do you let your little voice help you navigate? Are you mindful of the choices you make, and do you think about the consequences of your decisions before you make them?
Looking back on my fourth grade, pregnant, praying mantis and her babies, how ironic that as symbols of stillness and calm, they had just the opposite effect. In some parallel universe, I imagine Zennia Lee is watching and waiting for hundreds of baby mantis to get back at me for the total loss of her composed, good girl, teacher’s pet act, that showed her up to be the… Forgive me… That’s not very zen like, is it?