There is an exercise for those on the path to enlightenment called ‘Meditation with Mosquito’. The premise is simple enough – to achieve a state of such meditative focus and non-attachment that a mosquito in the room, buzzing near your ear, is of no consequence to you. If the mosquito lands on you and starts to suck your blood, the sensation does not bother you. Rather, you simply acknowledge the mosquito and the fact that you are sustaining it with your blood. You and the mosquito are just two lifeforms, connected in some mysterious way, sharing the same space, coexisting.
I have taken to meditating on a daily basis as a way of dealing with sleep issues as well as for more spiritual reasons. I firmly believe that meditation is a powerful and life-enriching practice from which anyone can benefit. But Meditation with Mosquito? Forget it. I will never reach such a state of enlightenment where I can peacefully coexist with mosquitos. I’ll never attain buddhahood. I blame the bunkie.
Graduating to the bunkie was a significant milestone in my life. Before the bunkie, I shared a room with my sister. Even though she was older than me, because I didn’t share her fear of spiders or the thought of being all alone at night, I was the one who got to move out. I think I was 11 or 12. It was my passage into maturity. It was more than just my own room, it was my own cabin. I felt like a king.
The bunkie was originally an office and storage shed of sorts. To my surprise, my dad, who isn’t particularly handy, banged some two-by-fours together to frame up bunk beds. They were definitely rustic, but they ended up lasting over 30 years, right up until the bunkie was finally deemed unfit for human inhabitants a few summers ago. I’ve had some of my best sleeps in that bunkie – and some of my worst.
The bunkie was a rather porous structure. It was built in the days before home renovation shows and décor magazines became popular. Nails stuck out in odd places. There were gaps around the door frame that had been stuffed with scraps of newspaper. The floor was rotten around the door. In the morning, light would stream in through some of the gaps in the wall boards.
To make matters worse, the bunkie was situated behind the main cottage, sheltered from the prevailing west wind, which meant that mosquitos would swarm outside the door on warm nights, waiting for soft human flesh.
The trick with the bunkie was to open and close the door as fast as humanly possible when entering and exiting. However, when the mosquitos where particularly bad, they would simply be swept in with the draft created by opening the door. On those nights, there was no point in going to sleep right away. Best to read a magazine, which could be rolled up quickly and used to swat mosquitos as they moved in for blood.
At one point during the chemical heyday of the early 80’s I discovered mosquito repellant coils. A family friend who was staying in the bunkie with me brought them. The year before we counted over 100 kills in a single night – an event that had left us both a bit traumatized. My friend knew that if he was going to survive another night in the bunkie, he would have to come prepared. I believe mosquito coils are now marketed for outdoor use only, but back then, we burned them inside. We’d cheer as mosquitos started dropping to the floor. Of course, we wondered what the smoke was doing to our central nervous systems but death to mosquitos mattered more to us.
While mosquito coils were effective, hearty new mosquitos would always find a way in. That same evening, I was on the top bunk and my friend was on the bottom bunk. Sometime in the middle of the night I heard that distinctive buzz in my ear. I reached over and grabbed my flashlight. I spotted the little bugger on the ceiling, only a foot or so above my head. I twisted my body so that I could give it a good swat with the palm of my hand facing upward. I lined up the shot. I was half asleep, but at this range, I couldn’t miss. Wham. My hand hit the ceiling, but not before slamming deep into a rusty nail that was sticking through the roof board. The strange sensation of my hand being stuck to the ceiling hit me before the pain. I froze for a moment, crucified. Then I braced myself and pulled my hand away from the nail. The pain was intense, but so was my anger and frustration. All I wanted to do was sleep, but now I had a puncture wound that would require a tetanus shot. I climbed down the bunkie ladder, found an old t-shirt in my drawer, wrapped my hand as best I could and lay there in pain until morning. In my delirium, all I could think about were different ways of enacting revenge on mosquitos. I would capture them, study them, think like them and conquer them. I had visions of fly paper, traps, sonic devices, netting, sprays – I would rid the world of these pests once and for all. Not very Buddha-like.
Like an unresolved, early-life trauma, I believe mosquitos are the cause of my sleep issues. And I meditate to deal with those issues. How ironic that to achieve true peace I must ultimately learn compassion for my tormentor. More ironic still is the fact that, every once in a while, in the comfort of my large and luxurious bed, in my airtight and mosquito-free home, I feel a pang of nostalgia for those nights in the bunkie. Maybe I’m more connected to the mosquitos than I’m willing to admit.
Looking for a mosquito repellant cocktail? Apparently, grapefruit contains a compound called nootkatone, which acts as a natural repellant, making our Gin Greyhound the perfect choice.