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Since Wednesday, I’ve been reading (well listening) to The Alchemist. It’s Paulo Coelho’s beautiful tale about the shepherd boy Santiago who after having a significant dream, meets a mysterious wise king and goes on a journey to discover his personal legend.

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This morning (Friday) I woke up and realized that I was being “stalked” by a praying mantis. Now, last night the same bug had found its way into my apartment. This bug is very big, and quite elegant looking…so much so that as much as bugs completely freak me out I had obvious reservations about just smashing it with the back of my shoe. I didn’t want to kill it. Luckily for it (and me!) it was resting on a shirt hanging in my wardrobe. So after a failed attempt to dislodge it by throwing a kitchen cloth at it, I grabbed the hanger and shirt and ran it outside and shook the bug off.

But last night wasn’t the first time I saw this creature. It was the day before, the same day I started reading the Alchemist that I first noticed this mysterious creature on my patio. Throughout that day, I’d noticed as it crept closer and closer towards the sliding patio door, as though it wanted to come inside. And lo and behold, 24 hours later, it had succeeded. Even after shaking it loose from my garments and returning it to its proper place outdoors, I even spotted it AGAIN, on my way out to dinner, it was resting in a different place, all the way downstairs by the entrance to my apartment complex. 

So this morning, to awake to see the praying mantis BACK on my patio, I freaked. And still not wanting to kill it, but to “move” it, I threw water at it which to my devastation seemed to injure it significantly. And as I watched and processed the damage I had caused to this uncomfortably large and persistent bug, that’s when the Alchemist, and the omens, and the realization that this creature may have been appearing to me all came together. And I began to wonder what it was, and what it had to show me.

I google image searched giant green bugs and quickly found that this was indeed a Praying Mantis and they are known to be symbols of luck in some cultures, but more profoundly, the word “Mantis” in the Greek is translated as “prophet, soothsayer or diviner.” They are believed to be spiritual symbols and one resource said if found in your home may mean that angels are watching over you. Another said, the praying mantis symbolism also includes calmness, still, focus and concentration. And they are NOT dangerous or venomous or in any way harmful to humans.

Needless to say, I wish I had read all of this prior to dousing this poor, powerful spiritual creature in water. As I sat there realizing my actions and their source – how fear of the unknown can lead us to injure our own angel guides, how fear can lead us to altogether miss the signs and wonders by which at times, God chooses to communicate with us…I burst into tears. What a coward I am?! I was watching this creature fight for its life, dying slowly as a result of my own ignorance and fear. Minutes went by, tears flowed, yet still, I didn’t have the courage to touch it or pick it up. Slowly, slowly, it seemed to recover as I watched, praying through now ridiculous seeming tears that Nature would restore this creature to fullness of life. I’m remiss to say that one of its legs looked badly injured; (I read that their limbs are most fragile) and then I left. I left the fate of this creature of God and possible spirit guide in the hands of Luisella who was coming to clean my apartment. I pray she is more comfortable with nature and less fearful of buggy creatures than I. It’s in God’s hands now…

It was a surprisingly painful lesson for me to learn. I will be looking more carefully for ways Spirit wants to teach me here. If the meaning of the praying mantis is stillness of mind, then it had come to tell me I am indeed in the right path. Or perhaps my emotional devastation at what I’ve done to this creature is the lesson. Perhaps this divine therapy of centering prayer – of setting the intention each day to practice stillness is indeed doing its strange work of connecting me to the Source of all creation. That I am becoming more attuned to this mystery of Oneness….