Spiritual lessons from a Seagull

I went for a long run early on a Sunday morning, partly to have some time out and also to sort out some of my life’s issues.

On my way back from my run I saw a seagull on the tidal flats of Mangere harbour with a plastic bag around its wings.  I climbed down on to the estuary to help it but it kept flying away – but the more the seagull tried to get away from the bag, the more wet and muddy and crippling the bag became. Soon the gull could hardly fly or move at all.

I saw my chance and walked out onto the muddy flats, my legs disappearing up to my knees. As I got closer, the tired entangled gull would try to move away, determinedly dragging its bedraggled self forward and I with equal determination pulling my limbs through the mud toward it.  Eventually I flung myself forward and managed to grab the end of the bag, toppling face down in the mud.

I carefully held its head and gently unwrapped the bag.  The gull was just a young one with juvenile brown feathers – the other older gulls were watching intently. Finally the gull was freed and flew back to its flock and I made my way back to the shore, looking like some sort of mud monster from a horror film. Lots of stares and comments as I ran back home through the streets of a busy shopping centre.

As I ran back home I thought how much me and my problems were like the gull and its plastic bag. I was trying to get away from this thing on my own back, never realizing how attached to it I was, how entangled and immobilized by negative thoughts and emotions. Like the gull evading its rescuer and going out into the muddy waters of the tide, my own mind was turning away from the things that would really help me.

I have been a student of meditation for 12 years now and I still have times, though fewer and farther between, when my mind gets caught in negative traps. Over the years I have learnt ways to avoid getting caught in these mental ‘plastic bags’ and to simply watch them float by, unaffected. I have learnt how to quieten the mind and connect with a wiser part of myself, with my spiritual heart.

My meditation has brought me many benefits – a more peaceful, healthy, dynamic life; a deepening connection with a compassionate and loving God; a growing inner happiness. And although, like the seagull, I might at first want to turn away and hide from God when I am in difficulty, I am always in awe at how quickly my wings become untangled and I am free to once again fly in the deeper wisdom of my heart.

In this analogy it humored me that as rescuer of the gull I was playing the role of God.  Then I thought to myself – ‘who rescued who?’ The gull was reminding me of an important lesson – and was God in fact playing a little game with us?

How ironic that I had to wade through a sea of mud to see things more clearly!

Pip Speedy (Auckland)

Pippip_speedy.jpg is a teacher at Golden Grove Primary, a new and vibrant Montessori school in Onehunga. She is also a keen and talented actor, runner and race walker. She often volunteers her time to work as a clown at children’s events to help fund the free meditation class programme offered by the Sri Chinmoy Centre. Photo of Pip is taken from a recent World Harmony Run in New Zealand.