About a week ago, I watched as a bright red cardinal repeatedly flew from a tree limb toward my house and back again. Curious, I decided to get a closer look and found he was attacking my garage door window! I went down to the garage imagining there must be a delicious bug infestation nearby. No such evidence. Yet the cardinal continued his attacks every day; he seemed to be so engaged each time I checked. I mentioned his bizarre behavior to my family, and my daughter promptly sought an answer on Google. She read me the query response: it was likely that the bird believed his own reflected image was another bird. He was attacking his own reflection believing his territory was under siege! This morning I watched again and wondered if my cardinal (or so I had come to think of him) would ever realize the threat to his territory existed only in his tiny bird-mind. He was wasting so much time and energy fighting with his own reflection; it seemed he was his own worst enemy!
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Most of us at some point in our lives have come to the conclusion that we’re our own worst enemy in some particular life scenario. We have realized we are getting in our own way by thinking or doing something which has interfered with our own goals, our own peace of mind. Such an insight is helpful to us, in and of itself. Yet that same insight can be life changing if we can put it to work in areas of our lives beyond our “Eureka!” moment.
This is, in part, what consciousness and conscious living are all about. With a bit of effort, we can use the experience of an insightful moment to show us we are capable of both creating and using insight to solve other issues in our lives. We do not have to wait for the lightbulb to illuminate our minds; we can search for the switch and turn it on any time we choose! It would be ideal to do so when we first note any negativity in our lives. Yet getting the inside view first doesn’t usually occur to us. We have a tendency to blame circumstances and others for anything which seems less than ideal in our lives.
I have certainly “been there.” One day several years ago I was in a terrible mood. I had just gotten off the phone with an old friend who I kept in touch with several times a month. During each and every conversation we had, she would devolve into a rant against her ex-husband (from whom she had been divorced longer than a decade.) Over the years, I had tried to change the subject, confront her with the futility of her obsession, and finally just avoided picking up the phone sometimes. But that day I had answered, and I reacted later with my own obsessive thoughts: “What is WRONG with her?” I fumed to myself. After about an hour of this, I finally realized I’d been asking the wrong question; I needed to ask, “what is wrong with me?” Despite the fact that my friend had a problem, I realized there was more going on. Why did her issues have such an impact on me and my frame of mind? After a little soul-searching, it occurred to me she reminded me of myself and my own still festering issues. I didn’t appreciate being reminded of such an unattractive self- image! The insight directed me to unexpected solutions. I realized we all have baggage in need of being lightened, but we don’t have to deal with anyone else’s unless we choose to do so. Eventually I was able to talk with my friend and not feel depressed afterward.
This afternoon, my cardinal has a companion which seems to remain very close to him on the tree branch. Do you suppose his attacks on the threatening bird in my window have helped him to succeed in finding a mate? I must say I doubt he will ever realize his energy has been wasted, and that his success will likely be due to his own natural beauty.
5/22/16 UPDATE: While watching the above pair, I discovered a nest of brand new baby cardinals in the shrubs just below my porch! Dad continues to make sure his territory is safe, checking out the garage window frequently!