During every yoga training I teach, there is always a confrontation with a very lucky or unlucky cockroach. We periodically meet in a room where it seems there is a colony of roaches within the walls that on occasion come out to say hi or to scare the crap out of us. And each year we have the same conversation related to ahimsa, nonharming, and is it really fair for us to take away a living thing’s life just because it grosses us out. Do we have the right to play God?
My stance is that I cannot kill them, but I still cannot go up to them and carry them out either. I usually choose to just let them run away. And, my claim to the trainees each year is that the day that I am able to calmly put one of them in my hand and carry them out of my house with love then I will know there’s been an internal shift within me. Whether you want to call it enlightenment or something else I don’t know because enlightenment has so many charged implications. Regardless, this action will be a sign that I’m evolving and experiencing nonattachment, and who knows what else. It will be a beautiful feeling though.
So, yesterday, I had an interesting and blessed situation. I was cooking in my house with a friend and we open the bottom cupboard to take out a pan. When I move the pan, a little cockroach is running around inside the bottom container below the pan. I jump and screech, “Cockroach!” Being that my friend was a man, and society clearly states that men are responsible for taking care of the cockroaches when women freak out, he manned up and carried the container outside. (He later admitted he was freaking out too.) He flipped the pan over and dropped him on my porch. But when the roach fell, he fell belly up. So the roach was lying on his back and I felt compassion for the little guy. I couldn’t just let him die. His legs were moving slower and slower and it was breaking my heart. And yes, since he was a smaller roach it probably made it easier for me to think he was cute instead of gross. So, I went outside and with my finger… YES MY FINGER, not a piece of paper or a stick - I flipped him over onto his feet and he happily ran away. I could feel his joy and it felt so fulfilling.
Then, I realized what I had done. HOLY SHIT! I just touched a roach and saved his life and didn’t freak out!! What does this mean? I don’t know what it means, but it felt darn good inside to see the roach as a living, breathing, suffering animal instead of a disgusting, slimy good-for-nothing beast that needs to be exterminated.
So, next time you see a roach in your house, take a second look at him/her and ask yourself, is he/she living? And should you be the one to take away his/her life? Maybe, but maybe not.