Bhakti, Cicadas, & Jim Johnson

OK, first off, somebody Googled “life is meaningless and everything dies” yesterday and somehow … for some insane reason known only to the Internet … was directed to my blog.

Really? Really??? I’m very disappointed in you, Google.

For the record, life is NOT meaningless (not even for the Miami Marlins), but yes, in fact, everything does die eventually.

In Yoga there is a path called Bhakti – the Yoga of devotion. It’s one of the simplest paths of Yoga because there are no special instructions to guide it. The practice is simply seeing, feeling, experiencing, and honoring the divine in yourself, in others, and in the world around you. You know, the divine (life force, meaningful goodness, or God or the Goddess … take your pick here).

Seeing and honoring the divine in a beloved friend, a beautiful flower, or a joyful cat is a pretty easy way to rock the Bhakti path.


Hi, Stevie!

But, isn’t that a bit too easy?

Seeing the divine in the heart of an annoying person, in something ugly or frightening, or in a difficult experience … now that’s Bhakti.

Here in Virginia, thousands upon thousands (upon thousands) of other-worldly cicadas have made their way up out of the ground. They’ve left their crunchy outer shells (or carcasses, if you will) all over, including dozens on my porch.

Here's a cicada, ready for anything!

Here’s a cicada, ready for anything!

After 17 years underground, they emerge like randy Rip Van Winkles to mate. Yes, finally old enough to mingle at the frat house mixer conveniently located in my elm tree.

They are known mostly for the ethereal mating song of the male – something that sounds strangely like spaceships landing in a low-rent sci-fi movie. You can listen here.

They make that sound by flexing their bellies which vibrates little bongo drums in their abdomen. (I’m not kidding. Wing rubbing is for sissies.)

The sound is considered beautiful and alluring to female cicadas. When a thousand of them get their drums going, it can get pretty loud and can go all night (which, again, seems rather frat-like). What may make a female cicada swoon can be incredibly annoying for humans.

Not to mention the fact that cicadas are rather large – 2 or 3 inches – are related to locusts, have translucent wings and enormous, kinda creepy red eyes. (They also make a terrible squishing sound when you accidentally step on one … and with thousands of them lounging on your porch, it’s bound to happen.)

It’s hard to love a cicada (unless you’re a chicken; they and other animals find cicadas to be buttery and delicious).

I dedicated the Yoga classes I taught this week to the cicada – which meant lots of core work (to activate our own abdomens), deep breathing (after 17 years underground I would think they’d appreciate some fresh air) and a lot of stretching out of the earth and out of our shells. (People were on their own for the mating thing …)

I just wanted to send a little love to the cicada. Very cool little locusts, if a bit ugly. I wanted to honor the sweet divine that rests within them, in the same way it rests within all of us.

So, Bhakti for the cicadas!

And, Bhakti for Jim Johnson, beleaguered Baltimore Orioles closer.

Jim Johnson

He blew three straight saves (as part of a six-game Orioles losing streak) in recent days.

It’s no fun watching your All-Star closer toss up batting practice and lose games in the bottom of the 9th that you thought were won.

It’s 10 p.m., the game’s winding down … you have a comfortable one- or two-run lead, time to get ready for bed. And, Jim Johnson comes out to the mound, gives up a meaningless hit (just to make things interesting) and then shuts them down. Old Reliable Jim.

We turn off the TV and go to bed happy, with dreams of the World Series in our heads.

But, when things go bad for Jim Johnson, my Editor/Husband yells at him. “Oh, no. Oh, no. No, no, no!”  Things went very bad this week.

I’m sure my husband knows that Jim Johnson can’t actually hear him. I’m pretty much the only one who can. (Well, the cats hear him, too, but what can they do? They can’t even bunt.)

It’s when players have rough games or go through a slump that you have to look beyond an external bad day to see through to the goodness within.

So we decided (and by “we”, I mean “I” decided) no more yelling at Jim Johnson. Only positive support. (Yeh, I know, Jim Johnson can’t hear that either. But, the house is more peaceful, so … progress.)

After all, we all have bad days. We all have slumps. But, it doesn’t define who we are.

On Tuesday night, Jim Johnson came out in the 10th inning and shut down the Yankees 1-2-3. So, he’s coming around.

Even when things are bad, or when people let you down or disappoint you, or strange-looking locusts crawl out of the ground to make noise and mess up your porch … you can look for the sweetness, the goodness, the divine, within. That’s Bhakti.

Seeing and honoring the divine in your loved ones is a good start. Extending that recognition to others in your world, even the ones you don’t know or you don’t understand, takes a bit more work.

It’s worth the effort.

And, life isn’t meaningless.

12 thoughts on “Bhakti, Cicadas, & Jim Johnson

  1. Love this! I actually like it when the cicadas come. Not every minute, but it is so . . .intersting. . . and alive. Here in Maryland the nights are often loud and alive in the summertime. I didn’t realize it was so local until we had visitors from out west mention how loud it was one night.

    I was at the game last night – we didn’t even need our closer ;-) It was a beautiful night for a game and a win! God I love it there. I too went through a transformation over the 6 game losing streak. From panicked and frustrating – to warm and positive. So far so good. It’s a long season. Go O’s!


    • Randy just about said something last night when they got Jim up in the bullpen in the bottom of the 9th (after Darren gave up the homerun). I reminded him of the new “only positive” rules. He’s working on it. We’ll get to DC for one of the Nats-O’s games this weekend, so I’m excited about that! And, can’t wait to see Gausman go tonight! Orioles Magic!

  2. How could life be meaningless when cicadas pop up every 17 years to prove once more that life and rebirth are always there even when hidden for a long, long time. A losing streak of just 6 games seems paltry in the face of the cicada.

    • Thanks, Gloria! I agree. I think of Ithe cicadas as getting a new adventure, a new start. And, it got me to wondering — are there cicadas still underground who didn’t come up after 17 years? Were they not ready … or unwilling … or too afraid to try something different? I suppose it was a bit of a risk … but maybe all the party-time, bongo-drumming, and mating made the risk all worthwhile!

  3. I love the cicadas!! Of course, that’s easy for me to say, up here in Vermont. But I always thought it was a super cool phenomenon, and when I lived in D.C., I enjoyed the crunching of cicadas beneath my feet. Just so odd! Also, my cat found them to be quite delicious!

    • Hi Ginny! Thanks for giving a shout-out to the cicadas! There are hundreds and hundreds of their little crunchy exo-skeletons around the bases of some of our trees (not to mention on my porch) … would you like me to box some up and ship them up to Vermont? You can crunch on them — sort of the same stress-relieving idea as popping bubble wrap! :)

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