Love and Spiders

“We are joined together with invisible threads. If I hurt you, I hurt myself. If I hurt myself, I am hurting you all.”

This is a post about friendship, love, oneness, freedom, and spiders. Yes, spiders. Let me explain.

I have had a lifelong phobia of spiders, and I live in a place that, for some reason, spiders frequently visit. Several times a week, they would show up in the bathtub whenever I stepped in to take a shower. And for a phobic like me, it was far from a pleasant way to start the morning. I was freaked out and upset, and I’m not proud of the ways I got the spiders out of the tub.

Frankly, I didn’t know what to do and couldn’t foresee any solution.

The Truth Wakes Me Up

Then I read a book that changed everything. Really. My friend Robin Easton, who blogs at Naked in Eden, published a book, also called “Naked in Eden”. On the surface, this book is about Robin’s exploits in the Australian rainforest. But from her experiences with the natural world, Robin conveys so clearly the realization that we are one with life, that we are nature itself, and that there truly is no separation.

Whether communing with a dying bandicoot (a large rat indigenous to Australia) or sharing the journey of a butterfly breaking out of its pupa, anyone reading this book can’t help but meet every living creature with a heart filled with knowing and love.

As a result of reading “Naked in Eden”, I began to look at spiders in a whole new way, and my phobia was finished for good. Shortly after, there was a large spider in the tub one morning. Before, I was literally unable to hold a box containing a spider so I could deposit it outside.

This time, I stopped.  I looked at the spider and was amazed to realize that it was not my enemy. I talked to it, literally felt the oneness with it, and gently got it into a box so I could release it outdoors. My heart was brimming over, and I almost couldn’t believe that this phobia no longer plagued me.

Then an odd thing began to happen – the spiders stopped visiting. It was uncanny. They used to appear several times a week, and now months later, they rarely turn up. I have learned the lesson, and I don’t need their presence anymore.  But each time they do appear, there is barely a ripple in me as I lovingly capture them and return them to their natural home.  In fact, it happened just this morning.

All I can say is, “Thank you, Robin. Thank you, spiders.” You have been my teachers. You showed me where I was stuck and how to be free. And I have realized a deep insight that goes well beyond spiders.

Use Life Experience for Your Liberation

Life offers us exactly what we need to liberate ourselves. If we notice contracted emotion around a thought, person, or situation, we can locate our misunderstanding and gain the clarity that will re-align us to the truth of non-separation and love.

I misunderstood spiders.  I was attached to the creepy feeling I got looking at one, and all I wanted to do was get rid of it.  But when I see a spider in the truth of oneness, I want to care for it and treat it honorably.  It is a privilege to scoop it up and take it outside.

The golden rule tells us to “do unto others as you would have them do unto  you.” But the truth is even deeper.  What you do to others, you do to yourself.  There is no difference, no separation.

When we don’t need the lesson anymore, it disappears, just like the spiders, and there is only happiness, freedom, and celebration. A friend of mine who heard this story calls this the “spider effect.”

Lessons from a Phobia

Here is what I learned from the ending of my phobia. Maybe you will experience your own spider effect – the ending of a problem, and the remembering of life, love, and oneness.

  • It is possible to be free in areas of life where you feel stuck, held back, frustrated, or hopeless.
  • Every moment of life is either a lesson or a celebration.
  • The only enemies you have are the ones you create in your own mind.
  • If you find yourself in the same stressful situation over and over, take an honest, penetrating look at yourself. Something about your thinking pattern is keeping you from being free.
  • There is truly no separation. Everything you see, feel, and touch, including yourself, is transparent. If you look deeply enough, you will see that at the source of everything is life itself.
  • The essence that shines through all forms is love.

So what is your spider phobia?  Is it fear, physical pain, an addiction, low self-worth, victimhood?  Where are you contracted in your life? My prayer for you is that you meet it with eyes open, find your misunderstanding, and clear the way for your light to shine even brighter.

Any comments or reflections? I’d love to hear…

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  1. says

    Hi Gail .. Robin’s book looks wonderful and I have it here to read .. and she is so full of life, caring for every part of this planet – flora or fauna .. and humanity … it is that understanding, and our appreciation that life is all life, nothing more nothing less.

    Thanks and delighted that you’ve stepped over the spider threshold .. and can appreciate their qualities of life ..

    Cheers Hilary

    • Gail Brenner says

      Great to hear from you, Hilary! I also have learned so much from Robin – she is such a light.

      Yes, when we clear up the fog of misunderstanding, all that is left is appreciation. Thanks so much for that reminder.

  2. says

    Gail, Opening your post this morning sure gave me a start!! I, too, have a life-long spider phobia. However – I am certain that this particular post was written for me. Last night I had a break-through (after 3 heart wrenching maddening years of grief over the sudden loss of my beloved husband. Then, last night I was struck with the truth of it all and I had understanding from Holy Spirit. It was all about honoring my husband’s choice 3 years ago, and about realizing in mind and in heart the fact that death is truly a portal, not ‘the end’. I had always given that lip service, but only last night did I embrace it. I love your words of wisdom and am very grateful for all you do.

    • Gail Brenner says

      So great to hear from you, Arlene, and thank you for sharing this beautiful opening you had last night. It sounds like the clouds cleared and you were able to see the truth of the situation regarding your husband’s death. We can’t predict when these openings will happen – all we can do is appreciate when they come.

      I’m very happy for you and for the peace that you have realized.

      Sending love…

  3. says

    Hi Gail.

    I hear you here. You used a great example to make this point. Lessons hit us hard until we understand them, and suddenly they don’t hit us hard at all, or we barely notice. I have seen this with lessons I have learned, and also see this in lessons I have not yet learned of. It is sort of our brain processing all the new stuff and trying to make sense of it, and until it is processed properly, we see it as a complex wall.

    It is this concept that makes me realize how easy the days are for some folks who have conquered many of the main lessons, as the “trials and tribulations” of some are simple fun occurrences for others.

    Your example in this post came through very well.

    On a side note I just realized I could resize your comment field, and that was cool.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hi Armen,

      I’m happy to hear how deeply you got one of the main points of this post. The lessons are always here for us, if we look. And when we take them on board and learn what we need to learn, we don’t need them anymore. Then what used to be painful or challenging is welcomed totally and becomes a celebration.

      This is what happened with the spiders – I actually enjoy when they appear now.

      Yes, the more that we are willing to learn from the lessons that are presented to us, the easier life becomes. So suffering can inspire us to examine our misunderstandings.

      Always great to connect with you, Armen.

  4. says

    I believe that we have to differentiate between fear that is necessary to protect us from real harm and fear in response to a perceived threat or as a result of past trauma. This post was helpful in reminding me how important it is to face the things that scare us, which might not really be dangerous after all. We can get so caught up in reactive fear that we lose sight of the potential connection we can have with others in the world (people and animals alike). Thank you for reminding us that there is a lot we can learn about ourselves when we face our fear and explore it to learn more about ourselves, rather than keep trying to run away from it. That makes for creating more intimacy in all of our relationships.

    • Gail Brenner says

      A warm welcome to you, Sofia.

      You make an essential point about fear that signals a true threat and fear that is imagined or projected from the past. As you say, it is so easy to get caught up in fear and to believe our thoughts about it. I have found that fear-driven thoughts create a picture of the future that is negative and worrisome. When they are investigated, they are seen to be not true, as none of us can know what the future will bring.

      The more we challenge these assumptions we live by, the more we are available to the beautiful intimacy that you describe.

      Thanks so much for visiting and taking the time to comment.

  5. says

    A fine post Gail. An old friend used to say, “It’s not ‘live and learn, it’s learn and live.”

    These opportunities to go deeper into our life and habits and our relationship with spiders etc aren’t always comfortable but they yield abundant fruit. They keep us young too don’t you think?

    • Gail Brenner says

      As you know, Chris, I’m a big fan of not shying away from what might be uncomfortable. But these patterns can be sneaky. When it came to my spider phobia, I didn’t investigate it – I was stuck in it ever since I was little.

      But the learning comes in mysterious ways. I wasn’t looking for a solution to this problem when I read Robin’s book, but once I did, I couldn’t look at spiders in the same way. I am so grateful that we get exactly what we need.

      Yes, when we take all of these opportunities to go deeper, our interest is likely to “yield abundant fruit.”

      Always a pleasure, Chris.

  6. Omina says

    I have been reading your blog for a while but this is the first time I have posted. Thank you for allowing us to learn from your journey. About a year and a half ago, I ended a romantic relationship after 8 years. I was doing well with the healing up until last month. Last month we finally made contact. He shared with me the joy he has found in a new relationship. And while I am happy for him, the news has undone me. I feel like my heart is breaking all over again. Reading your blog has made me realize that I am stuck in some pattern here. This is not about him, this is about me. I think whatever it is I am holding onto shows up in many other relationships as well. I want to confront it, this thing that I am holding onto which is causing me pain so that I can release it. Do you Gail, or anyone else here have any suggestions for how I might go about doing this?

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hi Omina, and welcome to you. Thank you so much for reading and for commenting.

      I am sorry for the pain that you are experiencing, but I am thrilled with your question. Because you are not blaming or looking for the world to save you. You are willing to take responsibility and see how you are stuck. This is the beginning of the path to freedom.

      I can’t know why you are stuck or what pattern is getting activated. So I would suggest that you simply start where you are. Don’t try to analyze or figure out. Instead, stop, look inward, and be curious about what you are experiencing in the moment. Feel the feelings, the sensations, and see what thoughts you are telling yourself. These are all cues. As you watch the pattern begin to unfold, you will see how you are reinforcing thoughts and feelings that are bringing suffering to you.

      Your ex is a teacher for you. It is a good thing that he reappeared, because he is here to show you where you are stuck and can be free.

      I wish you well on this journey and offer you oceans of support….

  7. says

    The most important thing in live (my point of view) is to improve ourselves, our internal state.
    Is not money, is not a better car…
    Most people don’t find their goal in life. Leo Batauta (Zenhabits) and you made me change my mind.
    First of all I realized that no goals is another goal. And from this issue, in a simple way, I also realized that the best goal is to improve our spirit, our internal state to live in a better way with the others.
    Thank you very much, Gail
    From Spain, Víctor.

    • Gail Brenner says

      You are so welcome, Victor. It sounds like you have shifted your whole way of being in the world, and that your life is better for it.

      I’m so happy for you that you have been able to learn exactly what you needed to know so that you can have a peaceful internal state.

      I appreciate your point that we can turn “no goal” into another goal. Truly having no goal means an openness to everything, always, which is peace itself.

      I wish you well…

    • says

      @Mr.LovingKindness – I can totally understand what you are saying here as we have black widow spiders where I live in the southwest, and they are poisonous.

      I had some thoughts on this: I found while living in the jungles of Australia that there is a difference between FEAR and AWARENESS.

      In fear we rarely act prudently. Our responses can be chaotic, reactionary, which can actually cause us to not think clearly and calmly. More importantly it can cause the life that we fear to react in a defensive or protect way because they don’t know what we are going to do. Even spiders feel and can sense how WE are feeling. Some animals are even drawn to fear as they sense a vulnerable and easy strike/kill. Other species respond to fear with fear, which means they may strike thinking they have to protect themselves.

      In awareness we can more methodically use ‘caution’ and more clearly CHOOSE our reactions.

      It also helps to learn about the species in our area, especially those which are POTENTIALLY deadly to humans. The black widow is most active and night. And it likes to hide through the day under rubbish, flower pots, wooden crates, woodpiles, etc.

      However, I move through my yard (which has many of these items in it) with AWARENESS not fear. I am aware that there are black widows, and since I respect their right to life, I wear thick leather gloves when moving the wood pile.

      Black widows rarely bite unless squeezed or pinched between you and whatever they are clinging to. In most cases they will drop to the ground and curl into a ball to try to camouflage themselves (so hence it’s prudent to wear shoes and boots, as eventually they will try to walk away or climb onto something else. And you don’t want it to be you) LOL! :)

      The more aware of our environment we become (especially that which concerns us, like black widows) the easier we feel, and the more we know how to live in harmony with other species. That is one great thing about the internet. We can usually find the info we need. We just want to make sure we check several reliable sources.

      I also REALLY understand (very well) what you are saying about certain REAL situations, people, other species that we need to be aware of. For example: a human who seems potentially dangerous, a rapist or murderer, etc. Yes, there are very real things in the world that we need to be aware of.

      I think listening to our intuition or gut response in these types of situation is essential and key. A built in part of our survival. And it’s right that we honor this.

      Yet, for myself I like to distinguish between fear and awareness as much as possible. And if nothing else explore all fears.

      Thank you for inspiring me. I really enjoyed it.


      • says

        “Other species respond to fear with fear”
        I agree.

        “In awareness we can more methodically use ‘caution’”
        ‘Caution’ is a form of fear.

        “I wear thick leather gloves”
        There is fear. There is awareness of an object of fear (being bitten). There arises a strategy (wearing gloves). If the strategy appears to work, the strategy is repeated, reinforced, conditioned. The sense of self is reinforced, strengthened.

        Thank you for exploring this.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Hi Mr. LK,

      Robin addressed this way better than I ever could have. Thank you, Robin!

      My experience of fear vs. awareness is that in awareness, the mind is clear, so appropriate responding can emerge.

      The spiders in my bathtub were not black widows, and my fear was unwarranted in the situation. This is the nature of a phobia – unwarranted fear – and the opportunity for all of us to awaken from it.

      I always appreciate your thought-provoking additions to the conversation. Thank you.

      • says

        Thank you for the forum, Gail.

        It seems to me there is no fear without awareness. We are aware of fear. Without awareness, there is no experience of fear. If a tree falls in the woods…

        In the presence of fearful sensations or thoughts awareness often contracts, focuses, or zooms in on that experience giving the impression that fear is all there is in that moment, which is pretty much what animals (including humans) are designed to do. The purpose of fear and other strong emotions is to draw attention to something important for survival or reproduction and then motivate you to act.

        To my thinking, “fear vs. awareness” is a bit nonsensical, because there is no fear without awareness. What makes more sense to me is “fear vs. mindfulness”. Mindfulness (sati in Pali) means not forgetting. Concentrated on fear (or any strong emotion), we have forgotten there is something else.

        While I’m on the topic, fear is a form of desire, desire for circumstances to not move in an unwanted direction. Suffering arises from attachment to desire.

        • Gail Brenner says

          Mr. LK,

          What you say is true: there is nothing without awareness. Awareness is what is prior to the arising of any experience.

          Fear can arise in awareness without identification with it. Then it just comes and goes and is not a problem. When we identify with fear, or any emotion or thought pattern, is when the trouble starts. When we are not identified with any aspect of our experience, there is space for clarity and appropriate responding to occur.

          So when I see a spider and do not experience fear, or I’m not buying into the fear, there is space for love and compassionate responding. My experience is that creative solutions arise once the identification is seen and dispelled.

  8. says

    Dearest Gail.

    This post is so loaded with insight and profound wisdom. It just left me reeling in a most wonderful way. It also is filled with your incredible grace. Very very moving.

    There is tremendous courage and willingness in you to awaken. You often remind me of a brave child. She might be afraid, but her greatest driving force is to awaken to life, to learn, to know, to see more of Life itself.

    I whistled out loud when I read this line:
    “Use Life Experience for Your Liberation. Life offers us exactly what we need to liberate ourselves.”

    This is the very thing I learned in my late twenties in the rainforest. I knew that if I never cracked another book, Life would teach me ALL I needed to know as long I used all my experiences and emotions to grow. I knew that Life was literally offering me everything I needed to fully become Robin.

    Like I once wrote on my blog, “learning is a ‘living’ experience.” Our lives supply all we need to grow. It’s all right under our very noses.

    When I read that line of yours, I just wanted reach through this screen and wrap you in my arms and hug you. You are so precious Gail. So earnest and innocent, like the child I mentioned earlier in my comment. It’s not about NEVER feeling fear, anger, depression, or even hate. It’s about using all that we feel and experience as fodder for growth.

    It’s as if our life experience is tailor made for each of us. What is happening in our lives is literally there to help us grow, even when it looks ugly or horrific. Even if it is there to simply teach us that we need to say, “No more. I am going to choose something different.” Even if it’s there to simply offer contrast, so that we are better able to choose.

    I have found Life to be my greatest teacher. For me, everything else is a weak substitute.

    You are a beautiful, radiant soul, dear Gail. My heart swells with love for you whenever I think of you, and I think of you often. You are a sister to me and always will be.

    Much love, always.

    PS I’ve pulled back a lot from blogging, and probably am going to do more pulling back. I hope to drop you a note at some point. But know that I love you very much. Robin

    • Gail Brenner says

      I have always felt such a resonance with you, Robin, and you have helped me so, so much. Thank you doesn’t feel like enough. I am so grateful, so appreciative.

      Yes, experiences are tailor-made for each of us to see where we are hung up. I love that you say that the goal is not to never feel fear, anger, depression, or hate. This is a point where so many people get stuck. They feel they have failed if the feelings reappear.

      But you have made it so clear that whatever shows up is here as a teaching – even if it is the same feeling all over again. The orientation, then, is to the experience of the moment rather than some vision or idea of how things are supposed to be.

      I honor you, Robin, for your gifts, your caring, your support and for being who you are so clearly. You are a healing presence, and I love you.

      I hope that whatever you are up to is bringing you joy and satisfaction. I appreciate contact with you whenever it happens, so no worries at all about not being in touch.

      Much love to you, wise being, dear friend, soul sister,

  9. says

    Dear Gail.

    I so appreciated this post and had to smile as recently I kept bumping into the same wall over and over again with the way that I was thinking of my consulting business. Wow, does the head (and being) get battered then! As soon as I moved in a little closer to see how my emotions and thought patterns looped and webbed, I was able open to the knowledge, and make a choice.

    Currently, I’m reading a book by Chogyam Trungpa. One section includes this line ““Our irritating world . . . it might be quite uncomfortable, but nevertheless that’s where the inspiration lies.”

    Thank you for sharing your spider story and reminding us of our built-in, assumed stories. Hear, hear to inspiration!


    • Gail Brenner says

      And thank you to you, Susie, for sharing your experience of finding your way to truth through the loops and webs. I love your insight to realize you were bumping into walls and your enthusiasm to get to the source of the problem.

      The quote you offered is right on: in our irritating world is where the inspiration lies. Discomfort doesn’t have to be an obstacle.

      Love to you…

  10. says

    Gail: What a great post. I was wondering in the beginning where you were going to go with it and enjoyed the story and the insights you shared so much. I have to admit that I am not all that much of a fan of spiders either — so thank you for helping me take another look from a different perspective.

    “Life offers us exactly what we need to liberate ourselves.” WOW….such a powerful statement. I love that insight and truth. As you mentioned, it is all about taking advantage of what life offers you and choosing to learn from it what you should. Great message and post.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Thank you, Sibyl.

      I appreciate your point about choosing to learn what we need from life. The lessons are always here – it’s how we approach them. What was interesting about this one is that I wasn’t working on this particular problem. But the lesson came anyway, and I am so grateful.

      After this, you may not be able to look at spiders in the same way…

  11. says

    I love your quote. I have a special relationships with spiders and their webs. They used to be the first thing that would greet me in the mornings as we worked on the farm as kids. As a runner I still love to run into them.

  12. says

    You are brave and you rock. No more little Miss Muffet for you! :)

    I deal with my own phobias and also with that rush of liberation when you tackle one head on and come out a winner. Nothing better.

    Sending lots of lovies your way.

    • Gail Brenner says

      Oh, I’m receiving all the lovies, Emma, each one. Thank you, and right back atcha.

      So glad you mentioned Miss Muffet! How apropos!

      Yes, it is so liberating to be free of a phobia. Happy to have you as a sister on the path.

  13. says

    I think fear holds us back even when we think we are fearless. Like, yesterday i was chillen wit my friends. And it occurred to be i had been scared to fail. ME!!!! JONATHAN FIGARO…SCARED TO FAIL!! ( i put this in caps because…it’s not me to fear failing) I have been so worried about the content of my e-books…i haven’t released anything that i had written in the past3 -4 years…( WOW!) What a realization I had last night. I had bee procrastinating….Waiting for the perfect time/ perfect design and etc.

    Well I been up since 9. And now i seem to be a machine. I seem to just do! No longer talk but work. And will be releasing material, video and all to see one by one by one.

    My advice to all. Fear can hold you down even when you believe your fearless. And when you have this epiphany..thank God for it and don’t waste a moment.

    Thanks Gail..for letting me get my ideas out!

    • Gail Brenner says

      I’m so glad you got your idea out, Jonathan.

      Fear is so sneaky, isn’t it. It creeps into the corners and holds us back without our even realizing it.

      I’m happy for you that you had the epiphany about being afraid to fail. It seems like that’s all it took to fire you up. You say you believed you were fearless. I talk often about examining all of our beliefs. In your case, you found this one to not be entirely true.

      I love your enthusiasm, and look forward to seeing some wonderful material from you.

  14. Raju says

    Wow. I had a similar experience with roaches. Initially I and my wife feared them, but now i look at them as part of me. My wife though is still afraid of them.

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