Recently I received a surprise visit from an alien-like insect that people rarely encounter…that being the elusive praying mantis. The last time I saw one was decades ago as a teenager.
This time, however, the freaky looking green stick figure was staring at me from the other side of the sliding glass door connecting to my balcony. My wife and I reside on a high floor of a high-rise building just outside of the nation’s capital.
While I can see the Washington Monument and National Cathedral from this perch, at first I failed to see what was right in front of me that morning. Some people say that you don’t find a praying mantis, rather it finds you. This helps to explain why I was so jolted at first sight.
Several questions raced through my mind:
- How did the praying mantis arrive above the 15th floor?
- Why was it on my balcony when it could have been anywhere else?
- Was this unexpected visitation mere happenstance or something more?
I was baffled for minutes as the praying mantis stood motionless staring at me with its bulging eyes, triangular head and elongated body. Then, upon further contemplation, a more profound question arose:
Could this bizarre creature be delivering a message at a time when Covid-19 mask mandates were being reinstated at indoor public spaces throughout the Washington, DC-area and across the country?
And, if yes, what the heck was this praying mantis trying to tell me?
The lessons were simple: Be calm. Remain still. Resist knee-jerk reactions. Be deliberate before making any sudden or rash moves.
These are some of the timely positive traits exhibited by the praying mantis. According to USmantis.com:
- “Overwhelmingly in most cultures the mantis is a symbol of stillness.”
- “As such, she is an ambassador from the animal kingdom giving testimony to the benefits of meditation, and calming our minds.”
- “An appearance from the mantis is a message to be still, go within, meditate, get quite and reach a place of calm.”
Like millions of Americans, I’ve been stressed out and edgy since the pandemic began proliferating last March. My mental health has been negatively affected by periodic anxiety, intermittent sleep and bouts of minor depression.
It appeared until August that the tumultuous time of lockdowns, remote working, distance learning, indoor mask mandates and social distancing were almost over. Then came the rapid rise of the dreaded Delta variant.
Delta felt like doomsday. Were we slipping back into a collective abyss of disfunction and despair? Almost everyone I knew — myself included — was frantic, frustrated, agitated and aghast at this cruel reversal of fortune.
That’s when the praying mantis paid me a visit. This unique insect gets her name from the manner in which her forearms are folded in prayer (see photo above).
“Praying mantises are pretty infamous for displaying prayer-like postures. Very insignificant as it may first seem, the mantis’ posture symbolizes quite many different things or beliefs. Over time, mantis appears to have acquired the following traits.”
- Peace and Understanding
- Patience, Balance, and Mindfulness
- Stillness and Focus
This reminded me of another vital life lesson related to the pandemic, especially now, during the reinstatement of indoor mask mandates which have some people in a nasty uproar.
During downtrodden times it’s helpful to pray and keep the faith. Remember that better days lie ahead. As the Bible states in Psalm 30:5:
- “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
I have the humble praying mantis to thank for helping to renew my wellness, wisdom and faith during this difficult time.