About seven years ago, I went through something that essentially changed the configuration of my life.
I ended up living alone, which is unusual for a woman in the Middle East—especially since my family lives in the same country.
My new life was unfamiliar territory. Since I consider myself an extrovert, being void of social stimuli was a challenging set of circumstances. I tried doing a lot of things to fill the gap of loneliness: reading books, listening to music, going out with friends, enrolling in mindfulness courses, and a diverse set of activities to get my mind out of its solitary state.
At the time, an ant colony had settled around my home. After trying everything to my knowledge to get rid of them, nothing worked—I grew frustrated.
Then, one day I remembered a story in the Quran about the prophet Sulaiman. He and his army passed an ant valley. The ants said to each other, “Oh ants, enter your dwellings that you not be crushed by Solomon and his soldiers while they perceive not.” Sulaiman smiled and ordered his army to divert from the colony. I don’t pretend to have any superpowers, but I decided to let the ants be, listen, and whisper to them.
I started observing these pestering creatures. I had somehow become curious about their sociological complex. I noticed how disciplined and orderly they were while walking in strict lines. It was as though they were operating under a system.
Over the next days, observing the ants became a ritual for me; my inquisition turned into a test of their resiliency and communal living. By using my hand or sticks to make barriers, sometimes adding food, I was able to learn many things about the creatures I once considered a nuisance.
The ants were teaching me some fundamentals about life as though they were messengers. I started to reflect and draw parallels between the lives of ants and the human condition. The ants understood the importance of community, it was the basic yet essential component of their social and cultural development.
I decoded this message and it reflected in different aspects of my life—there were three major learnings:
The small creatures always found a way around the barriers I set for them. The message: no setback nor debilitation can stop us in our journey. We can always start from zero, we can still stand up after a fall, and there is always a way to bypass a barrier.
I can always recall how the ants were ever mindful of every step they took. The message: It is truly about the journey we take and being mindful of it. When we know the intention, it gives us a solid reason to be focused, persistent, and aware.
3. Let go and move on.
Whenever a member of the ant colony perishes, the others carry on with grace, gather their strengths, and regain their focus to move on to other endeavors—being able to observe these behaviors engraved a healthy pattern inside my subconscious. Turmoil can’t stop us from living and being. We can always find a way to rise and move on swiftly and gracefully in any situation of loss.
Although the above were critical lessons and reflections, another giant lesson ants taught me is that introversion can get us back into a balanced state of being. A place where we meet ourselves and connect with other beings within the universe. We start to see beyond what we see when we only live in an extroverted state.
The insight I gleaned throughout this experience has conditioned me to believe that maybe it is healthier for us to be multifaceted. Perhaps the key is to be an ambivert who can enjoy our own company and solitude as much as we enjoy others. This allows us to connect with existence in many different layers.
There is beauty and hidden meaning in everything. There could be a reservoir of knowledge to be attained in the most desperate situation. It’s all about how we angle our perspective—let’s be led by sheer wonder and pondering of our surroundings.
Curiosity contains utility; the answers that we seek during times of uncertainty can be found in the most unexpected of circumstances. Sometimes it is in places that no human, book, or teaching could deliver.
I discovered that observing ants to the degree that I did was an exercise in mindfulness and a kind of meditation. To see beyond what was readily available to the eyes, I had to dig much deeper.
After my experience with the ants, I have become more conscious of other forms of reality. I am now fully aware that truths of life can be delivered by way of a creature, a situation, or a moment of pure silence. Answers reside everywhere in this universe, but to obtain them, we must pay attention and wonder.
In these times, the whole world is going to an introverted state. People are being forced by COVID-19 to go back home—exactly how an ant colony is kept and protected. It is a situation that none of us have ever been through.
From my whispering and communicating with ants, let us learn to act as a united colony of human beings.
Let us remember there is always space for resilience and the ability to just be. Let us focus on what we can do and enjoy the moment when we achieve it. Let us learn the art of letting go, despite what we lose and the things we cannot control—even if it is hard.
Let’s learn to go back to ourselves, to stillness, to listen, and to know more profound knowledge. Let us observe, wonder, listen, and maybe even whisper. It is the perfect time to do it.
Now when I see an ant, I think of it as the universe smiling at me. So I smile back. I say, “Hi, and thank you!”
Nowadays, I am a universe whisperer. I am learning a lot—try it!