The butterfly bushes in the garden outside the retreat center in St. Louis County attracted many butterflies. These were common visitors to the bushes. They were most frequent in the middle of the hot days, and cameras and cell phones were aimed in their direction. I was able to get more cooperation later in the afternoon though most of them had left by that time.
The bubbly woman from St. Paul, Minnesota, brought them to my attention first. We didn't stand in the hot steaming sunshine at our noon break. However, she had noticed the flurry of activity and asked me to go outside and look. At that time there were probably thirty or more butterflies circling around the three bushes looking for blossoms that hadn't been used, several smaller kinds that I couldn't photograph.
That their beauty and that of the butterfly bushes flowers shined in the midst of the 98 and 100 degree heat was amazing. We wilted. They soared.
The urge to get the very best shot came again after seeing a beautiful photo of the yellow butterfly taken by one of the women on an I-phone. One day it was too hot; then I discovered that a few were still flying after the 4:30 meditation. I followed, then stood still. I bent, stretched, and twisted to get the best shot in light that accented their beauty.
The man who had retired from a position shooting photographs in the operating room in Minneapolis had the best camera--by a lot. He simply said, "it's not so much about the camera but about using what you have." The Mike's camera employee who was hiking with me on Wednesday before I left for St. Louis was more helpful than the professional photographer. The pro also directed me to the woman who had taken the cell phone picture that was so lovely.
I didn't expect to have my pictures turn out as well as those of the pro. I didn't want to be outdone by the I-phone's camera. There were other times when that sense of competition showed up. I was in the facilitator training workshop, not the leadership track. We would surely learn how to be the best facilitators. No. We were being given a model for training others, others who knew nothing about centering prayer from the way the training began. The first all-day session that focused on the facilitator's role was presented to the combined groups so the leadership track people learned as much as we did about that role.
In our group we were to play an "answer the question" game divided by teams. One team would win. One of the men spoke up and suggested that we were learning about being contemplative, not winning, and he thought we should all sit around the table, pull a question from the bag, given the best answer we could, and go on to the next person. There was no need for one group winning over the other.
Was it his suggestion that caused me to notice each instance where I wanted to be better, eat healthier, walk faster? I thought I had lost that competitive edge, but it's still there. It's to do my best that I need to strive, not to be better than someone else. To strive to do the best I can wherever I am, in the small things as well as the bigger ones, in the things that don't seem to be my cup of tea until there is a time when I can stop doing those things. I wonder if in most cases that time is now?
I wonder if the butterflies were trying to get more nectar than other butterflies? Were they simply getting their needs met, obtaining the nourishment to sustain them? They didn't appear to be competing. It seemed that there were enough blossoms for all. Enough. Not too much, not more.