Ant medicine

No matter what the beetle did, it couldn’t get that tiny ant off of its face.

The ant had attached itself to the beetle’s head. I sat on the front step observing this strange creature that at first I thought was one awkward bug, then realized it was one beetle plus one ant.

I watched with mild curiosity, but when a second beetle appeared with an ant attached to its head, I conceded my full attention to this strange match.

Whenever I think of ant, I remember one of my personal training clients. We used to have interesting conversations about mundane things during cardio sessions:

How much to tip your hairdresser, the garbage man, massage therapist. Do you tip if they are the owner of the business? And so forth.

One day, my client remarked how ant stood for a negative thought. I never saw ant the same after that. Whenever one crosses my path, I immediately consider the quality of my thoughts.

So there I was, staring at this strange match-up and thinking how this negative thought attaches itself so fiercely to one’s head, it won’t let up. The more the beetle struggled against the ant, the tighter the ant gripped. I wondered how this tiny ant would take down this big beetle.

Of course. The ant will eventually wear it down.

There seemed to be no hope for the beetle, when suddenly, during its struggle, it fell into the sidewalk crevice. While trying to right itself, the beetle also happened to free itself of the ant, crawled out of the crevice, brushed off its head and face, and walked away (to me cheering, “run!) The ant wandered around the crevice and finally gave up. How fortunate, the beetle’s fall into the crevice.

One tiny negative thought can create an immense struggle. And sometimes we fall into a crevice – injury, illness, loss of job, divorce – that turns us upside down. And though, at first, that fall appears negative, in our effort to get out of the crevice, we end up shaking off a stubborn thought or mindset.

Sometimes you have to hurl yourself into a crevice intentionally: jump into a cold lake, spend a day drumming, dancing, hiking, at a fire ceremony or sweat lodge, travelling to a foreign place or taking up sky-diving. These may not seem like crevices but if these activities are outside of your comfort zone, they will feel like one, and have the equal effect of shaking off negative thoughts.

Of course, one of the benefits of being human is that we can remove these tiny creatures from our bodies by first, noticing them, and second, choosing to relocate them: choosing a different thought.

If you feel like you are being pulled through life by a tiny, tenacious termite, it’s time to get that ant off your face.

Don’t underestimate its size. It has staying power. Over time, it will wear you down.

I challenge you to a day of ant-watching. Where do your thoughts take you?


Sorry, ants, nothing personal. Your strength, community and persistence are impressive.

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