I wannabe a honeybee!

I’ve just been introduced to an amazing metaphor that I’d like to share with you – life and art as the making of honey.  Here goes…

So I am taking on online course with Eric Stoneberg, a New Yorker Yogi who seems to have the same fascination with (albeit a much deeper knowledge of) fun and fantastical Hindu deities as I do.  In our current conversation, he has been presenting a goddess named Lalita Maha Tripura. She’s a “shri goddess” – one of the beautiful, beneficent ones likes Lakshmi or Saraswati.  Like a lot of her superhero friends, she’s got four arms that allow her to wield some interesting tools.  One hand holds a goad (a little axe-like tool that we’ve seen in Ganesha’s hand), one holds a lasso, one holds a bouquet of flowers, and one holds a bow.  This isn’t just any warrior’s bow, however; this is a sugar cane bow.  And supposedly, this bow is strung with honeybees – 51 of them, in fact!

Lalita Maha Tripura

I am ashamed to say that until this week I really never put any thought into how honey is made.  Sure, I have read a lot about honeybees’ fascinating forms of communication and seen loads of educational television shows about their cooperative social structures. It turns out that honey is made by bees vomiting nectar into each others’ mouths.  Yep, it’s true, Wikipedia says so (and numerous other resources too, don’t worry, I checked)!  As Eric explained, and as I did a little more reading about, female worker bees leave the hive, travel up to two miles to collect nectar from anywhere between 150 and 1500 flowers and return to their hive with super swollen bellies. Rest assured, these bellies aren’t the same ones they use to digest their own food; they have separate honey organs for carrying the nectar destined for collective consumption.  These organs have enzymes which begin the process of breaking down the nectar and transforming it into the honey that we all eat and love.  This process continues when the bee arrives at the hive and regurgitates the nectar either into the hive or into the mouth of another bee for further transformation.  This continues until the soon-to-be honey is ready to be stored in the hive where it is fanned by the entire population (the buzzing you hear…) in order to dry it out and prevent rotting.  Then finally a layer of wax is put over it to preserve it.  And then we steal it and eat it…yum!

What does all of this have to do with life and art, you may be wondering?

Where this is where Eric and Lalita come in.  Eric’s beautiful metaphor is that we are like honeybees.  We go out into the world and sample a variety of nectars – we have experiences.  We take those in and process them.  And then, ideally, we regurgitate them so that others can share in these experiences.  They key here, however, is the processing part.  This is where art and interpretation come in.  We don’t want to spit our exact experience back up.  In fact, we can’t – just by virtue of having had an experience, we change it (sounds a little like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, no?) – just like the storage organ of the honeybee will change the nectar just by carrying it to the hive.  Our aware and awake minds can begin to digest the experience to make it sweeter and more accessible to others by adding our own interpretation of it.  That partial digestion often looks like universalization.  We need to broaden the lens of our specific experience to make it applicable to others so they in turn can savor and digest the honey.  And we can do this well or poorly.  In Eric’s words:

“The ways in which you share yourself can be toxic for other people or honey for other people.  Honey is     medicinal.  The way you share your experiences has a potential to be medicinal.”  (Eric Stoneberg, Jan. 24 lecture from Tantric Yoga Vision Quest 2012)

A timeless work of art does this impeccably.  It provides just the right amount of detail and individual experience (raw nectar) to make it believable and unique, and just the right amount of universality (digested nectar on it way to being honey) to allow us to connect to it.  Think about it…your favorite song balances these two perfectly.  And, I am sure you can think of a song that you think is “cheesy” – it’s been over-processed, over-universalized.  Think Barry Manilow here.  You may also be able to think of another song that just strikes you as quirky or odd, maybe even inaccessible.  It’s too raw, not digested enough. A lot of new alt-folk falls into this category for me (huh?  What the heck is this song about anyway?).

As a yogi, and a yoga teacher, I want to get this chemical balance just right.  As I  experience my own life and my own practice, it is my job to mull over my experiences to just the right degree to hopefully share sweet nuggets with my companions on the path.  I want to be a honeybee, always using my daily doings as potential learning opportunities for myself and others.  Why?  So I can vomit them back into the hive, of course!

Overly graphic imagery aside, I like it.  I wannabe a honeybee!


~ by bridgetannlyons on January 30, 2012.

7 Responses to “I wannabe a honeybee!”

  1. I love, love that I just learned WAY more about the honeybee process reading your blog. Thank you so much. Honored to have you in the course. Here’s to more and more and more! And please don’t overlook Barry Manilow’s Copacabana as a potential source of potent nectar.

  2. This is so inspiring, Bridget, and nerdy. Two of my favorite words. You’ve certainly proven that you are willing to digest information into sweet wisdom for us. Thank you.

  3. This was absolutely beautiful. Fantastic. I too am doing the course and I have not even reached the honeybee part yet. Thank you for this. I just explained how honey is made to my 7 year old, we were both amazed !!!

    And oh Mandy certainly comes to mine with the manilow.

  4. Um, Bridget, Barry Manilow has been playing through my head all week. Hilarious. I went from Copacabana to Mandy. So excited for our next course. Look forward to reading more and more of your honeymaking. x Eric

  5. Merci Bridget pour tes posts, je viens d’en lire quelques-uns et je les trouve passionnants !
    A notre tour d’être une petite abeille avec Brahmari… 😉
    Je reviendrais dans ton univers yoga !
    Beau week-end,

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