Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Operation Healing: The Puppy Ministry

Eleanor, doing the Sleeping Meditation.

I've spent a lot of time this summer thinking about meditation. Doing research on meditation. Planning on meditating. Reading about meditation. But, as seems to be a constant in life, things kept happening and I rarely got on my mat to Officially Meditate.

The wise Buddhist monk, Thich Naht Hahn, has written extensively about meditation.  The sitting meditation.
Sitting meditation is very healing. We realize we can just be with whatever is within us- our pain, anger, and irritation, or our joy, love, and peace. We are with whatever is there without being carried away by it. Let it come, let it stay, then let it go. No need to push, to oppress, or to pretend our thoughts are not there. Observe the thoughts and images of our mind with an accepting and loving eye. We are free to be still and calm despite the storms that might arise in us.

The breathing meditation.
We feel the flow of air coming in and going out of our nose. We feel how light and natural, how calm and peaceful our breathing functions. At any time, while we are walking, gardening, or typing, we can return to this peaceful source of life.
We may like to recite:
“Breathing in I know that I am breathing in.
Breathing out I know that I am breathing out."

And (perhaps my favorite,) the hugging meditation 
We may practice hugging meditation with a friend, our daughter, our father, our partner or even with a tree. To practice, we first bow and recognize the presence of each other. Then we can enjoy three deep conscious breaths to bring ourselves fully there. We then may open your arms and begin hugging. Holding each other for three in-and-out breaths. With the first breath, we are aware that we are present in this very moment and we are happy. With the second breath, we are aware that the other is present in this moment and we are happy as well. With the third breath, we are aware that we are here together, right now on this earth, and we feel deep gratitude and happiness for our togetherness. We then may release the other person and bow to each other to show our thanks.

Also, the tea meditation, the walking meditation and the working meditation.  I love all of these so much.

What it all comes down to, to me, is being completely present in the moment, and noticing. Noticing. Noticing is meditation --a full and deep awareness of the blessings of the present moment, without judgment or attachment, because we understand the fleeting nature of the present.

It's made me aware of how much of my day I spend unconsciously doing things.  Like eating, or walking, or cooking, or shopping. Showering. Driving. I've been trying to do more things with mindful awareness.  I'm not consistent, but it's a transformational practice when I can do it.

Although I haven't had a lot of time to sit in dedicated meditation, I've been doing what I call the Puppy Meditation with our new (possibly) Border Collie and (possibly) Blue Heeler rescue puppy. Because mostly, I sit outside with her, without benefit of distraction of phone or Facebook or whatever. I've had a chance to really observe the way dogs are in the world. I've had a chance to really BE with her as she has doubled in size over the past six weeks, and learned that her tail is attached, and about the duality of water. (Fun in the puppy pool/less fun in baths.)


She has so much to teach me! I mean, there are things she has to learn, too, but she came into this world knowing things that I have been trying to internalize for a long time.

For one things, our dogs are completely in the present all of the time. They don't get lost in regret over having taken someone else's toy away earlier and gotten snapped at for it, or having accidentally peed on the carpet. They may feel some deep regret right at the very moment, but then they are over it and on to playing and trying their best to remember to pee outside.

They have no body image issues. I think Ellie has the most beautiful expressive face and I love her gorgeous spotted gloves. I'm pretty sure she doesn't care one way or the other.  And I've never seen her not want to get into her pool because she was having a fat day.

They never multi-task. They are always completely absorbed in what they are doing.  If, for example, the puppy is playing with Austin (our six-year-old Lab (ish)) and gets an itch, she sits down and scratches until she's done and the game can continue.

She displays instant forgiveness.  She's smart -- so she remembers if you accidentally step on her tail and tries to avoid creating a situation where that can happen again --but she forgives immediately and completely.  She's not moping in a corner, thinking about how unjust it all is and how life is haarrd.

Anyway, I developed this Puppy Meditation that I practice while watching her.  It goes something like this:
Breathing in, I stroke her soft fur.
Breathing out, I notice her beautiful markings, the weight of her silky body on my foot. 
Sitting on the stone step in the predawn light, I notice the sounds of the birds. I am not doing. I am being. Breathing in, I notice how much more peaceful I am before coffee. Breathing out, I try to do the Sitting Meditation.  (Sometimes, I notice I really wish I had a cup of coffee.) 
Breathing in, I notice her exploration of the underbrush in my yard. Breathing out, I am grateful for the white tip on her long tail that tells me where she is. 
Breathing in, I recognize that by adopting her, I rescued her.
Breathing out, I recognize that by coming into my life at this particular time, when so much is in flux and uncertain, and by offering up her unconditional love to me, she saved me.

That's a pretty good meditation. In fact, that's a pretty good ministry.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Operation Healing: The Introduction of Love

So, we've had her for a little over a month now.

We weren't actually going to get a new puppy this soon. There is a lot going on in our house, and even I will admit to you that one dog is a lot less than two dogs. Plus, you know, puppies are a lot like toddlers --they don't sleep through the night, and you can't take your eyes off of them for a second.


But in June, Coop and Jane (14) took a road trip to Alabama to visit my Father-in-law and they took our six-year-old Lab-ish, Austin, with them.  Jane came home from that trip convinced that Austin was depressed, missing his buddy Scout. She persuaded me to visit a few shelters to look for a nice puppy.  (We wanted a puppy because we have elderly cats who have never known adult canine aggression, although they have trained a puppy or two.)

We didn't find the right puppy for us at the shelters, so Jane conducted an online search for puppies available for rescue. She came across The Forgotten Friends Rescue, and there was our girl. We brought her home on July 4th.

She is practically perfect in every way, and the exact right puppy for us. (Her two brothers are still available at the rescue place if you're interested.)