Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Love you Lucy

With the family out of town, I have bore sole responsibility for ALL of the animals left behind--3 cats and our dog. Augh.

I can't even begin to detail the sheer burden passed on to me on top of the rest of my life--it's like the kids never left...just grew fur, dropped to all fours and doubled.

Lucy, our poor dog, has really had a difficult time of it as she is accustomed to having someone home with her all day, especially her children. No amount of doggie bagels, milkbones or rawhide chews can take the place of her children.

On our first day alone together, I came home from work to find doggie-doo--wet, slimy and in a perfectly wide circle--left for me by the side door of our house. Well, the smell met me first as I walked in the front door and then the sight as I searched it out.

Surprisingly, I kept my cool during this--I figured, she didn't know what she was doing and I assumed it was reactionary on her part.

Assuming this was a one-time thing, I cleaned up the mess and moved on. Lucy and me, me and Lucy.

The next day--twice.

The first poop circle was found when I came home from my early morning yoga class, the second when I came home later from work. Again, I cleaned but this time, I reacted.

I decided to keep her in the bathroom while I was gone the next day and it was SO difficult--this was my baby, my free-roaming baby. BUT I knew I couldn't clean another poop circle--I would absolutely come undone.

Following a very sweet weekend of hanging out and even leaving her out for a six hour shopping trip with my mom, I thought the worst was behind us.

Boy was I wrong.

My first day back at work this week and she gets me again--yet another poop circle, same area of the den and just as runny as the first three.

I wasn't as mindful this time around and I gave in to anger--I came undone. My poor pooch. I put her outside, for her own good, and began to clean, yet again.

I tried a new approach, because as it easy as it was to keep her in the bathroom while I was at work, it broke my heart. I wondered myself sick over what she must be thinking and feeling while staring at the bathroom walls all day, stirring herself anxious over every noise, feeling betrayed and confused--okay, so maybe I'm going overboard here.

Nevertheless, I cannot lock my dog in a bathroom.

So, after each morning yoga practice, I would leash up my baby and we would drive to our little neighborhood Einstein's Coffee. I would fill my mug with coffee and we would cross the street to a walking park on the river, one of my favorites--it's always filled with people and, on good days, with their dogs.

Lucy and I would walk several rounds and I didn't rush her one bit--typically I don't tolerate the sniffs and tracking and staring down of squirrels because I like to keep moving. But these walks belonged to Lucy and I wanted her to experience total freedom.

I was in awe as I observed from behind her--her happy trots, her natural curiosity. Every squirrel elicited the same reaction from her. Ears and tail perked up, stance stiffened for a moment and then--BAM, she was off! Every dog was a possible friend, every human a candidate for a good sniff-down. Birds? A wonderful oddity.

We walked that park everyday for a week, yet she never saw her surroundings the same--she was always mesmerized and engaged.

We should be that lucky, we should be so mindful--I should be so mindful.

As I was ranting to a friend, via email, about my havoc with Lucy, she replied with something that will stick with me and forever define my relationship with my furry little friends.

She said that she is convinced having a dog teaches children about responsibility, hard work and compassion--I would add joy and love.

Hmmm...not just children.

Thank you Lucy...for giving me another way to see my world...for teaching me compassion in action...for everything.

Gurus come to us in various forms for sure.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Calloused Fingertips

In the stillness of the quiet, if we listen, we can hear the whisper of the heart giving strength to weakness, courage to fear, hope to despair--Howard Thurman

The more quiet I cultivate in my mind on the path of my practice, the more I am able to hear such whispers and I find that I have no desire to resist their call.

I started guitar lessons and can play a grand total of 3 chords but I have played those chords almost everyday, several times of the day. At times, I just strum the strings, listening and waiting for a tune to rise up.

I liken this to my practice of yoga and all of it's components.

When I first began yoga, I was very asana centered and had little successs with 'quieting' the mind, nor did that matter--I wanted Madonna arms. After years of asana courtship, I began to incorporate breathwork (pranayama) and later still, meditation techniques. These led naturally to pratyahara (inner focus) and a desire to incorporate the yamas and niyamas into my daily life.

And here I am--still deepening the practice, still coming to the mat and learning, opening to those 'off the mat' moments of practice.

So when I strum those strings that I have longed to strum and feel very small and inferior to the task of learning such a awesome skill--I remind myself that not too long ago, I was a slave to my jackrabbit mind, I fell on my face in crow and meditation seemed nice if you were a monk or had such aspirations.

The basics of my guitar practice will unfold into music...I just need to show up.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Life's Afternoon

"Thoroughly unprepared, we take the step into the afternoon of life. Worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and our ideals will serve us as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning, for what was great in the morning will be little at evening and what in the morning was true, at evening will have become a lie.” - Carl Gustav Jung

In order to live a life of wisdom, or prajna, we must see things as they really are (right view) and have a selfless comprehension of how things operate (right understanding) and this practice is cultivated over a lifetime through diligence. This diligence, says Lama Surya Das, is a process of phases: learning, reflection and experience.

Learning is the gathering and examining of information from our inner and outer worlds of experience. It involves being open to receive and being active in the accumulation of wisdom.

Reflection is where we analyze and process what we have learned, mulling it over and taking it in...again and again and again as we immerse in the cultivation of wisdom.

Experience is the incorporation and application of what we have learned to how we live--practice in action; assimilation of wisdom.

Then we come to know ourselves well...so well, that we are not unprepared in the afternoon of our life.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sacred Pause

How fit to employ all the heart and the soul and the senses forever in joy!

Another fitting quote for my day--giving over all of my consciousness to deliberately experiencing joy. I think I can do this, who doesn't want joy?

This morning I am taking a break from my practice. In the Ashtanga lineage, and perhaps others as well, Saturday is a day of rest. I have begun to incorporate this 'day of rest' into my own practice path. Every weekday morning, I rise no later than 5:00 AM to practice and Sundays, I usually practice at 7:00 AM--this practice includes asanas (yoga postures), pranayama (breathwork) and meditation. But Saturdays? I rest...and to my surprise, this rest has become a very active practice.

The word rest, to me, means having a period of time to absorb the energy I have created all week through my practice. I have cultivated a strong sense of presence and fortified the still point of my mind. I have moved with intention birthed from an intimate connection to my body/mind. I have created space between thoughts, to the best of my ability, so that I move further away from being a servant to mind chatter. So this rest, is my reflection rest area--a sort of spiritual marination...letting it all soak in.

Lama Surya Das calls this a sacred pause--periods of mindfulness that we deliberately cultivate in our lives. Where we practice these sacred pauses is not as important as the fact that we do, indeed, practice them. A pause may be slipped into a seated meditation or while preparing dinner, sitting at a traffic light or interacting with our children and it becomes a reminder to 'be present', it provides an opportunity to employ all of the senses, the heart and the soul in joy.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Serendipitous timing...

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting--E. E. Cummings

At times it feels as if the universe is perfectly synched with the ebb and flow of me. Especially when I open my morning 'word', a gratitude-themed email I signed up to receive, and E. E. Cummings presents with words that could not have been more aptly timed.

Just this morning I had been feeling as if I had come out of alignment following an evening with friends, like I was not authentically me. Of course, there was wine and that was a significant contribution to the misalignment, nevertheless, as someone who has struggled for a lifetime to be authentic, this didn't sit well with me.

During the evening, I felt guarded and hyper-aware, almost as if I was an observer watching the whole night unfold, observing the interaction of characters and carefully following the dialogue.

The bottom line is this--it's okay to be me and to rest in the space of 'me', finding presence and letting go of inhibitions.

I am wonderfully enough. I am bountiful and beautiful and I seek the purity of effortlessness. And when 'the words' come into my life at precisely the moment I need affirmation of such, I am reminded that this universe and I are in sacred harmony with one another.