Puppies, Pebbles and Weeds (written 2013)
Doggy dhamma. Puppy practice. Our little Lenny barks all night and sleeps hard in the daytime except for meals, walks in the yard and play times. He is a delight. Wonderful and exhausting. I'm sleep deprived. Brain given to hiccups in listening and attention. I meditate at 4:00 a.m. stroking a sleeping puppy on my knee, sometimes sipping tea. Just here. Just this.
The test of patience and being with things as they are is certainly evident in parenting a new puppy. There is the pee clean up; the nipping at hands and feet and clothes; water dripping across the floor from a wet terrier beard; and “chase” games around the house when he's bored and won't stay in the kitchen; chewing furniture; barking when he's hungry; and pouncing the cat. Yet, what I'm finding most challenging is just giving up the “do” mind that keeps wanting to get-things-done, to move on to the study, to do laundry, to bake and clean...always something other than just this, just what the moment holds.
The human mind is an endless wonder. I look back to a few months ago and remember an extreme sense of fulfillment and ease. And though things are not much different now, there is an underlying sense of something...like a small pebble in my shoe...not enough to stop walking but a bit uncomfortable. Is the pup the pebble? He has changed the day's routines with puppy needs, added a bit of uncertainty and anxiety with our deep wish that he be a good dog, kind with people, gentle and obedient. He is so young (12 weeks tomorrow) and we keep reminding each other of that...the puppy testing of limits and the snappy biting, not just playing too hard but sassing when he doesn't get his way. There's that. So the wishes and desires are layered, rolling into pearls, into pebbles in my shoe, each bringing some element of unease.
And so arise misgivings about the ties I have to the world. In unguarded moments the fantasy stirring of a simpler life of withdrawal. Fewer attachments. Lenny is one of these. A little being taken on willingly. A sense of responsibility there. And this world so vast and problematic. This can bring a sudden bout of world weariness. The news full of problems and unrest. Yet, detaching is not an option. The world is me and I am the world. Whether I'm caught in the haze of sleepiness and small selfish desires or overwhelmed by terrors on a global scale. The answer is not to turn away but to turn inward and toward. To know what I'm feeling. To acknowledge the pebble and look into its make-up. To let the feeling be...while it sweeps through and while it fades. Because it does. All things are impermanent. As evident as this is, it needs to be learned again and again.
Then meditating I find peace clear and deep. I see my own anxiety as if through a shop window. Not mine. I don't have to pick it up. Go in and buy. I can look and walk on. What do I see? The deluded view that the world can be different. That I can be different. It is as it is. Human beings making their own choices, unable to see how their views and desires are the roots of their pain. And in seeing my own part of that, in the shop window, I know my own confusions, feel my heart open and the aching drain away, just tenderness remaining. The day goes on and I am balanced again. So different from letting myself fall weeping into the mud we've churned.
And so I work at moving toward those things that moods sometimes suggest I'd like to jettison from my life. To know the boundaries of the choices I've made. To reconcile those. To keep my practice large enough and stable enough to hold those components that create the doingness of my days, and accept the context of the world I live in, making room for shared elation and the times of grief and terror too. I work to see the yearning for what it is: The root cause of the very suffering it seems to offer escape from. “What if” is a question I'm familiar with as a fiction writer. It is the seed of story making. It's the seed from which fiction flowers, but it can be a weed in living a life.