the mercer weave

Think. Don't Think. Breathe. Write. Roam.

Archive for the category “Meditating with Animals”

New Year, New Challenge 2014

I was gently (or not so gently) reminded this afternoon why meditation needs to be a more consistent element in my life. As I sat on my cushion, I decided to jumpstart my practice by listening to Sharon’s CD from her first book, Real Happiness. I settled in, closed my eyes and grounded myself on my cushion. I listened intently, feeling like an old friend was giving me private breathing lessons. Then…

A text message came in from one of my co-workers notifying me that an arrest had been made on a case we had worked all week. I’m ashamed to say, I looked at the text and of course, was pretty distracted.

I settled back in.

Then the Fur Mob came screaming downstairs, doing a Nascar worthy lap around me that culminated in an extended play date in my lap and on my cushion.

I kept coming back to the breath, recognizing that I will not always be lucky enough to sit in silence, that interruptions, while annoying, are often there to strengthen the practice.

The Fur Mob

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Home is Where the Breath Is

As I stepped out into the cold and dark at 3:30 this morning to water the puppies, I looked back at our house and counted my blessings. The night light in the kitchen threw just enough warmth to cast shadows down the stairs to the living room and onto the maple floor. It’s a big house, way too much for the two of us despite our recent uptick in canines. An open design, the architect provided spaces that encourage community, from the expansive kitchen that centers the main floor to the family room that anchors the western end of the house. And from every room, I can see the Puget Sound stretching across to the Kitsap Peninsula and beyond. We place so much importance on our homes, our castles, our domains, and our defense against the ‘other.’ And yet ultimately, our real home is always with us, no matter where we are. It’s in our breath, in the beating of our heart, the softness of our eyes as they rest upon something beautiful. I learned to meditate in the Vipassana tradition, concentrating on the rising and falling of my diaphragm or the sensation of the air at the tip of my nose. When it’s broken down to such simplicity, when that is all one must focus one’s awareness on, it is genuinely a primal feeling of home.

No matter where we are, our breath is our home.

 

Peace and Sleep

I woke up this morning, rolled over and came face to face with a puppy nose and my first thought was, “It doesn’t really get any better than this.” I hope that when I sit, the look upon my face is as placid and peaceful as that of a sleeping person or animal. It is the most vulnerable we can be – no opportunity for pretense or posturing – just pure innocence. Whenever I start to become irritated by someone, I try and imagine them in one of two states; as an infant or asleep. In those incarnations, there is no room for animosity and I can easily find compassion if needed or indifference if necessary.

If we look at the faces of those deep in meditation, there is a profound grace and contentment despite what may be swirling below the surface. What a wonderful state to aspire to and what an incredible journey to get there.sleepingpups

Puppies Are Us and the Return of the 28 Real Happiness Meditation Challenge

So on Saturday, my partner and I did something that most of our friends and family thinks is crazy – we adopted two eight week old puppies to add to our family of two Bichons and one very elderly cat. Today was the first day I literally found time to sit and I did it through two (supposed to be napping) unhappy pups in their crate. I breathed through the whines, the scuffle of paws and the pleading yawns and growls. As I write this, they have finally fallen into that twitchy puppy sleep saving up the energy to spin and twirl around the house and yard in a couple of hours.

 

It will be especially challenging this time around to find the time and peace to sit but so it is in the best of times. And there is nothing like the smell of puppy breath and feel of razor sharp teeth to bring one back to the present moment.

 

I feel blessed to be back. IMG_0744

Speaking of being blessed, here are the two newest additions to our little family.

 

We Should All Be So Easily Amused

This is what I love about dogs. Well, one of the many things I love about them.  Pure, unadulterated joy. Curiosity that knows no bounds. Like children, but without the potential for purposeful heartache.

 

We should aspire to be more like these lovely souls.

Taking A Moment

There is a story in Sharon Salzberg’s book Real Happiness about children learning about the importance about ‘taking a moment’ before acting on difficult emotions. How wonderful would it be if this became a part of the curriculum in every school in this nation. It seems we value ‘quick thinking and action’ and we celebrate people who can counter criticism deftly with a witty comeback. But we rarely celebrate the person who can turn away and deflect harsh words with kindness. And teaching children how to know the difference “suggests the possibility of finding the gap between a trigger event and our usual conditioned response to it, and of using that pause to collect ourselves and change our response.” *

In my line of work, I see the results of ‘not taking a moment’ all of the time. It can be as (relatively) benign as someone flipping the bird to another driver on the freeway or as  horrible as the violence of a homicide. And in almost all of those situations, the moment was there to be taken but the opportunity was lost.

We only have a limited amount of time on this earth but we have a limitless ability to pause. I think that’s what we are learning here.

*Sharon Salzberg Real Happiness pg 107

 

 

Turbo the Wonder Cat…Pausing

Truth and Consequence

I’ve become a little obsessed lately with the whole concept of ‘truth.’ In part, it is because I am constantly surprised at what some people define as ‘truthful’ speech. Not right speech, although truth should certainly be a part of that, but speech that is genuinely truthful. I’ve noticed it mostly around politics and politicians. In this age of 24-hour media, there is no paucity of video and audio evidence of practically everything said or done in the presence of a camera. And yet, faced with that evidence many people will shrug and smile, knowing that someone, somewhere will still believe the lie. There doesn’t even seem to be any shame about the fact that the veracity of any claim can easily be tested. I mean, even my dogs seem to show at least a modicum of shame when I come home and they’ve ‘accidently’ eaten all of the cat food or pooped by the door.

I’m not speaking about shame in the negative context that so many of us have learned from society. In my opinion, that’s not shame as much as it is non-conformity to some bizarre and unrealistic standard. I’m talking about standing in front of a microphone and making statements that are just completely untrue even despite evidence to the contrary.

There was an article recently in the New York Times about whether or not reporters have an ethical obligation to not only report what is said, but to fact check that statement and correct it. Oftentimes, papers run a side bar as a fact checking function. I just wish those who handle talking points for politicians would stop trying to shade the truth and just give their bosses the truth. And if the truth hurts your candidate, talk about something that doesn’t.

Being truthful about everything and practicing right speech is harder than you think. Is it always advisable to tell your best friend that her pants make her butt look big?  Everytime?  Some of the time? When is it ok to skirt around the truth? Can we possibly know the infinite number of reverberations that extend from telling a lie?

I always come back to my dogs. They are incapable of lying. Of course, they are incapable of talking, too.  But when I look into their eyes, I see only innocence, presence and the truth.

On this day, I strive to be truthful to myself first and foremost.  A true self can never be fact checked.

 

Wobbly but True

Week two is settling in for me and as such, my meditation seems to be coming around, too.  I was a little worried at the beginning of the challenge because I’d been quite remiss about keeping a consistent practice and the first few days I felt like I’d just gotten back on a unicycle after many years away. I felt wobbly, off kilter, a little afraid and slightly self-conscience. But now the pups settle in on the couch next to me and our ancient, grand kitty wanders around the kitchen waiting patiently for me to finish. There is less anxiety for everyone, including me.

I have written before about meditating with animals but it really is fascinating to me how much respect they show to my practice. Whether or not they ‘know’ what I’m doing, I sense they ‘understand’ that I’m doing my best to be present for the few minutes I sit near them. The younger of two, Bella occasionally jumps in my lap and licks every finger for good measure. She then usually joins her sister Lucy on the couch, curling up in front of her older sister. Lucy rests her head on Bella’s back. They lie quietly, waiting for the timer to chime.

These are the moments that I cherish. They are not the only moments, but they are the first to grace my day. I am a very lucky woman.

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