One of the most important things I’ve ever done is become a pet owner. I rescued Dakota when she was six. That was eight years ago.
You know intellectually that dogs get older and will eventually die. In practice it fucking sucks. Dakota has been struggling and while it seems that she’s not going to die tomorrow, I’ve got to start thinking about those hard decisions pet owners must think about.
When is the right time to put her to sleep? Will I be able to tell? What if it’s too soon? Or worse what if I prolong her suffering.
Surprisingly (or not), my yoga practice has been a great comfort and useful. I’ve been more open than I usually am about my feelings of sadness and grief. I’ve talked about how I feel so bad for my dog losing control of her bladder and frustrated at cleaning up what seems to be an endless amount of pee. But by sharing I’ve had an outpouring of support, love and practical suggestions that have helped make both our lives more comfortable.
My asana practice has been a place that I allow myself to both let it all hang out and nurture my spirit (Special shout out to Angela Rauscher and Kaity Shanks for being my rocks the other day).
Daily sits have been challenging and relaxing depending upon how I slept. Mostly though, I’m in the moment. Dakota may not be able to understand how much her companionship means to me but she will be given so much love (endless treats and cheeseburgers) until it’s time for her to transition. It’s the best I can do and in my heart I know it’s enough.
This post is for the pet owners out there.
I made myself a snowball
As perfect as can be.
I thought I’d keep it as a pet,
And let it sleep with me.
I made it some pajamas
And a pillow for it’s head.
Then last night it ran away,
But first – It wet the bed.
– Shel Silverstein
“I’m in no hurry: the sun and the moon aren’t, either.
Nobody goes faster than the legs they have.
If where I want to go is far away, I’m not there in an instant.”
― Alberto Caeiro,
Sometimes it seems easier to not have time. It’s easier to not have time to be healthy. It’s faster to say ‘who has time to meditate or do yoga?’
I was like that. Moving so fast that I didn’t realize that slowing down would give me the time to reevaluate what was important. Sitting still gives me a chance to be in the thick of things even when it’s uncomfortable.
I love waking up much earlier than I need to. Laying in bed just before the sun comes up is precious. It’s time to be quiet with anything that needs attention. Sometimes it’s just nice to be with the silence of my busy Jersey City hood before the activity of the day.
Time…is on my side. Yes it is.
Adrianna Keener, a fantastic trauma-informed yoga teacher and I jogged across the street to catch the Q-100 bus. I was excited, not just because is an anatomy nerd like me but because it’s nice to go to Rikers with someone. Hey, we all get lonely. We saw a social worker who said we may not get on the island. There was a make-shift sign that said Rikers was on lockdown. No movement was allowed. This essentially means that people are on their beds all day. Since the sign was handwritten we decided, hey- we’re on the bus let’s go and see what happens. When the bus took the same mysterious turn it did a few weeks ago I knew something was up. Sure enough the driver said last stop (before the bridge to Rikers). We stood around for a few moments thinking what to do. You can’t walk over the bridge unless you’re looking to have a chat with DOC employees who carry assault rifles- so we thought the day was a bust. Employees could catch a shuttle. But, volunteers? Not sure. Fate intervened. Anneke Lucas, founder of LPY and apparently a woman who has perfect timing zipped up in her car. We hopped in and decided to see if we would be turned away. I was sure we would be, but when Anneke waltzed back with a parking pass I decided to keep my trap shut and surrender. We crossed the bridge without incident. Anneke was going to the men’s jail and Adrianna and I were headed to Rosie’s. We weren’t sure if we’d get to teach- but we had made it this far. The vibe at Rikers was sedated buy not heavy. But instead of yoga we led a meditation for 11 women on the 4th floor. Cheri Clampett’s meditation on meridians and chakras seemed like a good fit. Before the meditation Adrianna and I talked about meridians and how they relate to our body (geeks unite!!!). This set the stage for a powerful meditation. And while there were a few distractions everyone was grateful for the break in the day. One student talked about getting frustrated with noises and as a group we were able to talk about unhooking from the small stuff. Grateful for perfect timing. Namaste y’all.
Change is always happening. Staying the same is really, really hard.
Today I got lost in my sit. This was the intention. I’m meant to stay present, but I wandered deeply into my thoughts. During meditation I have a teacher that says, ‘Notice the vastness of your inner world.’ That is exactly what happened. Inside me seemed never ending. Some areas felt strange, others felt beautiful but it was all mine and so rich. Why hadn’t I seen this before? Spending so many years distracted by outside things kept me from seeing that so much was inside me.
2015 is my year of living mindfully.
I had to walk my dog in a different direction due to construction. Even though I’ve been walking her for years, she gets a little panicked when we wander too far from home or take a different route. Dakota plants herself on the ground, stops walking or sometimes even tries to turn back. I’m not sure if it’s the past trauma she’s suffered or anxiety. Years ago, it was really bad and we couldn’t go very far- but now I have her sit and pause. Then we resume our walk with some encouragement from yours truly. After a few minutes, the anxiety dissipates and her dog smile appears. She transforms- no longer worried about where’s she’s going but enjoying dog stuff.
The next time I have that anxious feeling about starting again- I’m going to remember the furry creature that lives in my space.
We all start where we start.
I love this quote.
I learn the most when things get dicey. On days when my balance is wobbly, schmobbly my body is telling me something. So I may bend my knee a bit, leaning in as if trying to hear it whisper a secret… It’s challenging because I want to stand tall and proud. But if I can’t hear what I’m standing tall and proud for the pose losing meaning. So I try to love the wobble. Namaste y’all.
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn , “mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally.” When I meditate I’m working on staying with what is happening. When my mind wanders, I draw my attention back to the present. In theory this sounds like a piece of cake or a cake of peace (ouch). The reality is every ‘sit’ (meditation practice) is different. Some days I sit and feel an overwhelming sense of calm. I leave my sit feeling renewed. On others I’m left feeling frustrated and hyper-aware of my environment.
And that’s okay. Meditation isn’t supposed to be bliss. This journey of learning to be more present has been a more difficult and rewarding journey than my asana practice. However, without my asana practice, I wouldn’t be where I am now. It’s like Pema Chödrön says everything we do is on the path to enlightenment. I get lots of questions about my practice. How long do I do it? Is it hard? Do I feel better? Do I see God?
Here are three things my practice isn’t.
1. My practice isn’t easy.
I am distracted easily by shiny objects. This is part of the reason why I do yoga. My mind can wander during meditation. But when it does I come back to the breath.
On some days my meditation practice leaves me with a sense of peace. On others, not so much. There have been times that in connecting with my breathing buried emotions arise. When this happens, I’ve learned to deal with what has come up.
I sit on most days. I feel the diffenrece when I don’t sit for two days in a row. The homework for my meditation course requires a daily body scan of forty minutes. I didn’t do that this week. But I did wake up every morning and sit quietly for 20 minutes before I started my day. That’s progress. Mindfulness requires commitment. Commitment takes times.
There are no short cuts. It’s only recently that I’ve begin to appreciate this. When there aren’t ways to get ‘there’ faster, there’s no place to be in this moment. As a woman in her 40’s I’m in no hurry to run the clock down. Paying attention on purpose provides a new respect for the notion of time. Try this experiment. Stand firmly with your arms down by your sides for 3 minutes. Resist the urge to fidget or tug at your clothes. Keep your eyes open and gaze soft. Notice the fluctuations that happen in the mind. Notice the things you begin to say to yourself. After the three minutes set the time for three minutes and resume what you were doing. It’s funny how fast time flies when we aren’t present. And listen, I get it. We are busy. It’s not possible to be present every moment of every day. But imagine the rich texture life can have when we take moments to stop and be here now.
2015 is my year of living mindfully.
Do you have a meditation practice? Have you just started one? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
At 5am there isn’t a lot of noise on my typically busy city street. But today as I sat in meditation it was my mind that was full and endlessly moving. At first, it was connecting with my breathing. Noticing how the air was moving in and out of my body.
Staying steady. Holding. Being. And then a distraction.
An announcement of the next stop from the bus outside.
I came back to my breathing. Noticing the expansion and contraction of my diaphragm. Another distraction. My dog’s breathing. And a thought. Is she asleep? A new sensation rose up. Heaviness and tingling in my eyelids. I think I am sleepy. Gently, I bring myself back to my breathing.
I notice the inhales and exhales, how the air moves inside my nose. My nose is dry I think. It must be the heat. And then another thought. Is it cold outside? Gently I bring myself back to my breathing. A sensation, this time in my belly. It feels soft and I feel a pang of shame. My stomach is not flat enough. Pretty enough. And a surprise. Instead of another thought there is another sensation. Tightness. In my chest. And a thought which is expected. I am not enough. I am not doing enough. I am not successful enough.
More tightness. And then something changed.
I came back to my breathing and decided to stay with this emotion. I noticed the tightness and shame and stayed with it.
Breathing. Letting this be as they were. No changing. No shifting. No squashing down.
Things dissolve. Tightness lifts.
Just because I feel shame does not mean I will die from it. And if I sit with the feeling it will pass.
More thoughts and feelings came and went. And each time I came back to my breathing.
In 35 minutes the bells chimed indicating that my meditation was over. Normally, I feel a sense of completion. But today, I felt something new. A sense of renewal, that this was the start of something new.
Something present and mindful.
It was a challenging sit. However, I felt more like myself than ever before. Pena Chödrön says that mediation is a way to befriend who we already are.
I beginning to see the glimmer of something. 2015 is my year of living mindfully.