February 07, 2011

Days 5, 6, and 7 of The Great Meditation Challenge: Canine Chaos

For the first four days of Sharon Salzberg's 28-Day Meditation Challenge, the bulk of my daily practice was done here in the office, with nothing more distracting than a ringing phone or a Fed Ex delivery to break my concentration. Then the weekend came...

When I came home from work on Friday, my girlfriend informed me that two good friends of ours were going to Puerto Rico for the weekend and that we would be looking after their two dogs while they were gone. We (myself, my girlfriend, and our own dog) were quite excited, for these are two of the sweetest animals in the whole world.

Yet when we sat down to practice on Saturday, it was as if the canines felt compelled to instantly counter our stillness with complete chaos. An epic play battle between two half-pitbulls ensued, with the smaller "min pin" proceeding to hump whichever larger dog was most distracted at any given time. Growls and barks filled the space as I watched with my peripheral vision all of our blankets being violently thrown from our bed to the floor. Needless to say, if there's one thing that a loving playful pack of dogs all staying together in a small apartment doesn't help, it's meditation practice.


Later, when examining the Week Two section of Sharon's book, I came across the section on "Everyday Activity Meditations,"

Often we can take the lessons we learn from observing one single activity and apply them to the rest of our life. See if you can use a part of your everyday routine as a meditation, a time of coming into the moment, paying attention to your actual experience, learning about yourself, deepening your enjoyment of simple pleasures, or perhaps seeing how you could approach a task more skillfully.
    Choose a brief daily activity—something you may have done thousands of times but never been totally conscious of. This time bring your full awareness to it; pay attention on purpose.

And thus, "Dog-Walking Meditation" was born.

It was quite an experience. Despite the thousands of dog walks I've gone on in my life, I found myself continually noticing new things—my posture, our collective balance, the subtleties of navigating a single multi-species unit through both foot and car traffic, the sophisticated language that is spoken through the tightening and slacking of leashes, the beauty of Brooklyn in the winter, and so on.


























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martadabis's picture

No cats, no dogs...
I am a student returning to Michigan from Tassajara. I am missing the company of fellow sitters.
I am looking for people near Auburn Hills, Michigan.
I'd gladly join a group of you (any Suzuki-lineage students around?) or welcome you to sit together in our living room...

Marta from Michigan

robot2007's picture

So sweet.

Emmet Bondurant's picture

My dogs came to visit this morning as I was sitting, so I petted them. They are living beings who have been bred for countless generations to do one thing and one thing only; to be companions. Therefore, how can I punish them for seeking to give and receive companionship? If I truly practice for the liberation of all beings, here are two living beings right here before me seeking liberation from loneliness and insecurity, only in a less subtle and esoteric manner. Besides counting the breath, the majority of my practice throughout the day is being mindful; right here, right now. So a moment ago I was practicing zazen, but that was then. Right here, right now, in this very moment, I'm giving and receiving love and affection to and from two sentient beings with single-pointed attention. I'm acutely aware of their scent, feeling, motion, and touch; aware of the transient nature of the moment and the impermanence of Cocker Spaniels, all of which makes this moment all the more precious to me, because this moment is really all there is. My dogs didn't interrupt my practice, they simply entered into it, every bit as much as if they were to quietly sit beside me and face the wall too.

Tharpa Pema's picture

I love it, Emmet. I confess I meditate with one or two cats on my lap!