Just when I thought I had this meditation thing all figured out (famous last words...), a few weeks ago, I began to have company in my twice-daily forays into stillness. One morning, as I situated myself for my morning meditation, my dog, Trooper, decided she was going to sit as well...on the same cushion I sit on.
This cushion, called a zabuton, is a futon-like pad maybe three feet square, that takes up one corner of the soul cave. If I sit with my back crowded into the corner there is almost enough room for the both of us -- if she curls up into the tightest ball possible, nestled into the crook of my folded legs. This is a trick for a 60 pound dog, but she does it remarkably well and she's getting better with practice.
The first time she did this, I just laughed and moved around in any way I could to make room for her and we settled in. I figured, if she wanted to give it a go, who was I to stop her? I was sure it would be a one time deal. Then over days, morning and evening, she continued on and I took up my new position at the back of the mat.
In the beginning, I kept wondering if she was just there to sleep while I did my work, to rub it in. But the more I experience it, the less I think so. For one, there isn't all the twitching and kicking and whimpering that goes on when she sleeps and dreams. She's generally a big snorer...and she's never snored during our sessions. She lays as still as can be and breathes her smoothly connected breath, slowly in, slowly out, equally timed and never rushing. I aspire to meditation breathing that effortless and beautiful, I assure you.
For two, she lets out a plaintive whine every once in a while like she's waiting to be done and is struggling with how long it's taking. Does this sound familiar? Maybe she's even asking, as I have, "my god, are you sure you set the timer? This is taking forever!" It's a nearly silent whine, just enough to let out some pent up energy -- probably the very same kind of energy that makes my legs twitch, or makes me want to shift around because I'm antsy or impatient, unable to silence my mind and relax into things as they are.
It's as if by sitting with me she's given herself a task, too -- perhaps not meditation per se, but a practice in patience maybe? Either way, we both have our work and we do the best we can with what that day has to offer us. Some days I twitch and she whines...some days we both sit peacefully through until the buzzer releases us. Like me, some days she does better than others. We're a work in progress. The fact is, she's trying...or so it seems. I like to think we're in this, growing and changing, together.
Now you may remember, almost ten weeks ago I wrote about Trooper's crazy antics and how distracted and frustrated I was that she wouldn't leave me alone while I sat. And now here she is, participating in the process -- a kind of, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em mentality. It is certainly something I never, in a million years, would have imagined.
The more we think we know, the more life reveals to us that we don't. To this, I say, halleluja! I'm finding the longer I do this, the more surprised I am -- daily -- by the capacity of all of us to develop new ways of being in the world. I wonder if we're traditionally so busy grasping at how we expect things to be or trying to make things stay predictable that we almost can't notice the incremental changes that occur in us and our lives with every new thing we -- or those around us -- are willing to try...no matter how small. Me? I want to notice.
Perhaps this is what presence is all about.
It is said that change is the only constant. And yet we are creatures of habit and routine. This meditation project itself is about developing a new routine! And yet even the routines need to change. We need to ride the edge of what's comfortable, of what's expected in order to keep moving, to keep making progress, to keep our minds open and free from fixating on the idea that we think we know. Inviting change, welcoming it rather than resisting it, keeps us in the present moment, aware of these small shifts that occur, connected to Life.
Where would I be in my practice if Trooper hadn't comandeered my cushion those weeks ago? I'm not sure. But perhaps by experiencing this meditation partnership Trooper and I are currently engaged in -- the fact that she tried something new and I've made space for it -- I can be more present and pay more attention to the wonder of what I don't know, rather than the flat, static, safe monotony of what I think I do. This new way feels surprisingly more natural.
And I can say, "Yeah, my dog taught me that."//