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This morning, Sophie and I met a man during our walk. She was calm when he first saw her, and then she got more excited as we approached him — she was full of puppy energy, jumping up a little and mouthing his hand.
He asked, They don’t use choke chains on dogs anymore, huh?
What? I thought. Who are you to want to choke-chain my dog?
I said, Oh, they still have them. She wasn’t trained well-enough for him. Then later he said, Your mom, your step-mom, she’s going to teach you how to sit, stay, and come, isn’t she? She’s going to enroll you in obedience school. All while he’s petting her, and even though he’s seen her sit calmly. I both wanted Sophie to be ‘better behaved’ (so that I could look better in this guy’s eyes? Why?) and wanted to tell him to shut the hell up, and felt judged all over the place. We walked away, Sophie practicing her heeling, me practicing my deep breathing. Yes, people have their judgments — yes, I can’t stop them. All we can do is keep practicing.
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Speaking of centering, I read this out loud last night (isn’t it good to read the pup a story at bedtime?) in The Wise Heart: A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology by Jack Kornfield (thanks to my mom for sharing this book with me):
Even during the most turbulent years, when he was dismantling the British Empire’s control of India, Gandhi spent one day a week in silence. He meditated so that he could act from the principles of interdependence, not bringing harm to himself nor another. No matter how pressing and urgent the political situation, the day he spent in silence allowed him to quiet his mind and listen to the purest intentions of his heart. (p. 357)
How often does it seem like there’s no time to slow down? Everything is too important, there’s too much to do, I can’t stop. Definitely no time for meditating, yoga, relaxation. (Notice, though, how there’s always time for anxiety and worry.)
I don’t like to set up these kinds of self-judging situations, where I say to myself, “God, Jen, if Ghandhi could do it while he was transforming a country, what excuse do you have, with your little life, for not meditating?” Let’s not go there — more blame, shame and guilt isn’t what I’m going for.
Still, it’s a powerful story, and one to think about. Being centered was a part of his comittment, a part of his practice and process, integrated into how he did his work. What about that as a model — centering, meditation, self-care practice as integral, not outside of or adjunct to, our work?
Take a deep breath and just feel the possibility. I work not to get stressed about ‘finding the time,’ but rather notice what time is already available, could be redirected from anxious spinning, say, or maybe Facebook.
The next section in Wise Heart reads:
If you want to live a life of balance, start now. Turn off the news, meditate, turn on Mozart, walk through the trees or the mountains, and begin to make yourself a zone of peace. When I return from a long retreat or from traveling for months, I’m amazed that the news is pretty much the same as when I left. We already know the plot, we know the problems. Let go of the latest current story. Listen more deeply. (p 357)
A zone of peace. I love that phrase.
What would it look like (maybe let this be your write today) to ‘make yourself a zone of peace’, whether for you or one of the characters you’re working with in your writing? Take 10 minutes this morning, or maybe over your lunch break, open your notebook, and write down that phrase, then dive into what it could feel like, what it could mean.
Thank you for the ways you hold space for others, for the ways you are a safe place for the varying parts within you as well, even the anxious and overwhelmed ones. Thank you for your practice, and for your words.