These are fundamental ideas in Buddhism:  Don’t kill.  Don’t cause suffering. 

Some Buddhists take this to mean we should not eat meat, because it involves both killing and suffering of the animal.  Most Buddhists eat meat, and even the Buddha did.  His advice was to eat what is offered to you and don’t complain, but don’t kill or have killed any animal just so you can eat.  If you stop by Uncle Joe’s, he wasn’t expecting you, and he’s just barbecued a brisket and offers you a plate, take it and eat it graciously.  It seems like good advice but I haven’t succeeded there yet.

Some Buddhists take this to mean we should not kill animals. I work in an animal shelter where euthanasia is practiced for certain animals. I am uncomfortable with the euthanasia of animals that have a minor, treatable ailment.  I’m also uncomfortable with the long term warehousing of animals with conditions that make them unadoptable and cause prolonged suffering.   And I’m also uncomfortable with the fact that for every animal upon whom we spend our resources, other adoptable animals are not able to enter our program.  I am not sure there is a solution to this conundrum. 

An aggressive dog is suffering.  A terrified dog is suffering.  If we cannot resolve fear with reasonable means, we can eliminate suffering by euthanasia.  This is a dichotomy. An aggressive dog can cause a great deal of suffering.  If we adopted out a dog that then injured someone, we could be sued and an end could, conceivably, be placed on our efforts to relieve the suffering of animals. The dog, the injured party, the organization’s reputation and employees, and countless animals that cannot then be adopted through our shelters could conceivably suffer.  So, do we end the suffering for the aggressive dog, or create the potential to cause suffering for many people and animals? 

I know how to treat aggression.  But I don’t know how we would be able to ensure that there was never an aggressive response from that animal again.  My crystal ball is murky… no, well… it’s nonexistant.  At the same time, we can’t guarantee that ANY dog will never behave aggressively under some set of circumstances in the future.  Every time we adopt out an animal we are taking a risk.  We perform assessments to minimize the risk, but there are no guarantees. 

Life is often like this.  No clear-cut answers.  No way to make a perfect decision. 

For me, for now, I will work to reduce suffering.


Shiwa Nyi-Tso


Cat meditation with toes

Cat meditation with toes


I spent the day shopping and getting my hair cut.  I went to a thrift store and got 2 100% wool jackets that will be stripped into rug fiber and one wool jacket my son nabbed.  (He does enjoy a good sports coat.)  I went to Walmart twice… forgot some stuff and decided to get veggies for dinner… and got some $3.50 Merlot.  I’m a classy gal.  Finally Tom Thumb beckoned because I needed Elmer’s glue and something I’d forgotten to get at Walmart. Vinegar.  I’m going to dye some wool and someone told me that if you set the color with vinegar it comes out brighter than if you set it with salt. 

So, I’m leaving Tom Thumb and I have to turn left to get to my house.  There’s no light at the corner, and always a lot of traffic.  If the car in front of you doesn’t GO when there is a clearing you could be there for a long time.  I’m sitting there behind an SUV watching for her next chance to hit the gas when a woman in yellow ochre warm ups and matching shoes smiles and waves enthusiastically at the car in front of me.  Oh, no.  The woman in that car PUTS HER CAR INTO NEUTRAL to talk to the woman. 

I think, oh, well, they’re city dwellers, they understand how traffic works and will arrange to chat by phone or Facebook later.  Only they don’t.  The driver rolls down the window and the ochre walker leans in for a comfy chat with a long lost friend she is at real risk of never seeing again.   

At that moment, here comes the rare and coveted opening in the traffic, and the driver is oblivious, so I tap my horn.  It’s a polite little Honda Element “Beep”… just a little “ahem” letting them know that it’s time to MOVE IT!  I smiled and gestured to the fleeting opening with festive nod.

Ochre lady puts up her hand toward me in a “Stop” fashion and when I tootle again, she waves downward several times in the universal “Get the hell out of here!” gesture.  About 6 cars were piled up behind me by now.  This time I honk and hold for a couple of seconds and Ochre GLARES at me as if I am the rudest woman on Earth.  I look in my rearview and other people are raising their hands in, “WTF” fashion. 

The driver pulls over into an area BETWEEN THE INCOMING AND EXITING TRAFFIC and stops.  I squeeze around, and miraculously there is just enough room to escape from the parking lot before the next traffic flood begins.  As I pass the SUV, the ochre lady steps forward and glares at me. 

I drive away and I’m thinking, seriously, have you never been around cars before? 

So, I drove away pretty ticked off, and set about wondering what’s the zen way to deal with that?  Well, Despite being a Meditator Tot, I know it’s to acknowledge that it happened, to acknowledge that it pissed me off, and once all that acknowledging is done, to just let it the heck go.  No worrying about why she might have been such a bitch (Does she have cancer?  Did her dog just die? Is she just made that way?) or why the two of them completely forgot how traffic works (maybe they’ve been living on a mountain in Tibet for the past 7 years or they had simultaneous strokes on the entry to the Tom Thumb parking lot.) 

I came home and got the guys to help me stow the groceries and I put some lentils to cook on the stove, with garlic, onions, celery, tomatoe and… well, I forget what all else but it smells great and I hope those lentils are done soon!  But in the back of my head I’m still dealing with the ochre warm-ups lady and her matching shoes and matching hair and the blood red SUV’s driver, and the ugly look on Ochre lady’s face as I squeezed my Element past the social corner. 

I haven’t let it go yet.  I think I need to sit with it mindfully because I am still stuck in it.  I think I’m trying to run away from it rather than acknowledge it, and I think that’s why I can’t let it go. 

I also think I kind of want to stay pissed at the ochre lady.  But I think if I’m going to get better at being a human I don’t want to let her stay in my head making me irritated any more. 

My caramel and ochre colored cat, Yoda, is curled up on my gold alpaca wool pillow sham in the guest room which used to be my office.  I’m thinking he’s going to be the subject of my next hooked rug.  He’s washing his face.  He’s not worrying about ochre warm ups or matching shoes or ochre hair on angry faces.


Meditator Tot

My husband went out with a friend last night. I was exhausted and decided to stay at home, do a zazen (sitting meditation), and go to bed. Since hubby was absent, once the dogs were crated, I turned off all the lights but one mission lamp at my bedside, then brought my zafu (meditation cushion) and zabuton (meditation mat) into my bedroom (bedroom) and set about sitting (zazen). I don’t have a proper meditation timer, so I set my cell phone to play Carol King singing, “You’ve Got a Friend” to end the session. My elder cat, Nala, settled down a few feet away on the rug, looking rather like a shiny black Zafu with whiskers.

Ready, set…

My knee was really aching, so I didn’t start right away, and worked on adjusting my zafu and sitting in such a way that it wouldn’t hurt so much. Pretty soon I realized that, shut up, this is part of it, just sit. I don’t even pretend to have the flexibility to do a full lotus pose any more, I just sit cross legged with my zafu supporting my butt in such a way that my back feels right. As long as it wasn’t, “I need to go to the hospital” pain, the method is to just sit with the pain. Okay, good. There’s the pain. Here I am. Just sit.

“Seriously, if I sit like this I can see the clock on the DVD player.” I grabbed a dog sweater off of Pan’s crate and covered the time. I sat back down. “Okay, eyes, just stay in one place, please.” (I meditate with eyes open to incorporate all the senses.) I selected a knob of a cabinet to focus on, so that my eyes were looking slightly downward. “Okay. But, really, my knee really hurts, and I think my foot is going to sleep.”

Sit, Meditator Tot, sit. Just sit. Here. Now.

Finally, finally. I’m sitting. I’m being here now. Here I am. Oh, good. I can do this. It’s only 23 minutes. I’m not going to have to sit here forever. Stop thinking about it, just sit! Okay… good… here I am…

Then suddenly, the loudest, most staccato bark I ever heard from Aero’s mouth burst forth. “BARK!” and almost before the bark ended, I screamed. Loudly. The kind of scream the people laying on the steel autopsy table on CSI probably screamed just before they became just so much meat on a steel table. Nala vanished under the bed. Yoda emerged from the other side of the bed. I whipped around and saw Aero standing in his crate, hackles raised, head low. “LIE DOWN, AERO!” I screamed. If I had truly been there then, I would have just been with him, but my heart rate had jumped 500% in an instant. “Okay, sorry boy. Lie down, Aero. Everything’s okay.”

My son, Micah’s bedroom door burst open and I heard his footfalls, but by then I had dissolved into very silly laughter. He didn’t knock on the door or come in. He went back to his room. I decided to finish sitting. I had no idea how much time I had left. So, I sat, and while occassionally I managed to get a moment of here and nowness going on, mostly my whole right leg went into spasms of pins and needles, my hips hurt, and I kept breaking into giggly laughter.

Finally Carol sang. I got up, tripped over my zafu, and went to explain to Micah what caused me to scream in blood curdling terror and then giggle uncontrollably in the night. He said at first he planned to help me, or save me or something, but when he heard me laughing he didn’t really know if I wanted saving.

Just another night with the Meditator Tot,