Flow Around

April 3, 2010

This is an old post from when we were first starting to find success with the Constructional Aggression Treatment as a method for rehabilitating aggressive dogs. 

The Momentary Mentor: Flow Around 9/2/06

A rather surprising thing has begun to happen in my life.  The things I’ve worked hard to achieve are coming to fruition.  It’s amazing, incredible, exciting!  My education, career and family are all coming along beautifully.  Hard work, sacrifice and persistence do eventually pay off. 

I would be able to say it couldn’t be better but for one disconcerting result of my fledgling professional success.  It’s pissing people off.

But it turns out that’s okay.    

I never set out to be in competition with anyone and it came as a complete surprise that some people want to spar.  I mostly like sorting out problems.  I have been interested in aggression in animals as well as humans for a long time, and the opportunity to help Jesus Rosales-Ruiz develop an aggression treatment procedure that also reveals some heretofore unrealized facts about behavior is an amazing experience. 

But what makes it even better is when other people take the procedure and use it in their work in creative and innovative ways, developing it, making it even better.  When people send me emails or call with news of their latest success, it is the absolute best thing ever!  What could be better than doing work that people can actually use successfully to make the world a better place?  In my view, that’s the ultimate success story.

And yet there are people who aren’t happy that we’re working with canine aggression, and they’re even less happy that we’re telling the world about it. 

That’s okay.

When we first began this research, I was just plain excited about it and talked about it a lot.  People soon began to criticize what we’re doing without knowing much about it.  How maddening!  But once I sat down and thought it through, I realized that many of these folks have been getting their reinforcers from working with aggression for a long time.  Many of them are darned good at it.  I’m the new kid on the block.  They deserve what they’ve worked to achieve.  I must still earn their respect if I’m to ever have it.  And maybe I won’t.  Others are struggling to make a name in the highly competitive world of dog training and animal behavior.  They see me as a challenge.

And that’s okay, too.  The thing is, I’m not competing.  If I have my way, they will become as successful as they are willing to work to become.

When I realized that even when someone is being unkind or even threatening, it’s still just behavior under the influence of the environment, it became easier to take.  It became much more natural to step back and look at things reasonably rather than taking everything personally.  It’s still not fun to receive criticism or to hear about it second hand.  But it is a different experience now than before I understood what they are working for.  From their perspectives other peoples’ successes in their field puts their access to their reinforcers in jeopardy. 

 When one person approached me, almost daring me to try to convince a certain group of highly experienced experts that our procedure was better than what they are doing, I realized that convincing people who don’t want to be convinced is not what I’m in this work for.  If they don’t want to be convinced, nothing I can show them is going to change their minds. 

As soon as I realized that, things began to get better for me, fast.  It wasn’t anything psychic or an intervention from the mystic collective unconscious or anything like that.  It was a simple change of focus.  Who does want to learn about our procedure?  Who needs it?  Who is willing to give it a fair shot at success?  That simple change of focus brought me new clients, new speaking opportunities, more professional options, and much less worry. 

I’m doing this work because I want a career where I can help people and animals.  A few paragraphs ago when I wrote how excited I get when people take our research and use it in the real world?  That’s where my reinforcers come from.  Not in breaking through to people who don’t want to be convinced.  So I stopped trying to convince them and went where there was no resistance. 

There are an estimated 4.7 million dog bites in this country each year according to the National Centers for Disease Control.  There are plenty of aggressive dogs to go around.  I don’t have to fight the current experts for the same dogs they’re working with.  That will just mean I’m fighting, fighting, fighting all the time, and that won’t get me any closer to the reinforcers I value.  What I have to do is find the people who care about some dogs’ behavior, who are looking for answers, and show them that I can do something to help. 

It turns out that’s as easy as water flowing down a stream. 

The first time I told this story, it turned into a parable.  In the two weeks since I first told it, I’ve found the opportunity to tell it several times.  In every case the listener has told me it made a difference.  I hope it will make a difference for you.  If not, just keep it stored away.  There may come a time when you can use it. 

Trying to convince those who are fighting not to be convinced is like water trying to flow through a stone.  The stone is strong and valuable on the Earth, but it is stone.  Instead of trying to penetrate stone, flow around.  In a hundred years the stone will still be strong and stationary, perhaps worn down a little on the side where the water has flowed around it, but still a stone.  But the water will be miles away, far along on its journey, transformed by the plants and animals that drink it, part of the clouds above it, part of the earth below it.    

If you come across people in your life who fight or resist you as you try to be everything you can be, honor them in those things for which they deserve honor.  Then flow around.

This is a rock.  I am water.  Flow around.

Kellie Snider

Copyright 2006


I got into Buddhism for some simple reasons. 

  1. It acknowledges that life involves suffering, and teaches you how to deal with it.
  2. It doesn’t assume that everyone is a sinner.  What you do creates suffering or it doesn’t, and the more you learn about living without suffering the more often you’ll choose not to do the things that make you suffer.  (One of the things that makes you suffer is creating suffering for other people.) 
  3. It doesn’t assume that the answer is “out there” somewhere.  It demonstrates that the answer has all about being aware of each moment, here, now.
  4. The question is not “How do I find the answer?”  But, “How do I stay awake right now?” Because if you’re searching for the answer you won’t find it.  You can only find it by staying awake. 

But I keep running across practices that absolutely didn’t fit that little outline.  For example, I picked up this book called A Buddha From Brooklyn.  It is about this Italian American chick that someone decided was a Buddha, so she started a meditation center.  She’s constantly getting married and unmarried.  Lots of suffering there for her and the guys and the people around them. She wears heels to meditation practice… not “wrong”, just not really practical. And it’s her goal over the course of this book to build the biggest stupa in her area … a tower with a certain  bulbous shape…  fill it with relics such as the finger bone of some dead teacher and some rice and beans so that when it’s finished if you walk around it in a clockwise circle you’ll be healed or have wishes granted.   She is believed to be clairvoyant. 

Oh, boy.  She wanted the biggest and best magical object.  Competition and the supernatural.  Dukkha in drag. 

So I asked some folks in my sangha about the supernatural.  Basically, does everyone here believe this kind of thing, and is everyone expected to believe it if they come here?  Because, honestly, I was going to have to do some serious thinking if that was the case.  The main answer I got was from Will, a guy I’ve come to respect a great deal who said, “I am a skeptic at heart and I hold my skepticism dear.  The Buddha said to be a light unto yourself and if what he said doesn’t match your experience, by all means go with your own experience.” 

Oh, whew.  But then he said to be open and explore each thing that comes your way… skepticism shouldn’t be about just discarding everything that is different from what you know now.  That’s just another kind of attachment.  And attachment causes suffering.  Oh my. 

Okay.  Alright.  Basically the basic Buddhist take is that the iconography is about helping you focus, and if it is distracting, you don’t need it.  You’re not worshiping when you bow, you’re focusing your attention. You’re not worshiping the buddha statue if you happen to have one (and there is not one in our sangha), you’re using it it acknowledge that he had a good idea when he figured out how much good being fully present in each moment does.  Such acknowledgement helps you center and focus on the now.  The rest is just decoration, and as such completely unnecessary.  In fact, our sangha’s shrine bears simple objects to symbolize each of the senses.  In behavior analysis we would call them discriminitive stimuli that act as cues to observe the environment.  Cool! 

Whenever people don’t fully understand something they think it’s magic, and where there is magical thinking, people do weird things.  More on that in a minute. 

So I asked another burning question that was more personal.  In the Buddhist teachings we are advised not to cause harm to any sentient being.  In my job sometimes I recommend euthanasia for animals that are behaviorally unsound.  The way I make my decisions is basically, if the animal is likely to cause someone harm or if the animal’s current suffering is so great as to be untenable and perhaps unresolvable, or if his condition is such that confinement is the only safe solution, and such confinement is likely to result in lifelong suffering for the animal, then I recommend euthanasia.  I do not technically have the last word, but in practice, when it comes to behavior issues, my decision is almost always the final one.  That’s hard, so I wondered if Buddhism offered any snappy answers to that one. 

This lead to some uneasiness in the sangha.  One advanced practitioner reminded me that we are called upon to engage in “Right Livelihood”, and while she was kind, it was clear that to her this meant I should be considering a job change at some point.  In fact, she approached me later and suggested that in a couple of years I might find that it was time to move away from this line of work.  She also suggested, completely innocently, that these animals be provided with sanctuary somewhere or even released into the wild.  Oh, my.  Knowing what I know, this would create really bad karma. I forget that most people really don’t know the whole story about animal suffering. Not even close.

One guy said, “The Dharma recommends not killing, but it also acknowledges that it is impossible not to kill.  There’s not solid right and wrong.”

That helped me distill my question down to, “What is more significant?  Prolonging life or eliminating suffering?”  

One guy suggested that perhaps this is one way I can either serve my Karma, or even create good Karma to carry forward.  He said, “Maybe you are meant to be there because you have the ability to protect other people from having to make such a hard decision.”  I wanted to hug him. 

I know that what I do prevents far more suffering than it creates.  But I often feel quite sad about it.  One time we had to euthanize this dog that the staff loved. He was a purebred pit bull who didn’t like other dogs and was just always right on the rough edge of our “he’s a keeper” policy for a long list of reasons. When he got sick and the decision was made to euthanize the staff was broken hearted, and some were quite angry.  My heart bled for them and for the dog, and it was one of those rare days that I broke my open door office policy and locked myself in to ponder the meaning of life and my place in it for a while.

Will said, “You’re not going to get a definite answer on this one.”  Hello, Buddha.

So I spent the next few days with some minor angst.  I even asked myself if maybe I should be thinking about finding different work.  That caused significant brain drama for a couple of days.  Talk about attachment causing suffering!  Just thinking about walking away from my job caused suffering. 

At one point in the discussion about the supernatural Will said that there are times in his work as a psycho-therapist when his clients think he’s psychic because he read their situation so clearly and even assumed correctly about some situation they had experienced but had not told him about. He said, “It’s not that I’m psychic.  It’s just that I’ve been doing this work for 30 years and I’ve seen the same patterns over and over again.”  It’s like me and the dogs.  Sometimes I know what they’re going to do next because I’ve seen the patterns before. 

Maybe that’s all clairvoyance is.  Maybe that’s what the supernatural is. It seems magical to Sam because he hasn’t seen it before, but Sue has seen it again and again and again, so she can predict what will happen next.  Sam worships at his altar filled with awe and longing, while Sue attends her shrine to remind her that it’s all available to her if she just pays attention, and she experiences no longing and is filled with peace. 

A day or two after the conversations, I found a book in my Kindle that I had not yet read.  Buddhism Pure and Simple by Steve Hagan.  It was the right book at the right time.  He wrote, “It’s not about whether you’re doing the right thing or the wrong thing.  It’s about being awake while you’re doing it.”  And if you are awake while you’re doing each thing, you will find yourself doing more things that cause less suffering and fewer things that cause more suffering.  You can only achieve this if you stay present in every moment.  The path doesn’t lead to anywhere out there, it only leads to right here where I am. 

Simple, but so alien. 

Peace (Shiwa) from the Meditator Tot.


Shiwa Nyi-Tso

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

Auspicious Coincidences

January 27, 2010

A lot has happened since I last posted.  I’ve continued down the meditation path and had an auspicious coincidence or two. 

I started attending the Dallas Shambhala Center about a month or so ago.  I had looked for a place for a while and nothing seemed right.  I was actually looking for a Zen Center, but ended up going to Shambhala, which is Tibetan, because… well… er… because it was held at a Unitarian Universalist church.  I was a UU for years and years, and figured if Shambhala was too weird I could always go across the atrium to choir practice.

Well, Shambhala wasn’t too weird at all.  It was actually very nice.  Nice people of all ages, shapes sizes.  Some still practicing other faiths, some only Buddhists.  All willing to chat about what was up with their spiritual practice. 

It also turned out that the regional teacher, Archya Moh Hardin, was coming to town to do a retreat and a refuge ceremony.  I decided to attend the retreat, held at a historic downtown building.  And I also decided that I wanted to take refuge. 

Taking refuge just means becoming a Buddhist.  You take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.  But you’re really taking refuge in your own Buddha nature.  You don’t find it outside yourself, it’s already there.  But you do have to look for it, and the Buddha lead by an example of how to do that. 

The retreat was a delightful opportunity to get to know members of the sangha.  My hips hurt like a bad boy by the end of it, but my heart felt light.  I showed my rugs at the reception where people were invited to share their art.  They were well received.  And then I went home and left them there, so they got to spend a couple nights with sweet Margo, one of the center directors.  I feel like they have been blessed. 

I had already scheduled an interview with Moh.  When the time came, I asked him about it.  I told him about my recent journeys with grief, how I learned to deal with them by mindfulness meditation.  At first he said there wouldn’t be a problem with waiting… there was no reason to do it now.  But by the end of the conversation we both felt it was right for me to go ahead and go for it. In fact, he told me that he took his vows very early in his practice, too.  Toward the end, he said that perhaps it was an auspicious coincidence that he was in town at just the time I was ready to become a Buddhist.  As I stepped out of the room with him after the interview, I told him, “I feel peaceful.”  He said, “I feel good about this.” 

The next night was the Refuge Vows.  Five of us were on the front row on our meditation cushions.  Some of them had been practicing for years, but I didn’t feel out of place.  We did our usual meditations with the sangha (congregation), which consist of 20 minutes or so of sitting meditation, 10 or so of walking meditation, and another 5ish of sitting.  Then Moh spoke about the meaning of taking refuge, and that we were being asked to project an open attitude, a changed “mark” (kind of an adjective that people would notice about you… like… when you see someone who is in love and you can tell, even if they don’t say anything), and the offering of kindness to everyone.  He said that when he snapped his fingers at the appropriate time, the transition would take place and we would feel our new lives. 

I had my doubts at that point.  I was baptized twice in the Christian fundamentalist faith of my childhood, and didn’t feel anything different either time. 

We were asked to take 3 half prostrations (kneel and touch the hands and forehead to the floor) to symbolize the practicality of trusting the Earth.  One to the Buddha, which means, to the way of Buddhism, one to the dharma, which means, the teachings of the Buddha, and one to the sangha, which is a word that means something like fellowship or congregation.   

Then he talked about our lives on the path.  And he snapped his fingers.  And I felt it.  That was a really good set up!

Then he presented our new names, written by him in calligraphy in English letters, and in Tibetan script.  He said that these are our real names, they’re ours, and that if we want that’s the name we can go by, but that most in Shambhala reserve it for Buddhist occasions. 

The name I received was Shiwa Nyi-Tso.  It means Peaceful Sun-Lake.  So now, even though I remain a Meditator Tot, I have something else to put in my signature.  🙂

When I arrived, Moh’s wife, and one of our regional teachers, commented on my earrings.  I had seen them that day while out and about, and bought them because they featured a sunburst in the center.  I said, “I wasn’t shopping for earrings, but these just appealed to me.”  Afterwards she said, “First you said after your interview with Moh that you felt peaceful.  Then you bought these sun earrings.  And your name.  What a set of auspicious coincidences!”  Indeed.  Of course, saying peaceful was before my name was selected.  And although I don’t believe in magical coincidences, it was still a sweet coincidence… an auspicious one, you might say. 

Now I just need a lake and I’ll be all set!  In the meantime I have my little water garden which will get some fancying up this spring, that’s for sure! 

I’ll be back, with more reports on the path.  It turns out that my path leads to right where I am.  And yours leads to where you are.  So I guess at the moment, our paths lead to our computer chairs, eh?

I find so many parallels with training dogs. So many.  And the peaceful thrum thrum thrum of rug hooking is a mantra. 

Peace be with you,

Shiwa Nyi-Tso

Peaceful Sun-Lake

Also known as Kellie.  🙂  And Meditator Tot.

When Dogs Are Friends

October 28, 2009

Yesterday Aero went to work with me. I hadn’t taken him for a while, but he’s become so unruly in the evenings that I thought a little more Mom time was just the ticket. He did great. He just loves people so much. We came home in the evening and Pan was in the back yard. Aero ran over to nose him under the gate, then ran through the house and bounced at the backdoor until I let him out. I went out on the porch but I could have been invisible. They greeted each other like they hadn’t seen one another for a year. Pan did a little playful Grrrr! and Aero play bowed and off they bounded. It took about 5 minutes for Pan to come and see me. They were both grinning ear to ear. Happy, happy boys.

These are the same two dogs that can’t be given a rawhide unless at least one of them is crated. Pan will sometimes be eating in his exercise pen and suddently bark even though Aero is finished with his food and off doing something completely different, completely uninterested in stealing anything. Pan got the nick name Badger after we adopted Aero. He learned to Grrrrrrarf! at Aero to counter his kinectic enthusiasm. There are even times when a regular boxing match ensues, although I’m glad to say that those occasions are less frequent now, and can easily be interrupted by saying their names.

I planned to take Aero to work again today. I put Pan in the back room, and Aero ran to the front door. Then he ran back to where Pan was. I got his leash and my bag and called him. He ran to me and said, “Ahrooo rooo arrrr!”

I said, “Sit,” and he did not. He backed up and said, “Arrrrrroooo Arrrrrrrrr Arrrrrrrrrrr!”

I said, “Aero, sit!” He did not. He said, “ROOOOOOoooooo ARR ARR ARR!”

I said, “Sit!” He did not. He repeated his discourse on the Roo and the Arr. I really need to get the Rosetta Stone canine language learning set.

I said, “What’s up, Buddy? Wanna go to work?” I heard Pan’s little toenails clicking on the door to the back room as he jumped up again and again against the woodwork. Oh, thank goodness my husband was gone. He hates the little rivulets of claw scratches on that door. Aero turned and ran to the back room, turned and waited for me, prancing. I opened the door, and he ran in.

The two dogs stood inside, shoulder by shoulder looking at me. One shoulder was a whole lot higher than the other, but you get the idea. Ears up. All for two and two for all! We’re a team. Take us both or take no one, Woman!

And so I went to work alone. Pan hates going to work and barks at people I’d just as soon he didn’t bark at. He trembles and lays in his crate. It’s pathetic. Aero loves it when Pan comes with him to work and he loves to come to work, I think. This was the first time he went on strike.

What’s so zen about that? Does Aero have too great an attachment to Pan, and Pan too great an attachment to me? Pan would come anywhere I asked him to even if he were miserable. But I did not know this thing about Aero. Aero loves Pan very much. Pan is Aero’s best friend.

Can you have a zen best friend? That’s one of those things that drives me crazy about Buddhism. In one of the sutras Buddha says that attachments to family are some of the worst attachments because they pull so hard at you. Attachments are the cause of suffering (dukkha). Weirdly enough, I have learned that this is true.

Through my zen practice I’ve learned to let go of some attachments and I have less suffering. Housework is one. I have always been very attached to hating housework. But once in a while now I can just have a housework meditation. Last night I swept the kitchen and den with a broom, and I just thought about the broom moving the dust and dog hair into the dust pan. It was good.

But right now in my zen I think that some attachments and some suffering is valuable. And letting go of some attachments can cause far more suffering than just the little suffering having them has. Maybe I’m justifying things, which might be something like attaching to justifications. I don’t know. But I’m not planning to leave my husband and get rid of the animals and live by begging any time soon. Maybe a proper zen master would tell me I’m attaching too much to worrying about being destitute in retirement. And it may be true, but I don’t exactly know an alternative to that.

What I do know right now is that Aero and Pan are friends. Aero will probably be sad when Pan dies, but he is not sad today, which is the only time that matters.

Maybe zen is a little like being an animal. Living for this moment and living this moment as perfectly as you can. When you are fetching a wubba, fully fetch the wubba. When you are playing blanket monster with Pan, you’re just playing blanket monster with Pan.

Mindful zen doggies.

Being here now.

Meditator Tot,

One time a delivery man came to my house, and without asking propped open my front door. My greyhound ran out and ran down the street. I chased her all around the neighborhood until she was cornered in a driveway. I was terrified that I would come back and find the delivery man had filled my house with my possessions and taken off with them.

Another day she got out and I took a different approach. I walked in the direction she had gone until she looked back. Then I called her and ran back to the house. Just then my sister-in-law drove up. Bravo trotted up, and I praised her, and we ran into the house for a treat. My SIL said, “Are you rewarding her for running away?”

“Oh, no,” I said. “I am am rewarding her for coming back!”

Striving chases the answers away.

In my work there are many volunteers. The vast majority of them are wonderful and generous. A few are full of striving and angst and the belief that if they don’t personally save the world it will end in a calamitous mess. The strivers are willing to insult and damage the people and the everyday work we do. I have a lot of trouble with these few volunteers, and it causes me a lot of dukkha (suffering) as I strive to solve problems that I have decided they have caused me. The Dalai Lama said that our enemies are our greatest teachers. This is because they give us so many opportunities to practice patience and being present in difficult moments. My way of dealing with troublesome people has always been to strive for a solution, to try to explain, to convince. My mind is full of thoughts of, “If only I could get rid of this person!” My little zen practice is helping me to stop and acknowledge that I’m not helping anything with all that mean striving.

I am an American. This zenny business made sense on one level, but it didn’t make sense on another. I wondered how on Earth I would have gotten a Master’s degree if I hadn’t focused on goals. How could I even do something like finish a report or shop for shoes? How would anyone accomplish anything?

But the goal is not to have a goal. Oh, boy. That sounds like so much Martian-ese when you say it in the US.

There have been times when I get it. These little eye openers are called kensho, or little glimpses of enlightenment. I read the writings of one zen master who said that all of enlightenment is kensho. Others seem to think that if you get enlightened enough you stay there and are eventually embued with supernatural powers, a view that makes my inner eyes roll. All I know is that I’ve had tiny glimpses of something in which I learned a new way of living peacefully in this world. That seems like kensho to me.

It hasn’t lasted. I don’t have any supernatural powers and don’t expect to ever have any. I embarked on a zen path because it didn’t ask me to fall for any nonsense, just to be aware in this world. That’s all I’m commited to doing. If I get supernatural powers, I’ll deal with them the same way. Fortunately in zazen one tries not to strive for the future, so I will continue to not worry about that.

But I think the reason it doesn’t last is because the world doesn’t stay the same, and you constantly have to come back to being here, now, the way the world is in THIS now. The other nows are gone. I imagine that enlightenment is knowing how to do that and consistently doing it. But who knows. Maybe in a few years I’ll be able to fly to your house without a plane. I have no idea how my luggage will get there, but I’ll worry about that then.

So in my little zen practice, I have been sitting in meditation, not striving, not trying to solve the world’s great problems or even my grand ones, just learning how to be here, now. And what has happened is that without striving I have figured out something that is very cool.

If you stop trying to fix your problems and just sit with them, accepting them, feeling what you feel when you are dealing with them, sometimes you find yourself doing what can be done to fix them without striving. So, last night I sat in zen, bringing my monkey mind back to sitting here, now, again and again. But when I was done, I felt peaceful and calm.

When I went to work I contacted the person in charge of our volunteer department and asked her to help me learn how to better deal with volunteers. She was honored, I think, and I was relieved. I had not meditated on volunteers. I had thought about them briefly in zazen, but I kept coming back to my little room, with my dogs, where my bottom was supported on my zafu, and I just was there, then.

In the morning I had a solution I had not been striving for.

That was my little kensho, and it was good. It was the kind of englightenment that doesn’t distract you or anyone you know with magical powers, with supernatural anything. It was me in my world, understanding it a little better. I have no goals of trying to do that again, because if you strive it won’t happen.

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,