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Lions Roar : March 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN MArcH 2011 38 WHen I WAS A STudenT at Plum Village, Thich nhat Hanh taught us this healing meditation: first, center yourself in the breath: Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in. Then al- low your feelings into the space of consciousness: I know that I am feeling... furious, perhaps, with this hairy little diva! Then, Breathing in, I see the deep source of my feelings. finally, sit quietly with your feelings. one of our about-to-be-ex-dog trainers—a good and me- thodical woman, fast with the treats—loses patience one night and yells in my face because in the midst of a complex drill, I and my befuddled puppy have, for the second time, gone left when she’s said “right.” Where Ani is in space, I don’t know; I find myself on some windswept playground cowering before my old teacher Sister Mary Paperweight, fumbling the ball again, tearing up with nerves. Breathing in, I see the deep source of my feeling. later, when I meditate with Ani, I meet my demons of shame and perfectionism. We have a laugh together. Ani’s giddy joy of- fers safe passage to our visitors from the dark side. Such little windows of enlightenment give me confidence in dog training as spiritual practice. It’s slow going. I’m not sure what Ani is picking up; I’m learning a discipline of leading with the heart (which accepts the dog I have), instead of the brain (which plans, judges, passes, and fails). I’m practicing focus, patience, and sur- render of outcomes. one of my daily metta prayers has long been May all beings find their true paths. I must free Ani to find hers. And Kwan yin laughs her ineffable laugh, in love with the clueless clowns of this planet. one of them me. ♦ Ani’s practice develops slowly. Some- times she lies quietly on the padded mat, sometimes she chews it, sometimes she potties on it. But she shows up. Ani’s Tips for Beginning Meditators Work below your threshold. negative feelings simmer under the boil, and you should work with your fears at this level. The time to go to your mat is before you erupt in crazy barking. Wear your flak jacket. My human companion wraps me in a kind of swaddling band to give me a sense of safety. Some spiritual traditions speak of “the cloak of protection.” Set your intention every day not to be blind- sided by orange traffic cones or that bichon. Smell the flowers, smell the poop. Check out how high a collie can pee. Calling your human to mindful walking is a gift to her. develop her instinct for being led.