Sunday, February 17, 2008

Lessons from the Zen Masters

Many of my best teachers have been animals.
Even as a child, I learned from them. Growing up on a farm I was privileged to see the cycle of life and death and the glory between. I witnessed the miracle of babies that arrived in the dark night, that took wobbly steps in the early morning sun and were galloping and frolicking by noon. I saw eggs that wiggled and rolled, until a tiny hole appeared which grew and grew until a bold chick poked forth its wet head, eyes large at the wonder of the world. I cried as the elderly animals trembled, sighed, heaved one last breath and grew still and cold beneath my small hands. I helped dig the graves for chickens, turtles, snakes and birds, all mourned and loved with the passion only a child can have for creatures of the world.
As an adult, I deepened the bond with animals. I rescued a few, loved many, and let go of some of the best "people" I have ever known...
Higgy, Lily, Bojo, Todd, Blackie, Elizabeth, Archie and Merlin; some were mine, some were not, but all are in my heart. All have taught me lessons.
Molly my dog now teaches me about faith and perseverance. She came to us as a miracle, an eight or ten year old dog on her last days at the Humane society. She was house trained, crate trained and walked on a leash, didn't bark, didn't chase cats, didn't climb on furniture and most of all, loved us from the first moment. We have since trained her to climb on furniture and sleep outside a crate!
Molly is now four years older. She moves a lot slower, often awkwardly and she stumbles, trips and occasionally falls, scaring me. When she falls, she lies still for a moment, Bob says she is taking stock, saying "Okay, nothing is broken, tail works, legs move, I'm OK!" before sitting up, then rising back to her feet. I ache for her, projecting all my feelings on her. I am saddened by her decreasing agility, woeful at her loss of dignity, stricken by the realization she will not be mine forever. But Molly doesn't care about any of that. She fell, she rests, she gets back up and goes on with her life, living in the moment. She is happy again, up on her feet, seeking out the next best smell, the next forbidden pleasure of food found on the sidewalk, the happy greeting of a doggie friend. She does not dwell on failure, she does not hang onto mistakes, she lets go of the past. She does not sit around complaining about growing old, losing her hearing, her eyesight dimming. Molly embraces life as it is, as it exists at this moment. For Molly, the moment is all that reality is. She doesn't worry about what other dogs are saying about her when she falls, she doesn't obsess over the gray in her muzzle. She puts one paw in front of the other and marches on, tail wagging, content that her human is at her side, that the rain is over and that the BarBQ place is in sight. Molly is a Zen master... she gets being in the moment. She gets just being.
We should all have more Mollys in our lives.

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