Present Tense

What dogs are for….

ember stretch

My husband and I have been having a discussion about whether or not to get another dog.  Okay, it’s a disagreement.  He says no, while I say yes.  We have been having this argument for about 24 years now, through various dogs.

So, last week, he said to me, “Explain to me why you want another dog.”  I hemmed and hawed and threw out some inarticulate dribble about ‘feelings’ and ‘joy’ and ‘can’t really explain’.  Not an effective answer.  Very unsatisfying for both of us.  So, the next day, I sat at my computer and composed this note to him.

You asked me why I want another dog.  That is a valid question that prompted me to put into words, what our past, present and future dogs mean to me.

I love them for their unique personalities, quirks and qualities.  Like people, they each bring something to my life.  They force us to realize that all creatures have a perspective and have needs and desires.  I love that.

Skelo was loyal and responsible and completely committed to you.  He was the grown-up dog, who kept the other dogs in line.  He tolerated very little nonsense from the others.

Kodiak was a clown, with a sensitive side.  He loved people and beer and crashing the neighbors’ poker parties.  He accepted the younger, more obnoxious dogs with a sense of humor and tolerance.

Feta was a rock star; she had to be the center of attention and had to win every competition.  She could be hard-assed and aggressive, but was nurturing and sweet if you were sick or helpless.  I still miss her smart-assiness every day.

Samson was…Samson.  Dopey and distracted but very loving and sweet.

Chili was complex and smart as a whip; she was moody and beautiful.  She was my soulmate, who gazed into my eyes and trusted me implicitly.  She had a dry, but well-developed sense of humor and she liked to watch dog shows with me on TV.  I looked forward to waking up and seeing her sweet face, every single day of her life.

Junior is sweet and forgiving, with the soul of a poet.  You can see in his eyes that he just wants to be loved and praised.  He is a lover, not a fighter and he loves you the most.  And he can run in the tightest, fastest circles that I’ve ever seen.

All of them have brought such joy and love and humor into our lives.  Just like people.  Their spirits are as important to me as the human spirits in my life. Maybe more so.

They love us fully and boundlessly.   They don’t expect perfection or make me feel guilty or judge me for my screw ups or lack of grace.  They don’t care if my radio ratings are good or bad and they don’t hold grudges.  They are far nobler than many humans I’ve known.

They eat with gusto and allow me to put coats and life vests on them.  They sing along with your saxophone and dig big holes in the yard. They charm our visitors and share our love of beets, sweet potatoes,  popcorn and sports.  They accept our quirks.

We are a family and since neither one of us have a huge tribe of human friends in our lives, I feel like our dogs are my tribe.  I need them in order to survive and to thrive.  I realize that you may not see it the way that I do, but a life without dogs is just too hard for me and I’m grateful that you allow them into our lives.

Our new puppy is another spirit that will touch us in her way.  Sweetness, light, humor and playfulness emanate from her.  She will fit in nicely and maybe even kill a mouse or two. She will bring love to our little familyand she will come when we call her.  I guarantee it.

So, there it is.  Thank you for your patience with me.  You too, are full of light, humor and forgiveness; those qualities are of the highest value in our tribe.


December 14, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

What is your path?

I’ve been trying to muster up a post for a couple of weeks.  The problem is that I’ve been working on emptying my mind and letting go of my need to comment and opine so constantly.  That doesn’t work so well when you have a blog and a radio show, so I’m beginning to learn how to rope off areas where I am more circumspect in my running commentary and still able to have a perspective that is entertaining or informative and not holier-than-thou.

I already addressed my plan to cut back on the Facebook time, which has been successful.  I check in sporadically and will post this on my FB account.

I am deepening my meditation practice and have been studying the hows and whys of a type of Buddhist meditation, which is bit different from meditation designed for stress relief.  I’m a big proponent of the latter, by the way and found it very helpful for me in terms of cutting some of the chatter in my brain.

But, I want to go a little deeper into the spirituality, ritual and philosophy of Buddhism and that requires pushing the re-set button on many of my ingrained reactions to life.  I’m starting to see that I can be committed to Buddhist concepts and still be an effective communicator.  I can be happy and funny and entertaining, while trying to stay on course.  Spirituality doesn’t HAVE to mean no sense of humor, although often the newly spiritual seem to think so.

There are a lot of misconceptions about Buddhism here in the U.S. and I shared them until I began to study a bit.  Having said that, I am by no means an expert.  The Buddha became enlightened 2500 years ago and teaches us that as humans, we all suffer.  We suffer from our egos, our cravings, our lack of compassion for ourselves and others and most importantly we suffer because we deny the impermanence of all things.  Bottom line:  when we try to control the uncontrollable (our lives), we suffer.  What’s gonna happen, is gonna happen and so we might as well learn to deal with it; to develop some flexibility and yes, a sense of humor about the randomness of our lives on earth.

That is where meditation comes in.  We use meditation to train our minds to let go of the stuff that we can’t control.  We sit and we learn to focus on our breath and when the mind takes off on a tangent of worry, anger, fear, planning, analyzing, etc. we bring it back to the breath.  Over time, we can begin to calm the runaway train of our minds.  We learn that everything is fleeting in life; good times come and go, bad times come and go and we carry on.  For me, the realness of knowing that we all suffer the same difficulties and in the end, the same fate is not only comforting, but a source of energy and joy.  We’re all connected in our humanity and in our suffering, as humans.

I know a lot of my friends think I’m on some airy-fairy trip and that I will soon be chanting in my robes at the airport, so here is my message to you:  that’s not my plan and why should you care if it was?  I’ve often wondered why in a country that was allegedly founded on “freedom of religion”, we are so closed-minded about anything that isn’t Christianity?

The old me would have gone on a rant about that, but the new me will not; I will go sit on my cushion in my little basement sanctuary and focus on my breath.  We all choose our own path, which by the way, we can reverse at any given moment.  Are you on the right one?

March 3, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Mindfulness vs. Restlessness….

I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks.  I apologize; I’ve been ‘working on myself’.  Okay, not exactly.   I just didn’t have anything to say, until now.

I’ve been trying to incorporate meditation into my daily routine, hoping to find something to calm my fretful mind.  It’s a practice that I’ve tried to get into for years, but have never really been able to stick with it.  This time I seem to be getting the hang of it, with the help of some guided meditation podcasts that I found on itunes.

The idea is to sit quietly and clear one’s mind of all of the clutter, chatter, junk, worries, etc. that can keep us from achieving focus and clarity.  I was having  a bit of success and feeling much calmer and more focused, until I decided to begin a mindfulness meditation instruction podcast that was offered in 6 segments.  The class is taught by a wonderful, patient man who was or is, a Buddhist monk.

So, I’m sitting with my Ipod all fired up, listening to him welcome the class and explain who he is (this is a live recording of the actual class).  He’s going through a quick overview of the benefits and goals of mindful meditation.  Okay, I’ll admit that I got a little impatient and fast forwarded to the good stuff, like how to do it.  Here’s where it got sticky for me: all of the rules!

Sit on the floor on a cushion.  Check.  But, I’m not quite flexible enough to sit cross-legged, with my knees touching the ground.  Straighten your spine. Check.  But, I can only do that for a short time, before I slump.  Try kneeling  and sitting back on your ankles.  OUCH!  Ankles hurt!  You can sit in a chair, but you must be on the edge, with your thighs parallel to the floor and NO sitting back against the back of the chair.  Geez, okay.  Place your hands on your thighs, but DON’T pull your shoulders forward.  Check.  Hands carefully placed, on my thighs, which are parallel to the floor, on the edge of my seat.

Okay.  I’ve found my official meditating ‘posture’ as he called it.  So, now we get to the good stuff that will actually lead me to enlightenment.  I learn that once you’re settled, close your eyes and breathe. Well, I’m an expert at that!  I’ve been breathing for about 50 years, now.  However, I find that once you start paying attention to your breath, you start to kind of, well, panic. ” Am I breathing too fast? Too slow?  Too shallow?  Wow, what’s with my chest tightening up? Am I doing this right?  I thought this was supposed to be relaxing!  I think I’m hyper-ventilating……plus, I’m slumping.  Crap!”

And on it went for what seemed like hours, but was really only about 20 minutes.  My serene instructor then spoke for a little bit and opened it up to questions from the assembled serene wanna-be’s.

“I couldn’t get comfortable.”  “I was slumping”.  “How fast should I breathe?” “I could hear cars outside”.  “I think I ate too much before class, because I almost fell asleep”.   “How long should I meditate?” and on and on.  Apparently, my issues were their issues, which was comforting to me.

We all had something in common:  our restless minds and bodies.  Which is why we were all gathered, either live or via podcast, to learn from this man.  Buddhism teaches that we ALL suffer from this restlessness and dissatisfaction to a certain extent and that meditation is one practice that can settle the mind a bit.   However, one certainly doesn’t have to follow the teachings of Buddha to get something out of meditation; I know PLENTY of agitated people who might want to check out the websites below.

I will say that the second time I listened, the meditation went much more smoothly.  It’s like the first time you watch an exercise or yoga DVD and you can’t quite keep up, but  by the second and third viewing, you’re a pro.

If you’re interested, search for “zencast meditation” on itunes or check out their website here.

March 28, 2010 Posted by | Musings | , , | 10 Comments

Taming the ‘inner smart ass”

I struggle with my ‘inner smart ass”.  She lives very comfortably in the attic of my psyche and has been known to escape for hours at time, mostly weekdays from 5-9:30 a.m. when I’m on the radio.  She’s snarky and always on the lookout for a cheap shot at some unsuspecting person, who happens to wander into her path.  She will gladly deliver a drive-by beat down and go merrily on her way, leaving me to deal with the guilt and bad feelings she leaves in her wake.   She has no conscience; that’s left to the rest of my personality to deal with and with the help of a good therapist and lots of introspection, I’m making some progress.

Oh, I know that my ‘sense of humor’ is a big, fat defensive mechanism developed at some point in my childhood.  Who knows when, why or how, but it became bigger and nastier, like an aggressive tumor over the years.  It didn’t help to be voted class clown in high school; after that I HAD to be funny.  So, that’s me:  ‘the funny one’.  You may have been ‘the smart one’ or ‘the pretty one’ or ‘the slow one’ or ‘the prissy one’ or ‘the mean one’ or ‘the popular one’, etc.   Here’s the thing: I’ll bet you still are, and it injects itself into your thoughts, behavior and self-image.  I tend to do what’s expected of me as ‘the funny one’.  Sometimes, it can be a lot of pressure and I may find myself saying something that I KNOW will result in pain for me  and whoever gets caught in the blowback from my ‘humor’.

I’m reading a book by a Buddhist nun, named Pema Chodron (oh, I’m a barrel of laughs, alright) and in her book, “Taking the Leap”, she suggests that when you feel yourself falling into those lifelong habits, stop and take 3 breaths.  For me, when I have the desire to say or write a smart ass comment, that is mean and I’ll regret, I must stop and breeeeeaaaaaaathe before I blurt.  Holy crap, is it hard!  I dare you to try it.  Maybe your problem is that you CAN’T SAY NO, for fear that you’ll be perceived as negative or uncooperative or whatever.  You are ‘the helpful one’.  Before you agree to shuttle 16 kids to the movies, when you had other plans (like some ice cream on the couch), stop, take the 3 breaths and THEN give your reply.

Who we might think we are, isn’t necessarily who we always have to be.  Most of us are comfortable in the cocoon we’ve lived in for years and years.  Having said that, I will never lose my sense of humor, but I am trying to lean toward funny and witty, rather than bitchy and mocking.  A little fine-tuning is in order, rather than attempting a wholesale personality transformation. The point is that many of us default into who we and others think we are, or who we have always been and if that is causing pain or angst for you, maybe it’s time to tweak your internal barometer.   BREEEEEAAAAATHE!

March 14, 2010 Posted by | Musings | , , | 5 Comments

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