The Buddha, The Beagles and Me

I started out peacefully meditating. I ended red-faced and screaming. This is my journey to awareness. There are other journeys – sweet jasmine filled ones, rough battle worn ones, soccer mom howling in the middle of the donut shop ones, rain soaked back alley ones – but this one is mine.

I wanted to make the tenets of Buddhism a part of my heart in a real and lasting way, not just pretty words I remembered seeing on facebook printed over a lotus flower. There are 3 direct doors to my heart: Cathy, Bacon, and Writing. This was a job for writing, and an excuse to buy a new fancy looking journal.

Soooo many blank pages to fill...

Soooo many blank pages to fill…

I decided to hand copy a translation of the Dhammapada, the Pali collection of the basic sayings of the Buddha (real ones, not those fake posts about depression) one stanza a day until the entire thing was written in my journal and on my soul. Each day I would meditate on the verse. What a great plan. Until….

We are the harbingers of doom - and snacks.

We are the harbingers of doom – and snacks.

I opened the translation by the Venerable Ananda Maitreya, turned to the first section and began to write, “Mind is the forerunner of all actions.”

Briscoe the Beagle: <hitting the door with her tail> I want out.

Me: In a minute.

Briscoe: <thump, thump, thump> I want out NOW.

Me: Fine.

Put down the pen. Get up and head for the back door.

Briscoe: <running in a circle under the fireplace mantel> Don’t forget the treats.

Grab a treat. Open the door. Out goes the beagle. Back to my chair. Deep breath.

“All deeds are led by mind, created by mind.”

Briscoe: <Woof Woof Woof> I want back in.

Me: You just went out.

Briscoe: <WOOF WOOF scratch, scratch, scratch, scratch>. I want back in now

Me: Okay, okay.  Shut up.

Dog in. Sit down. Deep Breath, Deeeep Breath.

“If one speaks or acts with a corrupt mind, suffering follows,”

Briscoe: <Thump thump thump> I want back out.

Me: YOU JUST CAME IN!

Briscoe: <Woof Woof Woof WOOF WOOF WOOF> I’m not going to stop until you put me out.

Me: I’ll put you out, alright, out for adoption!

Out of chair. Open the back door. Briscoe runs into the other room.

Me: You wanted out. You are going out!

Briscoe: <doing the cute head-to-the-side thing> I don’t really know what I want.

Me: <rattles treat cup> Here.

Briscoe: <runs to the door> Yep. I totally want that.

Me: And stay out!

Sit in chair. Breathe in the love, breathe out the pain, breathe in the love…

Belle the Beagle: <Woof!> If Briscoe went out, I want to go out.

Me: Really? REALLY?! Buddy, do you want out, too?

Buddy the Beagle: <head down, curled into a ball> I’m happy on the couch. And, why are you yelling?

Belle: <Woof> Hellooo, I still want out.

Buddy in. Belle out. Sit down. Drop Dhammapada on the floor. Pick it up. Breathe. Breathe.

“As the wheel follows the hoof of an ox pulling a cart.”

Belle and Briscoe: <AROOOOO AROOOO scratch, scratch, scratchety scratch.> We want in!!!!

That’s the moment I reached awareness. Standing at the back door in a pair of Batman pajama pants, holding a copy of the Dhammapada screaming, “Stop howling, dammit! I’m trying to be enlightened! “

The next five minutes involved a loud, rabid monologue about why the Dalai Lama doesn’t have beagles, how Tara Brach can speak in that serene, wise voice because she hasn’t spent half a day trudging through Food Lion picking up dog food and spotty bananas, Pema Chodron ‘s face shines like the sun because she don’t have a dishwasher that sounds like the space shuttle taking off every five minutes, and while I don’t have to chop wood and carry water, I have let the dogs out 3,000 times and fill the water bowl.

When the yelling was over, the energy expended, the emotion expressed, and the hyperbole stretched to its outer limit, there was a moment of beautiful, transforming silence. My breath returned to normal; my soul reset to calm. My first world problems slithered back to their proper perspective. Bliss at last.

Buddy: <thumping tail on couch> Um…I never got a treat.

Share the treats. It's the beagle way.

Share the treats. It’s the beagle way.

Life is a beagle. No matter how pure our hearts, how high our aspirations, disciplined our practice – life is going to bark, wag, beg, howl and bring its cute happy chaos into our spiritual moments. In fact, if we miss the point of all this meditation and intentional living  – life might just entirely derail us. Because the point is:  Life is what all this meditation is about in the first place.

Creating compassion – for ourselves, each other, the earth, sky and sea (and beagles) is why we meditate.

Letting go of attachments – to things, expectations, debts, judgments, grudges, and pains is why we meditate.

Overcoming suffering – from unmet expectations, loss, fear, empty spaces that we think should be filled is what meditation is about.

The Dhammapada – the words of the Buddha – don’t come alive in us while we sit on our cushion. They blossom through the ear shattering, annoying, distracting howls of life. Tara Brach, Pema Chodron, and even the Dalai Lama go through life too. The only difference is they embrace it instead of suffering it. And so should I.

So for now I will practice on learning how to accept, let go and be(agle).

“Mind is the forerunner of all actions.

All deeds are led by mind, created by mind.

If one speaks or acts with a serene mind,

happiness follows,

As surely as one’s shadow.”

Dhammapada, Verses 1 and 2.

Walk in Belles Park

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