Friday, June 18, 2010

Astanga

I can’t remember the last time I was this exhausted on a Friday night, and this wasn’t even a six-day week for me (Lady’s kept me out of the Shala on Sunday). It’s not a bad tired, just a very complete tired and it’s probably aggravated by lack of sleep. Princess Fur kept me up for hours last night with a tummy-upset and vomiting. She’s fine now, so guess it was just one of those ‘dog things’.

Welcoming this little dog into my life is one of the smartest decisions of my 30s. It was a spontaneous decision, made while on the brink of some major life changes. I was in my early 30s, preparing to leave my last corporate job. I was fortunate that my decision neatly dovetailed with a round of corporate lay-offs. As I tied up loose ends around my office and handed off my responsibilities, I took the first steps towards a career shift into teaching yoga full-time. It was an exciting and scary time!

I’m still not sure how the seed was planted, but in my spare moments, I started thinking about dogs. I love dogs, but could never have one growing up. On a whim, I searched for miniature schnauzer breeders in the vicinity. I love this breed, probably because my family had a schnauzer when I was very small and my mom has had three different dogs of this breed. Their furry little bearded faces always tug at my heartstrings!

I located a breeder I liked and it all moved very fast from there. I rented a car and asked a friend come along. We drove to a rural community south of the city for a visit. The breeder had a few puppies available and I met them one by one, but all failed to pique my interest. They were all adorable and funny, but I didn’t feel any special connection. Suddenly, a much younger pup appeared from around the corner. She wandered up to me licked my hand. I looked into her somber, intelligent eyes and I was instantly smitten!

“Oh no! That one’s not for sale!” the breeder interjected. “She’s being reserved for show.”

Try as I might, I couldn’t interest myself in any other pup. I felt magically drawn to this delicate bundle of black fur with fiercely intelligent eyes - the pup I couldn’t have. I turned to the breeders and said: “Are you sure? I have the money to pay in full if you change your mind.” They went to the kitchen to discuss and returned just minutes later. They agreed to sell my puppy as a pet. The pup was too young to leave her mother so I returned to pick her up two weeks later. Given the timing of my ‘impulse purchase’, I’m glad I had a chance to prepare!

Having a ‘new baby’ at home was a shocker for a newly unemployed, career-changing, child-less 30-something! I brought her home in the middle of winter. The first night, my ‘baby’ woke me up at 2 a.m. and I had no idea what to do with her. But the books told me I should take her ‘out’ as much as possible. As I stood in my bathrobe, shivering in the -40C windchill, I wondered exactly what I had gotten myself into. She looked up at me and cried. I looked down at her and said: “Go potty!” We were at an impasse!

Princess Fur has been one of my most important teachers. I know, without a doubt, that I’m a better person for having her in my life. Here are a few of the important lessons I’ve learned from my dog:

1) Anger is a waste of time

When I was younger, I had a terrible temper. But tantrums and fits of rage are completely wasted on a dog. By the time a human finishes her ‘primate display behaviour’, a canine has already moved on to more interesting things, like a toy or the lingering scent on a blade of grass. My dog taught me that my anger has no purpose, except to fuel the dramas inside my own head. I started to let go of those ‘stories’ and remain calm when I felt the emotional storms brewing. I learned to take things less personally and express my inner turmoil in more constructive ways.

2) Holding a grudge is limiting

Because dogs don’t live in the past, they don’t hold grudges. They really don’t! If Fido chewed on your slipper, it wasn’t out of a revenge fantasty - it’s because that was a damned good slipper! More than few times when my puppy misbehaved, I scolded her, then I held the grudge. Of course, she forgot about it almost immediately. It was classic case of grasping the hot coal with the intent of throwing it, only to find that I'm the one getting burned. She wasn’t feeling the pain! I’ve come to admire and value my dog’s ability to forgive and forgive completely.

2) The very best moment EVER is the one we’re having RIGHT NOW

Dogs don’t live in the past. They also don’t live in the future. They’re always right here, in the moment, and they’re excited and happy in this moment. My dog has taught me to slow down and look around me for the joy that’s already there. Everything I need, right at this moment, is already here for me. One morning last week, I tugged on her leash impatiently, my mind already in the future. Princess Fur’s mind was right there, in the park, in the Best Moment Ever, which involved smelling a squirrel a few metres away. I dropped my attachment to future plans and unclipped her leash. Together, we stalked the squirrel, then chased it up a tree. We found some other squirrels to chase. We made a great squirrel-chasing team! It was GREAT moment!

3) Love is a dish best served unconditional

She loves me when I grumpy. She loves me when I’m distant. She loves me when I’m unkind or impatient. She never stops loving me. I can - and have - hurt my dog. And when I did, the same unconditional love was waiting for me. She makes no demands, she loves without expectation. I know that no matter what, there is one being in my life who adores me completely and without reservation. And as long as her heart is beating, her affection will be a constant.

4) Seize the day when you can, and let go when it’s time

Dogs have an expiration date. Princess Fur’s will come in the next 5-8 years. The first 8 years of her life have passed in such a blur, it’s difficult to comprehend that her life could be more than half-over. I have trouble believing that my dog is already moving into late middle-age, but already, she’s slowing down. Long walks that once left her unfazed now leave her exhausted. She sleeps more. She plays less. I’ve become deeply aware of each of her passing days. Suddenly, they seem numbered in a way they didn’t before and I’m eager to embrace each one. I dread the day that I will need to let her go. And I know that in doing so, my dog will once again prove to be one of my greatest teachers.

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Good practice today! Nothing new to report. Backbends were 3/3/2. I was reminded that I need to take shorter breaks in between sets of backbends.

I’m doing something new in Sirsasana, inspired by The Misanthropic Yogini: I’m holding the pose for 35 breaths and trying to hold the half-bend for 10. Today, I managed only 8 in the half-bend. I can see how this exercise will help me become stronger. Sirsasana is not a difficult pose for me, but by the time I finished, I was feeling it!

5 comments:

The Misanthropic Yogini said...

Everything you said about your relationship with your dog here rang true to me. I had a few dogs growing up, but my parents always gave them away after a couple of years. It was traumatic, so when I got my dog four years ago, I was determined to do everything right... but I had no idea what I was getting in to. My dog, in all her enthusiastic glory, has taught me patience beyond any other influence in my life.

Christine said...

Beautifully said and so true!

Loo said...

That's one darn cute dog ... and this from someone who thinks she lives with the cutest dog ever. But I admit, could be a tie!

Kaivalya said...

@Everyone
Yay! I'm glad all the dog owners chimed in. I knew this post would resonate most with those who have (or have had) dogs in their lives.

The Princess knows she's the apple of my eye and she *is* quite adorable. :-)

spin gypsy said...

It was very touching to read this entry. I recently within the past month rescued an almost three year old Eurasier Eskimo mix. So many of the "lessons" you described her were right on with what I have been exeriencing. I am glad that I'm not the only one thinking "what did I get myself into" when I am standing out in the freezing cold saying "go potty." Ha. Makes me laugh even thinking about. I am a recent subscriber and I love your blog. Look forward to following your yoga journey and updates on Princess Fur!! <3 Peace.