Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Walk the Dog, Even if the Dog is You (Subtitle: Making Time for Asana and Meditation)

My father died as an old man, a month shy of 90 years old. Right up until the event that hospitalized him, he was responsible for walking the dog morning and evening. This assignment got him up and out into the world, among neighbors, into the forested walkways and power line cut throughs near his suburban home, where he observed the changing seasons and configurations of wildlife, erosion and wildflowers. This established a routine which was accepted by his wife, who was cognitively impaired, because she knew that he would walk the dog and return. This open space in his morning was not part of the plan on his own behalf, but it was critical to his well being.  The evening walk was usually shorter, and depending upon how heavily dinner sat in his belly, he would take on a small uphill under the streetlights. He would notice the moon phases, the silhouettes of trees, the other passing dog walkers and again have a moment to himself. His mind relaxed and contemplated all manner of things when he was out with the dog and he might take time to relax the constant vigilance his wife's care required.  Without the dog, there would have been none of that in his days or nights.

How much we are willing to do for the wellbeing of another varies from person to person, but many of us will take on tasks of cooking meals, walking dogs, running errands, taking on jobs and all manner of responsibilities to benefit those we care about.  Can we program each day with the time to take care of our self?

A personal practice, whether yoga or meditation, requires the same approach as walking the dog. It doesn't matter what the weather is, or how late you were up last night, that wet nose is there in your face to say, "Aren't we going now?" Imagine that in your practice you are both the dog and the dog-walker. Giving yourself the time, the open space, the exercise of those internal muscles of awareness, and most of all, the care you deserve for experiencing well being and connecting to the world around and within you. And as with a simple walk, it can be a half hour in the morning, or evening, enough to separate yourself from the patterns of the day and place yourself squarely in the center of your own attention. Neither the dog nor the dog walker requires a two hour commitment that pushes into your other obligations and activities. Nor can this unspoken contract of care and attention between you and yourself be skipped without consequence. One simply cannot say to the dog, "not today."  Imagine that your health and well being relies upon that half hour, and see your self staring at you with that query of "Are we going now?"

1 comment: