Monday, July 27, 2009

A Little Inspiration on a Monday

read to my class this morning

We are all on a journey together...
To the center of the universe...
Look deep
Into yourself, into another.
It is to a center which is everywhere
That is the holy journey...
First you need only look:
Notice and honor the radiance of
Everything about you...
Play in this universe. Tend
All these shining things around you:
The smallest plant, the creatures and
objects in your care.
Be gentle and nurture. Listen...
As we experience and accept
All that we really are...
We grow in care.
We begin to embrace others
As ourselves, and learn to live
As one among many....

~Anne Hillman

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Black Dog Lessons

We've been assaulted with news of celebrity passings lately. We never knew these people, never met them, but having witnessed their talent we feel a connection. The media has spent countless hours cataloguing their achievements and documenting their scandals. We must sift through the debris and come to our own conclusions how to best remember and honor them.

But today, in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia, we learned of the passing of our own local celebrity-- the legendary Black Dog. The dreadlocked black chow was a roaming resident of the affluent near West End area and could be seen regularly wandering the streets, seemingly oblivious to passersby. He'd keep his distance and occasionally accept food offered to him by neighbors in the area, but more often would cast a glance and keep on going. His stoic attitude and survival instincts were an inspiration to me, and I always looked forward to seeing Black Dog as I passed through the area. My husband used to feed him early in the mornings when we lived in our apartment on Hamilton Street. Our dogs would go wild at the sight of him, but Black Dog just shrugged them off.

As friends learned of his passing, they have posted various tributes recalling what Black Dog meant to them. I think one of the greatest gifts Black Dog gave us was to demonstrate his resilience, especially his ability to move from situation to situation with ease and grace. I think most of us wouldn't mind having the skills to maintain balance in our own day-to-day affairs. It's so tempting to attach our perception of happiness to this or that outcome. If anything, Black Dog taught us to change our course when necessary, but keep persevering without hesitation. It has been estimated that Black Dog was between fifteen and seventeen years old. A stray dog doesn't live to that age without a degree of wisdom and balance. We'd be wise ourselves, indeed, to learn that lesson. In the practice of yoga, this skill is known as sattva.

We're also reminded of the impermanence of life. Every day brings its own changes to which we must adapt. As we find ourselves mired in sadness for the loss of Black Dog, we should also remember that we had such lovely moments observing and admiring him. Turning our attention to the special moment-to-moment-ness of life allows us to remain content and grounded amidst life's great sorrows. This concept, known as santosa, reminds us that being in touch with the awareness that life does change and reach an eventual end helps us to remain in the present, connected to the things that truly matter, and thankful for the times that we are fortunate to have with those people and places (and in this case, animals) that we love.