I just came back in from walking the dog, something I never wanted to spend a moment of my life doing. Now I do it daily. And the dog does it daily too. Not just the walking. The dooing. Dogs poop. Sometimes I step in it.
I’ve been stepping in dog doo lately. There we have it. As my teacher would say, it’s good practice. You step, you see, you scrape it off. You scrape it off enough and something more than shit starts to come off. You lose your revulsion, your upset, your attitude. You see it and you just take care of it, the stink on the bottom of your shoe. Mommies and daddies learn particularly well that some shit doesn’t even stink. That’s love.
I want to take a second to clarify something. I’m not writing about you. I’m not writing even for or at you. I’m writing to myself. Honest. These are my fingers flailing across the keyboard. These words are appearing before my eyes from I really don’t know where. Like every part of my life – the laundry, the dishes, the dog poop and the singular sensation of falling short again – it is my practice. It teaches me. My life teaches me things I’ve never seen before, and my words tell me truths I’ve never conceived. I don’t know you and never really can; my practice is to know myself.
The fact that these words might hit you where you sit is, well, magic. What you do with them is entirely up to you but I hope you scrape them off right quick.
In my Zen lineage we have a ceremony that concludes an intensive 30-day training period wherein the head trainee or priest gives a public talk for the first time on a particular teaching point. (I’m choosing my words carefully so as not to misrepresent.) As part of this ceremony, the trainee reads lines that monks have been saying in this ceremony for generations. One line is, “I hope there is enough water in the Pacific Ocean to wash my words from your ears.”
I like that saying. I repeat it often to myself. It reminds me not to conceptualize any experience, not to think myself into intellectual understanding, confusion, upset, anger, defensiveness and intractability. Just to scrape it off.
“I love you but you poop too much,” I might say to my dog. You should see the volume of poop in my otherwise pristine backyard. “I love you but,” I say, and then I hear myself and realize that’s not love.