Stepping in it

January 9th, 2008

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.


  1. I have a lot of poop in my backyard too. Only yesterday all the snow melted. If you think regular dog poop is bad, you should see what it is like after the snow has melted. But I know that is not the point of your post. I get it, and I love what you say.
    All the time.

    Comment by Mika — January 9, 2008 @ 8:14 pm

  2. I like that saying. That is something I think of often as I pass through the world and people and expectations and reactions and opinions. And, and, and. Too much for this little white box.

    Comment by denise — January 9, 2008 @ 8:22 pm

  3. I for one appreciate the clarification. We are. every one of us, students AND teachers. I would venture to say that we’re all writing to ourselves. The thing with blogging is that the screen can lull us into giving power away – which is not even remotely the same as being moved, inspired, and enticed by each other’s words.

    In the past, I have blurred mentor/idol, teacher/guru. Ah, here I am scraping that off, again and again. Making way for magic.

    xo J

    Comment by Jena Strong — January 10, 2008 @ 1:24 am

  4. I have to tell you, I’m laughing because this isn’t the first time I’ve associated your words with dog poop. (I better explain quickly, I think)
    A favorite game of my twins is running out in the back yard and looking for the dog poop. When they find it, they are the happiest little toddlers you’ve ever seen. They jump up and down, giggling and yelling “poop,poop!” until I come to scoop it up. Your words came back to me while scooping one day, the ones about children playing and having a good old time at things we think are work.
    I didn’t go as far as jumping up and down (my neigbors think I’m crazy as it is) but it did make me pay more attention to how they achieve this happiness and be in the moment with them.

    Comment by Shannon — January 10, 2008 @ 2:00 am

  5. i am such a poop stepper. thanks for reminding me to just scrape it off.


    Comment by mb — January 10, 2008 @ 7:15 pm

  6. Karen,
    Thank you so much for this.
    I will fully own that I have felt before and assumed that you and others were writing at me, for me.
    When I do this I give away my power and the frantic mind is off and running.
    And yet, is someone were to ask me why I write I would say and know without hesitation that I write for myself, to myself. So, I am feeling much appreciation for being reminded that this is always the case.
    scraping poop off, with love.

    Comment by bella — January 10, 2008 @ 9:01 pm

  7. I have been visiting your blog for a while and have gained so much. I now floss EVERY day! I admit, though, that in spite of the numerous insights I have gained, I have never left a comment because was afraid that if I did you might visit my blog and find that my writing didn’t measure up. (I have a thing against leaving annonymous comments.) That, of course, triggers the whole don’t judge/compare yourself dialogue tape in my head.
    Thank you for reminding me that I am writing for me.
    I love you AND you sure pointed out some serious poop!

    Comment by Kapuananiokalaniakea — January 11, 2008 @ 6:56 pm

  8. I never thought I would read about poop and learn a good insight at the same time, but here you have it.

    Comment by Shelli — January 12, 2008 @ 2:54 am

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