# 39 Dolphins are not Manatees and I Am Not a Princess
Dolphins and dogs, like my Yogi-boy, do not need to be loved for their youth, beauty and good behavior to be happy. This is why I like being around them–their energy may not always be buddha-peaceful, but it always is buddha-present and buddha-accepting.
Yogi stands on the seawall, alert to a shapes and movements. The energy that comes zooming by strong and fast. The dolphin rises from the water, slaps his tail, churns the water in a feeding frenzy. Yogi barks so hard and loud, his body trembles along his leash. I want him to be quiet so I can watch the dolphins fish, but Yogi has his own agenda–response to the dramatic energy with his own dramatic energy in the moment. No expectation of this moment, no demand that it be any other way than it is. His clamor does not mean he wants the dolphin to be a Yogi-dog– like him. He is simply taking part in a great exchange of energy in this moment. The next moment may be a quiet lying-down-in- the-grass moment.
My ego, on the other hand, sometimes wants Yogi to be a different dog–placid and quiet, so he doesn’t disturb the dolphins and the dolphin watchers. Ego has expectations of the dolphins too–they should not be aggressive as they hunt for food; they should please us, look up at us with gentle eyes and eat only seaweed, like manatees. But dolphins are not manatees and, though Yogi’s big snout resembles a manatee’s enough so we call him a Sharpei-manatee mix, he is neither peaceful manatee nor calm Labrador. I also know that Yogi is not a cuddling dog, that he expresses affection on his own independent cat-like terms. I can love Yogi with small love, secretly wishing he was a “better” dog, a lap dog who eagerly curls up with me, or I can love Yogi with Big Love that accepts his own way of loving me.
Yogi and my friends teach me about Big Love, as opposed to small love. I’ve written here before about my definitions of those–Big Love is unconditional and usually experienced with friends or kind strangers, and extended to all. Small love has a longer definition because it has so many requirements: small love is extended (with conditions) to one other and one’s children. Small love has conditions: be a Poodle, even if you are really a Rat Terrier; do what I want you to do and be the dog/dolphin/man/manatee or woman I believe will be perfect for me.
One of the attachments that I hope my Buddhist practice will free me of is the need for the approval. My addiction to this type of “love” has been almost as destructive as any drug. I’ve felt as if I would not be able to live without it, and when I was forced to do so, the withdrawal was torture: I am not enough. I think that many people are fellow addicts, and they are abide, unhappily, in denial. It may be they knew better than I how to get their supply of small love; at least I am loved for my looks, they might think. The dealer of the small love drug demands a payment of physical beauty or financial success; if that is missing, subservience to and care-taking of the dealer will suffice. The dealer will then marry you so your supply is promised.
On one of our morning walks Yogi obsessed about getting a dog-treat from John, my friend Barbara’s partner. Yogi strained at the leash repeatedly and lunged up at John’s pockets for a cookie. Frustrated with his lack of response to my commands I finally said, half-joking, “Don’t be a crazy dog! Be normal!” Barbara, his dog-godmother said, ” But Yogi thinks ‘This is normal’–for me, Yogi.” She loves him with Big Love, and extends the same to me and to John.
Big Love doesn’t care if I sometimes am not wise or happy, or that my hair is graying, or that I’m not always cheerful and helpful, selfless and all-nurturing–a princess. The men I’ve known and dated all cared about those things. A great deal. So did I. We all rejected me when I did not fit the bill. I have been so attached to that small love that it became an addiction and it sure cost a lot—more than I could pay.
Yesterday I got to look into a dolphin’s round, dark curious eyes–he or she let me–while sliding by sideways along the wall looking up at me.
The other day, Nancy called to see if my bronchitis was better.
Barbara brought me soup.
John (a semi-retired doctor) listened to my lungs with his stethoscope and wrote me a prescription for a better anti-biotic than the one that wasn’t working, to save me an extra trip to the doctor.
Barbara told me I should never feel I am alone because she and John consider me family.
My friend Joy wrote to say she loves my blogs and is inspired to join a Mindfulness group because of them.
Last week in the grocery store check out line, I unloaded the groceries for the older woman who sat in wheel chair with her cart full of items; her smile of gratitude was more beautiful than the fake smiles of models and movie stars on the magazine rack next to us.
I can sense and see the energy I encounter each moment without judging it as good or bad. And if sometimes I bark or am barked at, I can let go of that energy and not carry it to the next moment. No need to demand that you be a Poodle and I be a Labrador if we are both acting like crazed Chihuahuas . I can do the same for myself and others. I can swim and float in the ocean of Big Love or sink in the swamp of small love.
With mindfulness, I can tell the ocean from the swamp. Without mindfulness, I sink neck-deep into the muck and wonder why I can neither swim or float .
#39: Yogi is not a Labrador. I am not a Princess. All is well.