A number of years ago Yogi, my Sharpie-mix, died of an incurable kidney disease, then another dog I adopted died of another incurable disease a year later. Most recently, a college died from an aggressive brain tumor. I too am of the age when I am closer to the end of my life than I’ve ever been. Aging requires acceptance, over and over. So does youth, but it’s easier and even applauded to resist acceptance in youth. That is also why being young is difficult.

Now what? The sand is shifting beneath my feet. What some refer to as “ego”—-my conditioned self—- wants to suffer and cling to stories of regret and loss. My ego is the holder of memories. Its memories are vivid. It constructed its identity from messages heard in childhood and sometimes asserts itself in my adulthood. This ego/identity needs people, places, and things as it wants them, or it suffers. Since life is seldom as I want it to be, my ego has had plenty of opportunities to suffer. 

I was reading the section in my book (Walks with Yogi)that talked about the time Yogi was diagnosed several years ago. Here is what I wrote:

Yogi may have six months or perhaps several more years to live, but he is dying. I laid down on the bed next to Yogi and listened to a recording of Ram Dass who, with much physical and mental effort, was being interviewed about how he was coping after his stroke. I listened, my hand on Yogi’s warm, smooth belly. Ram Das told the interviewer that his body had a stroke but who he really is did not.

Yogi woke me twice in the middle of the night. He has to pee often now. I stumble down the three flights of stairs and onto the street with him again. This is now. This requires acceptance, not resistance. Because it is now reality. What of it? This is sand shifting as it always does.  

Since my ego lives in the past and future only, when I enter the present moment I finally feel the feelings ego wants to avoid—sorrow, love, compassion. I see what is in front of me, not behind me or in some future. I see Yogi’s patient acceptance of things as they are. I practice emulating his fully present, fully alive example. Yesterday I invited friends, those whom I had told about Yogi illness, to have a picnic dinner with me at the beach. Ego would prefer to spend more time suffering, but the real me chose to live fully, besides, dogs sense and respond to depression and worry. My depression and worry should not be Yogi’s problem.

The sky was overcast and we took shelter behind a large rock resting our backs against its comforting heft. We toasted Yogi. The sun came out for a while before it set and we watched with pleasure. Two dolphins rose and dropped behind the waves in the distance. I became so filled with the beauty of the present moment with the power of being accepting of impermanence that I felt compelled to run down the beach. I know that is what Yogi would have done.

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