When the temperature drops to the 60’s in Florida, we put on our long pants to do yoga. The hardy among us remains barefooted. I prefer this weather to the humid summer to come.
My Buddhism teacher has said that preferences are a cause of suffering. I believe him. Many things don’t go my way and I don’t like it.
I often dog sit and I am back with Meeko, the American Eskimo dog. The inside of my car looks like I live in it. I bring stuff to Meeko’s house and take stuff back, the same with three other dogs I care for in their homes. Consequently, I leave stuff in the car between dog visits. You never know if I might need the rolled up hammock or the pint-size cooler. And that sweater and red skirt for when I have to teach. A fleece remains in the back seat because some dog owners like the AC turned up to frigid. I need my textbooks too; my other job is as an adjunct instructor of writing. Let’s just say, the backseat is not a minimalists dream, and I would prefer it did.
When I dog sit, I gravitate to whatever outdoor areas of the property. It’s another preference. This is why I do my yoga this morning on the beige cement patio behind Meeko’s house. The air is dry and cool, the sun plays with the wind, makes shadows of tree leaves on the patio. The scent of burning wood drifts past since it is cool enough for fireplaces. I feel satisfied because things are as I prefer them to be. For now. Herein lies the problem: I am not suffering because I have my way, but as soon as I don’t…It’s human nature. Notice I say, human, not Buddha nature. I am told we all have Buddha nature but most of us are not aware of it. I’m trying to find it in myself because I would like to live in a preference-free zone. It’s unlikely I ever will, but it’s a better goal than trying to lose ten pounds.
I’ve noticed the preferences of the dogs I’ve met. Although, in the case of dogs, preferences are not of the ego, like ours; they seem more breed-driven. Meeko, unlike some dogs, isn’t interested in the fact that I am at ground level as I do yoga on a mat. Other dogs would immediately pounce on my chest to join in the game, or crawl under the bridge I make with downward dog pose. At those times, I usually give up the yoga “game” much to their disappointment. Meeko is much more interested in flying bugs, squirrels running along the fence and humans who dare walk by and have the nerve to walk with a dog. Meeko goes ballistic with squirrels and other moving things. I read that American Eskimo dogs are bright, quick-witted, loyal and good watchdogs. Bingo. he is all that. You’ll catch his full attention if you try to break into his house. Meeko watches more than other dogs. He watches everything, all the time. His bright dark eyes are only heavy-lidded after a day of watching. His upright ears, like a little fox’s, lie back only when he is puzzled, like when I tell him he can’t just stand on my stomach as long as he wants.
When I sit to meditate on the mat, he comes over for some petting. I use this moment to be mindful of his soft, snowy white fur. It’s part of my meditation. My preference might be to be uninterrupted, but when I dog sit, I let go of preferences like that. I can’t explain “later” to a dog.
I’m thinking about preferences today. Meeko’s versus other dogs. Mine, versus other people’s. It’s easy to notice someone’s preferences when you come to their homes. For example, Meeko’s mom doesn’t use the back patio and may be surprised that I spend time in an area she considers Meeko’s bathroom. She is more of an indoor person than I. But the area is big enough that, fortunately, I’m not aware of any unpleasant smells.
If you were to dog sit at my apartment you would see pictures of the outdoors, mostly scenes of water, trees, and birds. A white wooden Buddha, the size of a big book, sits on a table under a mirror. There are a few pictures of dogs who shared my life. One is a myself with my arms around a friend’s grandkids who became my pals. Another is me at age six holding a little blonde boy’s hand another is of my brother with my dog, Yogi, taken at a scenic spot of a mountain near Asheville, North Carolina. I was still youngish (early 50’s) and cuter than I realized. If you looked at the pictures and photos you would notice though that I’m single and have more luck with dogs than men. Also, I don’t care to have many photos of my dog family or friends and family. The past only makes me sad because the good times are gone. I spend too much time in the past as it is. Buddhism teaches me to stay in the present and when I do, it’s better for me.
Others people I dog sit for prefer photos of their families everywhere in their homes. On each wall, several on tables in each room. In one family everybody just got married by the looks of the various wedding photos. Their families are the center of their lives, as animals, nature and Buddhism are to mine. Just preferences. Yet we base our identities upon them. Meeko prefers to watch; Brutus prefers bouncing small balls off his nose or standing in water; Paco needs to be on someone’s lap as often as possible, Snickers loves to chew things to smithereens. Preferences. My old boyfriends preferred blondes or long, dark straight hair when I had neither. Sometimes we think we can make an outdoors person into an indoors person. I wanted sober. He wanted drunk. He wanted perfection. I wanted acceptance. He wanted to be taken care of. I didn’t want to be his mother. That kind of thing.
You say potato, I say tomato. This often makes people part and dogs put up for adoption. I have been more accepting of my dog’s preferences than of my old boyfriends. It’s one of the reasons I’m single, I’m afraid. I was never able to be an outside person with an indoor person. And the guys I was with had the same problem.
I admire those of you who have the kind of love that allows you each your preferences enough to stick with it and through it. May you continue to be so blessed!