When the temperature drops to the 60’s in Florida, we put on our long pants to do yoga. The hardy among us remain 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. I’ve experienced many things I would’ve preferred to go my way. In fact, I get stuck sometimes in preferring that my past had not been my past. I would’ve preferred to have grown up wealthy in a less dysfunctional family with a father who thought I was his princess.. Alas…For some reason my spirit chose to inhabit this situation. So be it. And it could be so much worse, I really have no reason to complain. None. Not when I see the news of the cruelty in Syria, or the homeless on our own streets, or the black people who fear being stopped for a broken twilight that might mean their death.
I am back at Meeko’s after two days at home. The inside of my car looks like I live in it. And I sort of have been this month as I bring stuff to Meeko’s house and take stuff back, or decide I should leave some of it in the car, just in case. For example, you never know if I might need the rolled up hammock or the pint size cooler. Maybe that bag of books will come in handy. And that sweater and red skirt for when I have to teach. That means I need my textbooks too. The backseat is not a minimalists dream,
Yoga this morning on the beige cement patio behind Meeko’s house is lovely. The air is dry and cool, the sun plays with the wind to make shadows of tree leaves on the patio. Someone has a fireplace going and the scent of burning wood drifts past. I prefer this to the humid summer to come. Seldom do preferences match with what one actually prefers. This is how our minds are, usually dissatisfied.
Meeko, unlike some dogs I know, isn’t interested in my stretches or that I am at ground level. 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, however, is much more interested in flying bugs, squirrels running along the fence and humans who walk by. I read that American Eskimo dogs are bright, quick-witted, loyal and good watchdogs. Bingo. Meeko is all that. You’re more likely to catch his interest more if you are trying to break into his house. He prefers watching. Everything. 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 questioing something, 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 after yoga, 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 and birds. One picture is of an abstract pink and gray giraffe covered in purple and blue circles. A white wooden buddha, the size of a big book, sits on a table under a mirror that reflects the sky and trees outside the window on the other side of the room. I have displayed a few pictures of dogs who shared my life in the past, but not many. 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!