Desperate times call for ... Buddhism! Or, at least reading about it, if the number various Buddhism-for-beginners books foisted upon me over the past tumultuous year or so is any indication.
In an attempt to not go completely bat-shit crazy, I took the advice of my friends, family and therapists (I enlisted a small army) and began reading books like The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari; Buddhism Plain and Simple; Buddhism Is Not What You Think (being that I’d never thought about it before, how could it be?); No Death, No Fear; The Wisdom of No Escape; and, yes, The Power of Now. I even made a pilgrimage, for a day, to a Buddhist temple in South Los Angeles, where I managed to start a near-riot between some of the students, a good deal of whom were therapists themselves, and the head guy — I forget what he’s called — when I asked his opinion of psychology, which wasn’t very high.
Most of the books were full of theories and wisdom that didn’t seem to apply to me. But one of them, I think it might have been The Power of Now, suggested I look at my dog as an exemplar of, well, the power of being in the now. As I lay in bed contemplating this, the idea started to make sense. My dog, Willa, doesn’t seem to worry too much about the future, and certainly isn’t hung up on the past. I resolved to carefully observe her the next morning.
When I woke up, Willa greeted me as usual — like I was Santa on Christmas morning. She flopped on her back and offered me her underside for a ritual in which I scratch her belly and she pretends to be riding a bike. This lasted for about a minute before she started licking her private parts in earnest.
Hmm. Is there a lesson there?
Then, as a trash truck drove by, she jumped up, doing her best to attack the truck through the window.
Okay, that’s understandable, I guess. Willa is afraid of her own shadow, but she has no compunctions about taking on a 10-ton truck.
Next, I loaded her into my Jeep for our daily hike in Elysian Park. The entire ride there, she barked at and lunged after every passing vehicle, trash can, house and other mysterious threats that were not discernible to the human eye as if our lives depended on it.
I started to have my doubts.
Once we got to Elysian Park, Willa bounded out of the car and disappeared into a grotto of trees. Ah, I thought, this is more like it. Look at how connected with nature she is. How present in the moment.
When she returned, she was covered in shit.
There was nothing to do about it then, so we walked on. As we went further into nature, I watched how Willa stopped to sniff the flowers and bushes ... and then peed on them. Walking along the path, she greeted every dog and hiker we passed — either with her teeth gnashed and hair raised, or with her nose up someone’s butt.
Hmm ... is this the lesson I’ve been waiting to receive?
Driving back, she remained vigilant, warding off imaginary threats with head-splitting vigor the whole way home. Back at the house, she went straight to her water dish, slopped it all over the place, tracked muddy paw prints across the floor, jumped up on the couch and looked at me pleadingly. Then, she started licking her ass.