A Fat Collie

When and where I grew up, dogs were just dogs: brown dogs, white dogs, black dogs, black and tan dogs, etc.  The smallest were Shiba; the largest were Akita and in between there were just ordinary dogs.  Only affluent westernized families had fancy pure breeds.  There were no designer dogs, just mutts.   Some belonged to families, others just roamed around.

I adopted a large senior dog from a local Humane Society a year ago.  He had a funny face with a long muzzle.  The humane Society people told me he was a Collie mix.  All the official papers said he was a Collie mix, so I registered him as a Collie mix.

Weighing nearly 90lb he was a super obese Collie.  He was slow and low-key and walked like a sumo wrestler.  He chewed things obsessive compulsively.  He was stubborn as hell and didn’t act like Lassie at all.

“What kind of dog is he?” Since I got him  I was asked numerous times by strangers.  I say, “Mutt,” and “Do you know what kind of mix he is?” people asks.

My dog seems to have a distinct feature, which is somewhat familiar but not distinct enough for many people to put a finger on.  That makes people wonder what he is.  Eventually a consensus view emerged.

Spuds MacKengie a.k.a. Budweiser Dog on steroid.

I finally succumbed to the temptation and ordered a DNA text kit on-line.  I mailed it out expecting a “happy family”- like result: a little bit of Collie, a little bit of Pitty, maybe a German Shepard or two.

The result blew my mind.   His (probably) dad was a pure bull terrier.  His grandparents were bull terriers; his great grandparents were bull terriers.  He was half bull terrier.  The other half was ambiguous, with a miniature bull terrier and a hound in his ancestry.  There was not a drop of Collie in his gene pool!

He wasn’t an obese Collie mix.  He was a supersized bull terrier mix.   He was not fat.   He was muscular.

One day I noticed a lady staring at him.  She came up to me and asked, “Bull terrier mix?”  I said, “Yes.”  “Stubborn?” she asked.  “Yes, very” I said.  She nodded knowingly.

That made me think:

What is he?  Is he a fat lazy Collie or a muscular bull terrier?  If I didn’t know his DNA makeup, he would be still a fat Collie.  I might have put him on a weight loss program to keep him healthy.  Actually he had spent his entire life as a Collie mix with his former owner.  Or maybe he is just a heavy stubborn dog with a long muzzle.

Then what am I?  I could be fat or muscular.  I could be feminine or masculine, depending on the model the society/individual applies.  Or maybe I am just a human being with olive skin.

 

 

I will never see you again

1-IMG_0036Some occupations require us to remain on the bank and see the current of river flow. Teachers are the obvious one.  Kids come and go, come and go, never the same kid, but the life flows in front of their eyes continuously.  And the teacher him/herself never stays the same. Therapist might be another such occupation.

Whenever you are the one who remains on the bank, you will see the flow of the current.  One leaves, another comes, and leaves.  Seeing off people helps me to be aware that it was once a life time encounter with that particular person.  And it was once a life time encounter with that particular person I was.

The current of the flowing river does not cease, and yet the water is not the same water as before. The foam that floats on stagnant pools, now vanishing, now forming, never stays the same for long. So, too, it is with the people and dwellings of the world.   (Hojoki, Circa 1212)

I’ve been going to the same gym everyday for the last 2 and half years.  Trainers know me well.  It’s like a family.  I realized younger trainers were nomads. They come and they go.  I am the one who remains on the bank seeing them come and go.  It makes me feel sad when one of my favorite coaches leaves.  And I realize that I also was the one who came and went.

For the Boys

I am sad because I know I will never see you again.  I already miss you because I know I have missed the opportunity to know who you are and who you will be.

You say you might drop by when in the city.  I might happen to be there to see you coming down the stairs.

But I will never see you again in the way I see you today.

I see you moving out of the country as I did long time ago, with emotional devastation leaving behind, with anxiety and excitement in front of you.   Then, Young Man, you will be who you will be there in the land you have chosen even before I saw you for the first time.

Thinking about your youth and the path you are about to take fills my heart with a painfully raw love of life,  cruelty and grace of time, and preciousness of the moment: any single moment of my transient presence in your life.

You are not my child or my love.   You are one of the beautiful young men I happened to know.  (All young men are beautiful as all young women are.)  And I love you all as I love my child.

And I love who I was and who I could be at your age, leaving everything behind and flying out to the country to be my home.  I didn’t know I would never see her again.

Impermanence

forest

The current of the flowing river does not cease, and yet the water is not the same water as before. The foam that floats on stagnant pools, now vanishing, now forming, never stays the same for long. So, too, it is with the people and dwellings of the world.

Excerpt from Hojoki: The Ten Foot Square Hut by Kamo No Chomei.  Translated by Anthony Chambers 2007

I learned this old prose in high school in my old country.  It’s like a Shakespeare monologue.  You need to know by heart.  It’s all about Impermanence.  Impermanence was embedded in my old country’s collective unconscious.  It was a norm.   It is how it is.

Recently I was watching a kid’s educational TV program of my country.  It’s like Sesame Street, to teach children how to read, count, and have fun in the language.  And I heard kids reciting this prose.   My jaw dropped.  They teach preschool kids Impermanence?   Wow…

As born and brought up in a Buddhist culture, I’ve never questioned Impermanence.   It is how it is.  And still I often wander away, falsely believing otherwise, believing it is the same water as before.  And again the universe reminds me that I am the foam that floats on backwaters.

The truth will set us free.

Living in the Present Moment

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One’s Journey often starts before one knows it. My friend, Maria, became aware of weakness in her abdominal muscles in the summer of 2010. She didn’t know it was going to be her last summer. She was diagnosed with ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease, in December 2010. Every summer, I think about how she lived the last year of her life and contemplate on the meaning of living in the present moment.

This could be my last summer.
This could be my last August.
This could be my last sunset.
This could be my last breath.
This could be the last time to see you.
I love you all.

Join me, if you would like, to be fully present in this moment of our life, in this summer, in this August, on this day, at this time of the day… It only takes a moment. And Breathe for my friend. Thank you… I love you all.

Letting Go

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Zen people say “Let go”.  Let go of what?  So I googled the phrase “let go of” and these are the suggestions I got.

  • Let go of anger.
  • Let go of control.
  • Let go of the past.
  • Let go of your ego.

I guess in a nutshell Zen people mean letting go of attachment to anything…everything.  My ideal zen life was to be able to move at a moment notice with one suitcase.  In reality, I probably need 5 guys with a truck and a warning months in advance.

When I had a dog, my worst nightmare was suddenly dying and leaving him behind without anybody taking care of him.   My dog passed at the ripe age of 14.  When he left, I let his body go.  The body was not him.  I felt pretty zen.  I used to have two cats.  When they died at 13 and 17 respectively, I had them individually cremated and held onto the ashes for years.  I didn’t know what to do with the ashes.  So they stayed on a shelf for a long time. I’ve learned a lesson.  Ashes were not my cats.

So what will I do with my body?

In my culture, cremation is the norm.  So it’s no brainer.  Unless I specify something else in my will, my body will be cremated.  I couldn’t care less.  I will be dead by then, won’t I?

I did think of donating my body for the advancement of science every time I learned about a cool research program, such as the forensic anthropology program at UT (University of Tennessee, I guess) aka the Body Farm.   I read a book by Mary Roach, Stiff, and learned that donated cadavers could be utilized for unimaginable variety of scientific and educational purposes.   I didn’t feel comfortable with many of them.

My gross anatomy teacher said that he often received inquiries from his dissection workshop participants for donating their body for his program.   He explained that logistically it was nearly impossible.  He advises them to donate through the local university’s program instead.

“But you can’t spefify how it is used, can you?”  a student asked.

“No, you can’t.  What do you care.  You are dead.  Let it go,” my teacher said.

It was the “Aha” moment.  Let go of control, let go of your ego, let go of the past, and let go of your body…

 

I admit I am not zen enough to let go of the idea of the ownership of my body after death.   Are you?

Another issue to contemplate.

 

 

 

Skeleton Meditation

I don’t sit and meditate.  I have a monkey mind some might call ADD.  My friends with monkey minds don’t sit and meditate.  Some bike, others run.  One non-moving meditation I actually liked and practiced for a while is Skeleton Meditation.  I don’t remember where it came from.  Probably Tibet or somewhere in Asia.  I’ve read or heard about it and just liked it.

In Skeleton Meditation, I lay down as a corpse (Shavasana if you are yoga person) and observe my body decompose layer by layer, muscle by muscle, till my form becomes a skeleton.  It was peaceful experience.  I liked my clean dry white skeleton on the ground.  Then I imagine a bamboo shoot coming through my eye socket, reaching up and up to the sky.  And I fell asleep peacefully.

There was one major problem for me with this meditation.  At that time I didn’t have much awareness of my own body.  My perception about my body was something like a gingerbread man.  So the entire process to become a skeleton took only a few minutes.  Poof, my leg muscles were gone.

If you are fully plugged into your body, this meditation could take at least hours, maybe years.  This is an ultimate “let it go” meditation.  Then you may let the skeleton go, too. Or you may reconstruct a new body from the skeleton, adding layer by layer.

After decades of training of one kind or another, the latest of which is a full body dissection workshop, I’m much more plugged in.  Tonight, I might be able to meditate for maybe 10 minutes…

Have a happy meditation.

Teacher

We don’t have to go and look for teachers.  Open your heart and you will find yours walking with you.

 

Snow

An old dog and his old human, supporting each other.

Our footsteps have merged on the snow-covered path,

In the winter of our life.

He still teaches me how to walk the life,

As he has been doing so since he greeted me in his full youth

With his shiny black muzzle, now gray.

He loves snow, and this could be his last.


It’s important to have teachers when you are searching for your path, just as it’s handy to have a trail map when you are trekking an unfamiliar territory.   Some people look for THE teacher.  I don’t have THE teacher.  Many teachers guided me to be here and now.   Anybody who teaches me what I didn’t even know I needed to learn is my teacher and I appreciate and respect them.  My teachers include my martial art instructor, my therapists, my acting teacher, my dog, my trainer, my yoga teacher, and go on and on and on.  Yes, you could be my teacher one day and I’m looking forward to learning from you. A teacher does not necessarily give me an answer. My teacher said, “I learn in order to ask better questions.”

I learn in order to ask better questions. ~Gil Hedley

 

Emptying

Bowl

A man had contracted a then incurable disease and set out for a journey to find a cure. He traveled all over the Western world to find a medical doctor who could cure him. When he realized that nobody could, he started to knock on the doors of philosophers and great thinkers of the West to find out the meaning of the life. Nobody could give him THE answer.

Eventually the illness wasted him and he decided to go home to die. On his way back he met a yogi on board. The yogi said, “Follow me if you want the answer.” He followed the yogi to India without even asking where.
The man waited for the yogi to teach him the meaning of life day after day. Two months passed in vain. Finally, one day he walked up to the yogi and asked, “When do you teach me?”

The yogi answered, “I’ve been ready since the day we arrived here, and waiting for you to be ready day after day.” The man did not understand, since he was eager to learn from the first day.

Then, the yogi told the man to fill a bowl with cold water and bring it to him. He did. Then the yogi told him to pour hot water in the bowl. The man objected, “Any man from civilized world should know if you pour hot water in a bowl filled with cold water, it will overflow.”

The yogi said, “Now, you understand what I mean.”

I try to keep my bowl empty.  Will you?

You can find the original story in 天空先生座談 by  宇野千代

People love to teach what they think they know.  When somebody start to teach what they know and what I don’t know, I listen.  Free pearls to pick up.  I appreciate and take some with me.  I hold it dear till they become part of me.  A good teacher gives only what I could take.

Some have asked me to teach.  When I teach, many start to teach back to show what they think they know.  They are not ready to learn.  I stop teaching.  They don’t get pearls.

About the photo: Taken at Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

Zen of Cherry Blossom

The falling cherry blossoms,

The remaining cherry blossoms are also

The cherry blossoms to fall.

 Haiku by Ryokan Osho

Every year I think this might be the last time to see the cherry blossoms fall.  This particular type of cherry trees only blossom for a week in the spring.  They open and will be gone in a week. If you miss it, you won’t see it till the next year.  And who could be sure that you will be there to see the cherry blossom fall next year.

So I breathe in the almost colorless color of petals, listen to the sound of silently falling petals, and watch the air tinted with millions of white grey pink petals.

This could be the last time.

It’s about

Mortality.

impermanence.

The transient nature of our existence.

That’s exactly why it’s precious.

Love and appreciate your life now.  It could be the last time you see it.

The dog enjoyed the spring day with his full existence.  He is not with us anymore.