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I’m sorry, dear reader.  This is not a post I want to write, but it is one that needs to be written so my heart doesn’t close against this hurt. Just pass it over or bear it along with me.

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Nilla Bean, December 26, 2011-October 31, 2012

Nilla Bean filled our lives for nine months with her brilliant puppy light and boisterous spirit.    She was a force of nature with exactly two settings: BOUNDING JOY or asleep. She welcomed every guest in our home with a two paw greeting, manic kisses, and often a little piddle on the shoes because she just couldn’t keep all the excitement contained.

She loved to chase cats, balls, and children around the house and yard.  The more noise these things made, the better. If something else wasn’t making a racket, then surely she needed to be. She learned to bark and growl menacingly from a German Shephard at the park.  Whenever she spied Nickel the Barn Cat in the garden, she would stand at the bedroom window and use her “Big Dog” bark to complain about it. She also used her Big Dog bark whenever she went to the vet to show the other dogs who was boss. Every morning her “big ole tail” pounded out a tattoo on the floor, the bed post, the wall.  Then she would get all chatty, going on and on about it all in this prolonged grumbly-howl-chewy-bark-sneeze sort of way that always made us laugh, no matter how many times we heard it.

She loved rides and I loved watching her ears sail on the breeze.

Nilla Bean was a beautiful girl, brimming with enthusiasm, vitality, and joy. Her short life reminded us to love with wild abandon, to celebrate life, to enjoy every moment, and to take joy rides with the windows down.

The passing of her sweet spirit is deeply felt. She will be greatly missed.

~~*~~

He is my other eyes that can see above the clouds; my other ears that hear above the winds. He is the part of me that can reach out into the sea. He has told me a thousand times over that I am his reason for being; by the way he rests against my leg; by the way he thumps his tail at my smallest smile; by the way he shows his hurt when I leave without taking him. (I think it makes him sick with worry when he is not along to care for me.)

When I am wrong, he is delighted to forgive. When I am angry, he clowns to make me smile. When I am happy, he is joy  unbounded.  When I am a fool, he ignores it. When I succeed, he brags.  Without him, I am only another man. With him, I am all-powerful. He is loyalty itself. He has taught me the meaning of devotion. With him, I know a secret comfort and a private peace. He has brought me understanding where before I was ignorant. His head on my knee can heal my human hurts. His presence by my side is protection against my fears of dark and unknown things. He has promised to wait for me… whenever… wherever – in case I need him. And I expect I will – as I always have. He is just my dog.

 —Gene Hill

RIP Miss Beans

Iris, Memphis Botanical Gardens

To be free to be happy and fruitful can only be attained through sacrifice of many common, but overestimated things.

–Robert Henry

~~*~~

It is morning lecture, and I have momentarily tuned out Yogi Hari. The dawning sun has reminded me of our sunrise meditation earlier in the week and I have drifted back to the memory…

A pink-orange haze spreads across the horizon as the sun struggles to break the night’s hold. The black ocean gleams with quicksilver waves that roil and churn before erupting in sporadic grey crests. Warm air pushed by the sea breeze sends tendrils of wind-damp hair to lift and tangle in my face. Cool, wet sand crunches underfoot.  A large creature – more shadow than seabird – glides by overhead…

“Do not be attached to results.”

Yogi Hari’s words penetrate my beachy reverie and snap me back to the present. He has my full attention now.

In my “real” life of non-ashram, non-coastal living I inhabit a world dominated by results.  The importance of quantifying results has been drilled into my head through all levels of my training – student, researcher, professor, and clinician. In fact, I was recently told by a professional mentor, “It doesn’t matter how hard you try. It matters what results you produce.”

Best efforts don’t count; results do.  Introduction, Methods, Results, Conclusions – that is the natural order of things.  Across the grid — standardized tests, student evaluations, experiments, treatments, diagnostic evaluations, the department’s reviews — results matter. Results of the GRE determine whether you get into graduate school. School funding is based on student test results. Careers rise or fall depending on these outcomes.  Clients pay for results, not your intentions.

Yogi Hari talks on, “….the great Masters inspire us to focus all our attention on performing our duty selflessly without constantly being obsessed with the results.”

I am confounded. How can duty be detached from results? If results are so important, how can I possibly avoid obsessing over them?   And besides all that, what’s wrong with obsessing?  I’m really good at it.

Letting go, renunciation, nonattachment- the practice goes by the term vairagya in the Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali.  Sacrifice. There is a negative connotation about that word, especially in a culture that suggests you need more, not less.  And nonattachment?  Isn’t attachment a healthy thing? Aren’t we supposed to be doing all sorts of connecting?

Oh, so much to learn, Little Grasshopper!

The last year of my life has been a study in letting go.  Some sacrifices were made silently. Other sacrifices, like releasing my inner carnivore, were made publically and deliberately.  Giving up meat was a change that alternately annoyed and mystified me as well as some of the people around me.  I’ve blogged a lot about the experience as a way to stay committed to the decision and as a way to try to explain a lot of it to myself.  I recognize now the dietary change was largely a symbolic gesture.  I gave up something I could see, taste, touch, smell, and hear — a life that my body literally consumed – as a daily physical reminder of the numerous intangible sacrifices that remained ahead on a more personal level.

There is always something to grasp at – money, love, youth, relationships, knowledge, control, anger, happiness, social status, safety, beliefs, results.  None of these things define one’s essence. Still, there can be a feeling of loss when your hold on them is released.  And even the feeling of loss can be something to hang on to in the choppy seas of uncertainty. But loss is just another feeling.  Feelings come; they go. The tide rolls in and out. You can flail and reach for the flotsam and jetsam or take a deep breath, relax and roll on a bit lighter to the destination.

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