Puppy Tara’s Lessons on How to Love My Animal Body

Puppy Tara’s Lessons on How to Love My Animal Body

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

From “WILD GEESE” by Mary Oliver

My most potent Teacher, for the past two+ years, has been our Golden Retriever, Tara. Never in my life have I had such discretionary time to bond with a dog, to study and appreciate her habits, and observe the ways she interacts with her world. What a blessing it has been!

Her name inspired by the Tibetan Goddess–The White Tara–this lovely canine is, indeed, my Bodhisattva. Tara began to teach me, from the moment her 8 week old, puppy paws padded in through our door.

While planning to bring a pup into our home (we were dog-less for almost 2 years), I never imagined the immediate therapy factor of Tara. I’d been on a long quest for wellness with little progress, yet keeping the faith for some semblance of recovery from life-limiting, chronic health challenges. I didn’t anticipate how her presence would permeate my Being with healing, enlivening JOY! Nor, how she would teach me, by example, a more loving relationship with my Animal Body.

Tara down dog 1_2From her first days at home with us, I was mesmerized by Tara’s long, luxurious stretches, each time she got up from sleeping. First, raising her head and neck, then totally lowering the back part of her body, to stretch out her back legs and lower spine. Next, taking the movement forward, a delicious downward-dog type stretch of front legs and shoulders. Observing Tara’s ritual was a giant wake-up call: OMG, this is what an animal body needs…what MY animal body needs! When did I stop following this basic animal instinct?

Tara lives in the moment. She pays attention to whatever is here–now. I watch as she makes her first morning trip outside. She raises her nose high in the air. Subtle nose twitches coincide with little puffs of her cheeks. The vast olfactory universe, it’s hers to discern and enjoy. With all of her animal intelligences–more than I’ll ever comprehend–she’s singularly present. And a thousand-thousand other moments of Tara noticing what’s right here. That’s how she, and her Animal Brethren, are wired. With wonder and deep appreciation, I’m reminded to embody the present moment.

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Tara is a goddess of play. Not just on official play-dates with her canine pack, but anytime she’s awake and feels like playing. She goes to her basket, selects a toy, and brings it to one of us with an irresistible, “let’s go” expression. There couldn’t be a clearer communication of desire. Delighting in her spontaneity, I say “YES!” to mine. More play, more giggles, yes please!

 

And the countless naps! Quiet naps. Soft-snoring naps. Eye-lids dancing, tail wagging, little yips while dreaming naps. First, she chooses the right spot to curl up or to spread full out, having many “right” spots. Near the front door, she pulls a shoe over, close to her nose. Not chewing (thanks to a wonderful trainer, we made it largely unscathed through the puppy-chew stage), just having the familiar, human pack member scent  in her nose as she sleeps. Whatever brings canine comfort, Tara knows how to find it.

Witnessing Tara has helped me notice how often I ignore my body. Long stints at my art table–where I loose myself in creative play–I forget to get up and stretch, drink water, or eat. Same, when I’m writing at the computer. For sure, the result for me is exhaustion. There’s a better way…Tara’s way.

More and more, I’m following Tara’s example to:
Live in the moment.
Notice what’s right in front of me.
Tune-in to my body.
Eat. Play. Love. Nap. And repeat.

I am practicing this exquisite way of Being.  My Animal Body loves it! Also, my Mind, my Psyche, my Soul!

A magazine articlemeo/Tara yoga crop about the animal-human connection crossed my door this morning. The headlines: “We may be their caretakers, but they take care of us too, inspiring us to be our better selves.” To this I say a reverential, Amen!

Beautiful Bodhisattva Tara…Namaste.

HAH! Appearing now, under my computer desk: sparkling eyes and squeeky toy. Playtime! [Note to Dear Reader: This is happening during my edit process, a slippery slope into body-forgetfulness. Dogs are mind-readers, aren’t they?]

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Words as a Bridge, Heart to Heart

Seen&BeSeen

Trying to figure out how to re-enter, after five years away from blogging, has been like sitting on my favorite, pastel painted merry-go-round horse, watching the world of inspirations go by. The inspirations appear, and I respond: “This is the one I want to share as my opening post.” I hesitate, deliberate, calculate…and, whoosh! The ripe, juicy moment is gone.

I’ve been digging for clarity about what holds me back. First, it’s the old, protective pattern of hiding…the fear of visibility. One antidote is releasing habits of perfectionism, a pilgrimage of purpose and commitment for more than a decade.

I remember a long distance phone conversation with my dear friend, Brian, in 2004. I was in Michigan, trying to figure out how to give my frail Mom her last big dream. She had made the courageous decision to leave her North Woods home of 40 years, and wanted to live her last months of life close to my sister and me in California. Brian had manifested a similar, long distance move with his Mom. Brian was THE how-to guru and guide, answer to a prayer.

Feeling overwhelming vulnerability, I blurted out, “Brian, I just want to be perfect!” Without skipping a beat, he replied, “Meo, you will never be perfect. But you can aim for Excellence.”

Crisis is a time of initiation. Mine, with my Mom, created fertile soil for the seed of Brian’s wisdom to take hold in my Soul. Happily, my relationship with Excellence continues to grow; while perfectionism–and her cohort, comparing myself to others—diminishes.

Yet, there is much tension around communicating with words. I experience myself as a delayed processor. Often, when I speak or write, my gut responds, “But that isn’t it!” Or, “It’s that, AND much more!” An all over yucky feeling comes over me–wanting to say what IS but not quite making it there. It can lead to endless rehearsing and editing. Meanwhile, the wheel keeps turning, and the magical moment flies by.

"Whatever we allow ourselves to be present to (while allowing ourselves to be witnessed and held) that thing will open up and shift..." ~Laura Hansen, Art & Soul

“Whatever we allow ourselves to be present to (while allowing ourselves to be witnessed and held) that thing will open up and shift…” ~Laura Hansen, Art & Soul

I recently asked a wise teacher, Patrick O’Neill, for help on this issue. I am part of a program Patrick is leading, The Four Directions. It’s compelling work, providing me with cross-cultural tools, designed to support full engagement in personal, work, and community life.*

Patrick reminded me: By using our words, we create bridges. “We are all delayed processors,” he said, and suggested a question: “Can I let my words be a test flight?” Rather than holding back in fear that I will miss the mark, speak into what has heart and meaning. Further, Patrick asked, “Can I be like the toddler?” She takes her first step. She stops, weaves back and forth a bit, to find her equilibrium. Then, takes her next step…and the next.

Test flight brings me to frontiers of myself that I yearn to explore and expand. So it is, I am riding the wheel of a beautiful merry-go-round, reaching for the golden ring. The prize is taking this first step…my life affirming action for today.

*Click here to learn more about Patrick O’Neill and The Four Directions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saying Good-By to a Tree

Trees touch my soul.  I experience them as sisters and brothers.

The decision to cut down a tree is an agony, regardless of any imperative like the one we faced in our front yard. Invasive ficus tree roots threatened our house foundation.  When we planted this ficus, 15 years ago, we were shortsighted and uninformed.

Like all my other tree relatives, I loved this one.  Her shimmering canopy of year-round green filled my peripheral vision, as I work at my desk. It blocked my view of a large lamppost, muffled the traffic noise, and saved us from incalculable amounts of traffic grime.

Last week, the day before the tree guys were scheduled to cut down our ficus and grind her stump, I created a simple ceremony to help me say good-by.

Dressing the tree with flowers and fabric
helped me feel connected, claim responsibility,
express gratitude, and prepare for the loss.

In due time, with an arborist’s input and
careful discernment, we’ll plant another tree.
The mulch from grinding our ficus stump and
surface roots will nourish the new tree–beauty
to beauty.

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Crossroads and Passages, Potent Possibilities for Transformation

My own journey, during the past 10 years, is filled with enormous change, mystery, and paradox. The outer world events include: leaving my 30-year career in public education, creating the new work of my dreams; supporting three beloved women through many phases of transition–my Mom, my Sister, and my husband’s Mom–and the incredible gift of being a sacred witness to each as she left her body.

These years of crossroads and passage are permeated by the tension of not knowing how events would unfold. I’ve learned about surrender and keeping the faith.

Mom Helen: She Who Walks In Beauty

Mom Helen: She Who Walks in Beauty

Six months after launching my first expressions of new work with sacred space (and the Universe responding Yes!), I was catapulted into a long dark night of the soul, advocate and decision-making partner for my Mom’s care. In due course, it was an eight-month process. But, when I arrived at her hospital bedside that chilling December afternoon in northern Michigan—2500 miles from my home–her death seemed imminent.

When I realized the depth of the unknown in the scenario with Mom, a tantrum-like inner child voice, complained: But, this isn’t what you planned to be doing now! You’ve just launched your new work!

Meo Collage: Wise Woman Within

Meo Collage: Wise Woman Within

My wise inner guide responded: Whatever you are doing right now with Mom, THIS IS your work. Be not afraid.

I couldn’t see it then, but I get it now. The inner guidance–THIS IS your work–was literal to my role with Mom. It also foreshadowed my future in ways I never imagined.

While navigating the deep and wide rivers of change and loss—finding ways to nurture my soul and remain present to my inner journey–I was crafting templates and tools, and gathering wisdom, for what has become my work in the world.

Crossroads and passages are a process–not a destination–with the potency, poignancy, and possibility of a sacred journey.

Meo collage: She Who Dances on the Edge of Darkness and Light

Meo collage: She Who Dances on the Edge of Darkness and Light

The past decade has given me astonishing opportunities to…

… stop pushing myself and learn to follow what pulls me,

… establish relationship with the unknown,

… know grief and trust myself in its depths,

… ask for help and embrace my worthiness to receive it,

… extend the reach of my allegiance to Beauty as a healing grace,

… act boldly on the belief that my unique gifts are exactly what the world needs now.

Wherever you are in your own sacred journey, blessings, ease, and grace to you!

With gratitude, Meo