or Dogs of War, or Who Let the Dogs Out??
I can’t decide on a title for this post. Blame it on the dogs. All of them.
I am not a planner. I’ve talked about that before. When I have to teach a yoga class I can’t really make a plan because I never know who will show up, what their practice is like, what injuries or limitations they might have. But I do try to make a loose plan. Usually when I’m in the car on the way there.
Yesterday I was driving to teach and I was trying to come up with some ideas. What poses would we do? What part of the body would I concentrate on? What was my theme going to be? I started going through a flow of poses in my mind and then I started to get involved with the song on the radio. “Your dreamworld is just about to end” Wow. Midnight Oil. I used to love them. What ever happened to them? I haven’t heard this song in years. The last time I heard it I was at the…
Stop it! I have to plan my class!
I turned the radio off, and brought myself back. Back to the poses. I’ll do warmups and then we’ll do some sun salutes. Sun salutes. Sunshine. Sunny day. Look where the sun is now. It will be dark before 5:00 today. I hate daylight savings.
Stop it… Plan the class!
I can’t plan. You know that. It’s the puppy mind.
I think Stephen Cope may have coined the phrase ‘puppy mind’, but I’m not sure. It’s often used in yoga circles, just like the monkey mind is.
Driving along, I started a conversation in my head about how my brain is a puppy. I imagine a cartoon brain. It has little legs and a dopey smiley face. Its tongue sticking out, panting as it jumps around. It wants to run here and there. It talks at a frantic pace. I wanna go look at that thing over there. I wanna smell that?! What is that? Who is that? I know that smell? Let me pee on this.
I have my puppy on a long leash and I keep trying to pull him back. Come back to what we were doing. Get back to what we were thinking. Concentrate on this right here right now. Weren’t we planning a class?
My mind tries to make me believe that I am already concentrating. It is concentrating on the idea of a puppy-cartoon-brain. Isn’t that concentration? One pointed focus? This is a clever trick, distracting me from the task at hand. My brain thinks it is already working. Working like a dog.
I have realized that for me the image of a puppy mind is wrong. My mind is more like a cartoon drawing of a brain-shaped dog crate. The crate is filled with an entire litter of puppy-brains. 101 freakin’ dalmatians. And while it may be a challenge to train one puppy, it is damn near impossible to train an entire litter at the same time.
Even as I am writing this blog all of the other dogs are out and about.
One of my puppies is sitting up at the top of the stairs. She is listening to Shannon and her friend as they play in the bedroom. Curiously tilting her head and lifting one ear. What are they doing? What was that noise? What is so funny in there?
Another puppy is sitting at a turntable in my head playing the song “How Much is That Doggy in the Window?” He has his paw ready to pick the needle up and put it right back to the groove at the beginning of the chorus every thirty seconds or so. Over and over and over. The one with the wag-gely tail...
There is another puppy at the dining room table writing a completely different blog post on his PC. This post begins: Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is Pharrell Williams’ real skincare secrets. And a lifetime supply of beer. And chocolate. And Snausages.
There is one puppy running around in circles, breathing heavily and saying some words that make no sense at all. I think he’s trying to get me up off the couch so I will go outside and run circles around the yard. He is obviously the one that is most effected by my caffeine intake. He really needs to chill right about now.
There are several others, sitting by, tails wagging, ready to pounce on the next thought that passes by the crate. Mine, mine, mine! That one’s mine. I’m gonna run with that one!
It is my job to round these brain-puppies up, put them all in the crate, and get them to take a nap. At the same time. Preferably without excessive amounts of alcohol or Xanax or acepromazine.
But how can I stop my mind from thinking? How can I be still, really still? I’ve been working on this for a long time now. When I took my very first yoga class I couldn’t sit still for thirty seconds, and my puppies were yelping and howling.
And now, years later, I can proudly say that I have moments of complete stillness. Moments when my mind is totally empty.
But wait. The word moments makes it sound like minutes. And I’m not talking about minutes. I’m talking about seconds. Seconds when all of a sudden I realize: Holy shit. I wasn’t thinking anything at all just then! The puppies were all sleeping at once! Woo hoo!
And of course, all of the excitement wakes the dogs up. I haven’t yet learned how to let sleeping dogs lie.
Maybe that should be the title. Sleeping Dogs Lie. Because they do.
If you want to quiet the dogs, try this simple (hard as hell) meditation.
Close your eyes (after you read this all) and start to take deep breaths in and out of your nose.
Count your breaths in your mind. Try not to think about anything else but the breath and the countdown. Inhale 99, exhale 99. Inhale 98, exhale 98. Inhale 97, exhale 97.And so on and so on.
See how far you get before other thoughts creep in, but keep counting. Even with another thought, you can still keep your count. A couple of other puppies might get out of the cage. One might be a song. One might be a to-do list. Ignore them, let them go, just keep your count.
When you realize you have lost count, and you certainly will, simply start again. No judgment. See how far you get this time. Then try again tomorrow. And the next day.
The goal might be to get to zero some day without any puppy interruptions. But there are so many other goals that can be achieved along the way. Yours will be unique to your dog crate.
Pick an earworm. They are all playing in my head at the same time….