He is a true Bodhisattva.
Many of you can say the same thing about your dog, perhaps even about your cat, though cats seem to be a bit moodier, perhaps like Bodhidharma facing his cave wall for 9 years.
Sometimes I feel as if it's necessary to cut my arm off and gush blood to get my cat's loving attention, as the 2nd Patriach of Zen willingly did for the 1st!
But I digress....
These days, our world in South Central PA is a sodden, water logged lake. After a solid week of relentless downpours, sprinkles, mists, and all varieties of how rain can be, the world feels like a big soggy sponge. Even the sidewalks feel spongy.
Waiting for us on one corner yesterday, waiting in the gentle rain, was an ancient man, considering a puddle that he just couldn't walk around. He would have to go through, but that meant very wet shoes. It appeared to be an epic moment.
When we came upon him, the old man smiled a toothless smile and pointed to the sky, laughing.
My dog Skye took this as the cue to really say hello, and he dragged me closer.
But I was slightly afraid of this man--was he drunk, lost, demented?
Meanwhile, this old man, easily no more than 90 pounds, tottered on the sidewalk and called out softly and lovingly, "Lassie, Lassie!"
I was instantly ashamed of myself.
They greeted one another like long lost friends. This is how Skye greets everyone.
After a few moments, I left the man still contemplating the giant puddle, and we continued on our walk, and the rain came down in sheets. When I looked back, the man was still in place.
All week, we've dodged rain drops to continue the dog's 2-walks-day routine, because this is how he checks out his hood, this is how he gets exercise, and truly, this is where he ministers to those who need his calm, sweet abiding!
We find these folks on every street corner, on every stoop. And I never forget that the one who walks him needs him just as much!
Several days ago we met Bob, a middle aged man in a motorized wheel chair. As he approached us, Skye barked a little, because to him, anything on wheels is an "Urban Sheep"....that Collie brain is thinking, "Must herd!"
Bob stopped and Skye went right over to burry his head in a convenient lap, without hesitation, without judgement, without a care, No Holding Back, and you should have seen the smile on Bob's face as he dug his hands into Skye's fur...pure heaven!
A young mother with her son in a stroller stopped too, and we all had a talk about our pets, present and past, and how we adore them. The young mother is a resident of Safe Harbor House, a short term residency for families transitioning from homeless to home, and I know pets aren't allowed there.
While her son tried his fire hat on Skye, she told me about her 12 year old cat who couldn't live with her any more, and how much she missed him.
She said, "I've tried to teach my son how to treat animals, because he's crazy in love with them, and I want him to be kind."
She had clearly taken the time to teach her son how to be gentle and not to be afraid. What a gift! I could only imagine this would be a teaching he could confidently take into his world as he matured and faced his own life of joys and struggles.
Bob, who has been living on the street for some time, showed us photographs on his cell phone of his old dog, long dead. Keeping an animal while being a street dweller is also next to impossible.
Another couple stopped with their puppy, and before I knew it, there were 6 of us blocking the sidewalk, just chillin and conversing, and it struck me that the chances were very slim that we would all be together again, enjoying one another and trading stories. It was simply a moment in time that perhaps we wouldn't even remember, but where we had all connected and opened up to one another, like sunflowers.
Skye of course was the Sun we all faced!
These sorts of opportunities present themselves constantly, whether we are walking the Bodhisattva or food shopping, sitting meditation or feeding ducks in the park, raking leaves or sharing coffee with our best friend, and simply noticing the couple beside us, holding hands, or the couple beside us, beginning to argue.
All of these places are places of deep practice and mindfulness, and we carry our hearts on our sleeves as we move fluidly from moment to moment.
I used to fear these moments, perhaps I still carry my fear in dark corners of the unconscious, but when I greet these moments as Skye greets the world, I feel my heart-mind opening, blossoming, the fear dissolving, because there is nothing to prove and no one to be.
If I still use Skye as something of a shield, my heart-mind encourages stepping out from behind his huge wagging tail, standing beside him, and imitating his open embrace of all that he encounters!
He is a fearless warrior sensei, and I willingly take my lesson from him!