Meditation on Dog Shit

I am a yogini both on and off my mat.  I do yoga poses. I meditate.  I read scripture.  But I also engage in the yoga practice of self study- called svadyaya in Sanskrit.  This means it is my practice to notice my thinking, to notice what I’m doing, and to draw connections between those things and the TRUTH because a deep relationship with TRUTH and LOVE (God) is my ultimate desire.

So that’s how it came to pass that I started teaching about the yoga of dog shit.  Since moving to my new place on Cotter Ave. I have had the opportunity to be up close and personal with Bodhi’s shit on a daily basis.   We’d never done this before- this “walking” for the purpose of defecation.  It was new to both of us, and at first he seemed to really like it.  It made him feel special and safe in this new environment to have me, the person he loves most and to whom he is most devoted, walking him around and picking up after him.

However, I’ve noticed that as time has passed, his habits (and mine) have shifted to reflect what I think are very basic desires we all have.

Even off leash, you don’t shit your own yard unless there are no other options. 

You see, I grew up in the country. I always had a dog, but I probably never really even saw dog shit until I owned a dog in town as an adult.   What I know is that the country allows for a bit of tall grass at the edges of things and that is IDEAL place for dog shit.

Growing up in the country was like this.  We all had our “shit” but there was enough space between us that no one was really forced to come face to face with it, and because we all spent enough unsupervised time outside, no one even had to know when or where we were “doing our thing”.  It wasn’t a big deal. Shit happened. You didn’t have to step in it or discuss it.

The problem with town living is that we mow all the way to the edges.  Our lawns are   immediately adjacent to other people’s lawns. Dogs are kept up in the houses most of the time.  There is no good place to shit. So with no privacy, no freedom and no wildness between, what’s a dog to do?

Well, when there is no fence or leash to force shitting in one’s own yard, the dog will typically shit in the neighbor’s yard rather than it’s own.  This might make your neighbor very angry unless you have an agreement of mutuality. This was the arrangement at our previous home. Bodhi shit in the neighbor’s yard. The neighbor’s dog shit in our yard.  Both lawns were full of shit to the point of being practically unusable because no one picked it up on either side.

This is a little bit like some close friendships I’ve been in- I dump on you, you dump on me. However,  if the friendship is to be beneficial. Somebody needs to clean that shit up. Even if they don’t though, each dog will still prefer dumping on their “friend”  to being forced to shit their own yard.

If you have to shit while on a leash and there is no tall grass,  look for a place where  all the other dogs are shitting.

Yes. This.  I didn’t even realize this was a thing until I noticed Bodhi doing and then realized how we all do it. If you allow dogs to shit your yard and don’t clean it up, ALL the dogs are gonna want to shit in your yard.

It’s the same with our emotional “shit”. One can easily become the dumping ground for  EVERYBODY’S problems if they are not making conscious decisions about how to deal with shit.  I’m loving that my new yard on Cotter Ave. doesn’t have a fence around it, but it also  doesn’t have any shit in it. I LOVE it.  I can do yoga out in the grass without getting shit on  me. I can smell my flowers instead of shit…..  for me, it’s second best to being in the country.

Because I’m NOT in the country, that does mean that I have to pick up and dispose of shit quickly and regularly.  There is no wildness in between lawns and almost no privacy, but I don’t let shit just sit in my yard because I know it would attract MORE.

I see this on Facebook all the time.  One person dumps some shit.  And ten more come along  and add their shit to the pile.  Then there’ll be that one person with the scoop and the bag who’ll come along and attempt to clean up the entire lawn.  Because in the same way that your lawn can become known as “the place to shit”, you can also become known as the “person who cleans up everyone’s shit”.

It’s this last title that I have the hardest time staying away from. I like things to be clean and neat.  I like to help.  It makes me feel good to help. But if I’m not careful, I can spend all my precious life cleaning up other people’s shit and not create anything of real beauty or experience the joy of a shit free space.

So after a few weeks of walking Bodhi, I noticed this behavior in myself and its pitfalls. Now, before I stop to clean up another dog’s shit. I ask myself the following questions.

Do I have the time?

Is there extra space in my bag?

Is the shit on my immediate path and therefore my own experience will be improved by disposing of it?

Will picking it up make me feel good or resentful?

I literally lost a dear friend about a year ago because he used the metaphor with me that I “didn’t know where to shit”.  I was going through some stuff and had shared that stuff in a way he felt was indiscreet and distasteful.  He found me embarassing.  He invited me to shit in his yard anytime I needed to, but he thought I needed some “potty training”.  That hurt my feelings a WHOLE bunch.

The thing is that I can now see that he was at least partially correct.  You see, my dear friend was a very, very well trained city dog.  Walked on a leash ALL his life, he knew just where to go and had always been cleaned up after. He is the most civilized dog I have every known. But me?  I’m a country dog. I will always be a country dog.  Always. And at that time last year, I was suffering from being a country dog forced to live in the city with no loving owner to guide my behavior. I’d been shut up in the house for a long time which was, in itself, foreign to me.  And we all reach a certain point that the shit must come out no matter how embarrassing or distasteful.  It has to come out, or you can hold it in, become toxic, and die.

I’m glad I didn’t die. But I am sorry I shit all over some people’s lives, because I absolutely did. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to live the rest of my life in shame about that. I’m going to realize who I am and where I am and make the very best choices I possibly can about how to handle the shit I encounter in this life.

Right now, that means that, like Bodhi, I’m being walked on a leash- a loving one. The people I love and respect most in the world are having to take care of me.  In one sense, this makes me feel loved and special and cared for, but in another sense it is deeply humbling and even a little bit humiliating. I hope I get to go back to the country- at least metaphorically- because that is where I belong.  I belong in the country with no leash and  a bit of tall wild grass to deal with my shit privately. There I’ll be cared for by the God who keeps me around for good company and as a recipient for His LOVE.  Most of the time, I’ll just follow Him around and watch what He’s doing, let Him scratch me behind the ears and pat me on the head.

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