Even though canine years accrue differently from human, doggie birthdays, cause for great and festive celebration, only occur once in every twelve months. In preparing for Zac’s blowout birthday bash (his annual outing to Burger King? A special and out-of-the-way hike? Unending and focused belly rubbing?), I check his records, to clarify dates. A miracle emerged! Rather than being nine years old and turning ten in November, (a double-digit senior guy), as we thought, Zac is actually only eight years old—as he has been this entire year—and will be turning nine this birthday.
My reaction to this information was strangely extreme: I was profoundly and ridiculously elated. I had been dreading the double-digit birthday much of this year. I told everyone I know and plenty of people I did not know, like the fifty Kripalu guests I was teaching, about Zac going back in time. I rode this giddy and excited energy for a few days. It was as if Zac achieved some new degree of immortality before my eyes.
As my energy calmed down, the inquiry emerged for me: why was my reaction so excessive?
I know immortality is the elemental human dilemma. I appreciate that we are all just passing through. I understand cognitively the Buddhist practice of Four Reflections:
I am subject to aging. Aging is unavoidable.
I am subject to illness. Illness is unavoidable.
I am subject to death. Death is unavoidable.
I will grow different and separate from all that is dear and appealing to me.
And yet, especially when it comes to my canine best friend, the being on the planet who knows and trusts and loves me the most, with his damn speeded up life cycle, I am not open to practice. I do not want to even consider my days without my best friend at my side, where he is in this moment, wrapped up like a little ball of black fur, contentedly slurping his paw.
So what the heck is the practice? How do we skillfully live as mortal beings? A guest in my program this week was singing the old James Taylor song, “The Secret of Life”. JT, that esteemed Everyman, a Berkshire neighbor, flooded me, just for today, with a sane response to this dilemma, this mortality gig we are on. James tells us:
The secret of life
Is enjoying the passage of time.
Any fool can do it,
There ain’t nothing to it.
Nobody knows how we got
To the top of the hill.
But since we’re on our way down,
We might as well enjoy the ride.
Right here. Right now. This is what we have—this is the whole enchilada. The yogis urge us to investigate the obstacles we create that block us from being present. What is stopping me, right here, from being, from loving and relaxing and cuddling into this moment? Fear of what is going to happen some day? That’s pretty—unskillful and un-fun. And doesn’t feel very good. What about now? As I check it out, this is a pretty perfect moment.
Isn’t it a lovely ride?
Sliding down, gliding down,
Try not to try too hard,
It’s just a lovely ride.
Zac, that young fella, the eight year old, gives a sigh and settles down on his green puffy bed. He’s not worried. Surely all’s right with the world.