Last night around dinnertime, I received a text attached to a photo asking, “Is this your dog that you lost?”
I looked at the picture and my heart sprung with joy to see a very battered but alive pooch named Miko looking back at me. Miko is my friend’s dog and had been wandering in the wilderness for TEN DAYS.
That alone would have given me pause to hope that she was alive but add in the fact that she was 17 years old and had stage four cancer…it felt like a Christmas miracle.
To understand what any of this has to do with meditation, we have to back up to day two of ten of Miko’s last great adventure. It was about 11am when the phone rang. I picked up and my son asked me if I could go out to Johnny Park road to look for his buddy’s dog who’d wander off during a 4am potty break.
Anyone who knows me, knows that my two dogs are my top princesses. But my response to this call wasn’t a natural or automatic yes. It was the day prior to me flying down to Texas to help my husband button-up details on the house he lived in for 25 years that was going on the market. The plan was to fly down and turn back around with a Uhaul plus trailer and truck in tow and to be back in Colorado in three days flat.
It was also ten days out from the kickoff for the 2019 Mind Oasis Meditation Challenge. It is our second annual and is our biggest friend and fundraiser of the year. Raising 10k during the month of May toward our program, Community Meditation is critical for keeping it free. Offering this to anyone wishing to befriend their mind means this is our “mission in action” – and having a successful Challenge this year feels more important than ever.
My first inclination was to tell my son that I couldn’t help because I was too busy. A trek to Johnny Park road is a 30-minute drive each way in our old Land Cruiser plus the search party effort itself. I wasn’t feeling particularly optimistic given Miko’s advanced age and that it was going on a full 48-hour since she wandered off. The snow/rain mix I was eyeing out the window didn’t offer much hope either.
However, an intuitive truth began to arise in me, and I felt the pull of being generous with my time speaking louder than the pragmatism of the situation. The truth is a quality meditation practice offers so much more than a calmer mind – when practiced with diligence and using techniques taught from a well-qualified instructor; it opens your heart in ways unimaginable. With consistent practice, a practitioner may find that those times when you would put up what society would suggest “healthy boundary” begin to melt (I am not suggesting becoming a rug!). Instead your heart opens to helping the greater good – again and again while expecting nothing in return. Not even a note of thanks.
Fifteen minutes later, the dogs and I were loaded up into the truck. We arrived and walked an hour loop calling out Miko’s name. Her owner arrived – he had gone to town to use his phone to get some help. We walked for another hour. Nothing.
Sometimes when I read articles on meditation, especially in mainstream meditation, it feels like they suggest meditation offers everything but full-on superpowers. But one benefit of a meditation practice –that I think seldom is espoused – that I’ve personally experienced and witnessed in my meditation friends is how much space a practice invites us to hold for others. I walked with Miko’s owner and was able to offer silence, comfort, spaciousness, empathy, and even a little humor along the way. I was completely present for him and what he was feeling as he walked and hollered with hope still guiding his way.
As I drove back home with my two wet happy dogs, I felt profound sadness. I didn’t try to suppress it or to use excuses to feel less – like old dogs wander off to die. Like in my meditation practice, I sat with life exactly as it was in that very moment. It felt sad, gray, cold, and terrifying for Miko. I thought about her a lot over that next week, feeling into mortality and the undercurrent of change that is the basis of life. I tried on the reality of my own two dogs passing and/or getting lost; using the metaphors of “Rainbow” Ruby Rose and “Rainbow” Stella Bean.
Our meditation practice invites us to contemplate life in a more realistic manner. I’ve heard some of my teachers say that we let go of the childish perception that our life and the things in it will be here forever or at least until some magical age when it feels appropriate for change to occur. The truth is that we all will die. And we don’t know when. This is what I’ve been teaching to my Thursday morning class and it is a rough subject to tackle. But much like our time on our cushion, our life isn’t here for us to zone out and fantasize about how we wish it would work. Our life and our time on our cushion is here to help us to wake up more fully to our experience with each breath and in each moment. That is how we can then be of greater service to others – like Miko and her pet dad.
Miko was found over ten miles away from where she started on the other side of a river valley. She survived 10 nights in an area where my son literally ran into a mountain lion during that very same period of time (he survived). She could barely walk with cancer ridden hips. Where Miko was found is a popular trailhead for hiking in the summer; not so in what is proving to be a fickle spring. The gentleman who found her heard a whimper, packed her lovingly into his car and put up a sign. As he started to drive out, another gentleman saw the sign and waved him down to say he thought he’d heard about this dog. He sent me the snap and Miko was on her way to an entire two nights of loving presence with her pet owner before she succumbed to pneumonia and exhaustion. Through an unbelievable and magical set of events, Miko’s pic had circulated all the local Facebook groups and this gentleman remembered and had the presence of mind to find me via text.
That first evening, Miko was hand fed bits of meat dipped in bone broth. She snoozed next to her pet parent. She did not die alone, but instead in the arms of her best friend and companion of 17 years.
This is the power of a meditation practice.
Miko as a younger pup!
If you’re struggling to start of maintain a consistent meditation practice. Join the Meditation Challenge this month. Group meditation is a powerful booster for your practice.