Sometimes I know better, but I fail to do better. I’m probably not alone.
Whiskey highlights this. I swear she wants to bring out the worst in me.
This morning, she lit into me while I talked on the phone. I closed the door, so she barked while swiping at it. No problem figuring out the message—she was bored and restless. There just wasn’t anything I could do at that time. Except swallow my frustration.
And then there’s her love of digging, especially in the garden.
There’s nothing planted in it. Yet.
Soon, this will have to stop.
If I’ve learned only one thing sharing my life with dogs it’s this—yelling is a surefire way to get the opposite response you want. Yell at them to come to you and they run. Yell at them to stop barking and they do it even more. Yell at them to get out of the garden and …
Responding from a place of compassion for their needs, not my own desires, gets a better response. Even though I know this, I still forget to practice it sometimes.
Doesn’t practice lead to perfect?
In his book, A Zen Wave: Basho’s Haiku and Zen, Robert Aitken offers this insight:
“Compassion takes practice, like any other kind of fulfillment. I am often told that compassion should flow naturally. This is true. Also, Mozart should flow naturally from your fingers when you sit at the piano. It is important and essential to understand that Zen is not simply a matter of spontaneity. It is also practice. By practicing zazen, you do zazen. By sitting with a half-smile, you practice enjoyment. By smiling at your friends, you practice the great compassionate heart. The act is the practice. The practice is the act. Sitting when you do not feel like it—that is zazen, that is the rare udumbara flower of Buddhahood. Smiling at your friends when you do not feel like it—that is compassion, annihilating greed, hatred, and folly, and giving life to the healing spirit of Kanzeon.
I have been told that practice of compassion is dishonest when one does not feel compassionate. This argument makes my blood boil. To what are you being honest? Nothing but a whim!”
Reading this makes me feel better.
Aitken was a lay-resident at a Zen monastery in Japan before being named a Zen roshi (master). He’s one of the first Americans to receive that honor—four years before he wrote this.
I’m no Zen master. And certainly no Mozart. I’m just a doggie momma.
If his blood boils over a debate about compassion, I can spit out a few choice words when Whiskey bites me. (Yeah, I thought we had licked that, but she forgets to make better choices sometimes, too.)
So maybe practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make things better for me and those around me. I’m grateful Whiskey gives me plenty of practice. Well, a little less now …
Thanks for stopping by today.