Noisy

Max is a rather noisy individual. But it is a particular kind of noisy.

He does not bark much, especially compared to a lot of the other dogs in our neighborhood. He has a stoic, monk-like, demeanor as he watches things happen out the window and even when he is being barked at by other dogs.

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But he is still really noisy. He makes sure I know he is around.

Sometimes that noisiness comes out in his whining. He whines in the evening when he wants to play, he whines in the early morning hours when he wants some food or wants to go outside. He whines when he wants to come back inside.

He also is a pretty noisy sleeper. He must dream a lot, or whatever dogs do in their sleep that makes them move around and growl. It’s funny to watch during the day, a little less funny when he gets going late at night and wakes me up.

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And recently, I’ve noticed some of his other noises. The other day I let Max in from the backyard and then got ready to meditate. Max left me alone, but he decided to lay down right behind me. I did not notice, but he had brought in some leaves or sticks or something from the yard with him. In order to pass the time (or test my patience) he started to munch on those crunchy leaves. And they must have either been really delicious or really chewy or he really didn’t have anything better to do, because he kept munching and crunching the whole time.

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I consider myself a patient person, but that kind of noise cuts through whatever patience I can muster. It’s like a sharp wind that sneaks through however many layers I put on. Needless to say, Max’s noises, especially that munching right behind me, irritated me.

And Max is not the only noisy one, especially this time of year. It’s hard to find a place in which there is not a lot of sniffling and coughing and other noises. And I am to blame as much as anyone with my own sniffles that just keep coming no matter how much I blow my nose.

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It is not lost on me that I became very aware of Max’s noisiness while I was meditating. At first, it was especially frustrating – meditation is supposed to be quiet time! But because of the nature of that kind of work, I was forced to sit with my gut response to the noisiness.

I could either get frustrated by it and let it ruin my meditation or I could use the opportunity to consider the noise in a new way.

So, I took a moment to turn around and look at Max, with the debris hanging out of his mouth. Then I turned back and allowed myself to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. The moment I desired the most stillness was the moment Max decided to be especially noisy.

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And Max taught me in that moment that there is another way to see his noisiness. He is a dog that eats weird stuff and has no way of understanding a desire for stillness or meditation. But even more significant than that is that his noise is a beautiful expression of life.

Max’s noise means he’s really there with me, and that we are sharing this messy, noisy life together.

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I’ll be real – his noisiness still bothers me. Any intrusive sound bothers me as much as it does anyone else. I have no secret to enjoying the sniffles and coughs that cut through my patience. But Max has taught me that in the messy mix of irritation there is still something beautiful – the opportunity I have to share my life with others, and especially to have some around me who are close enough that I can hear those noises.

Max has taught me to take one more second in that moment of irritation to consider how others are no noisier than I am and that our noisy living is worth it. The noises aren’t going anywhere, and if I can laugh at them and incorporate them into my rhythm, then we will all make more harmonious music.

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I still don’t think I will ever naturally like the noise of whining, sniffling, or leaf munching, but I try my best to look at it as if we are all wind chimes and that our clanging together has the potential to make some beautiful music.

So thank you Max for teaching me that however irritating it is, your noisiness is also a beautiful expression of life. And thank you for bumping into me, hopefully some good noise will come from that.

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Walking with no shoes

Max does not wear shoes. I think it is because he wants to show off his awesome toe hair, but he tries to act humble about it.

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Max’s lack of shoes has come to my attention in several ways the past couple weeks, particularly during our walks. Since it has been so rainy here this week, Max’s bare pawedness has led to some wet, muddy feet tracking in a mess to the apartment.

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But even more interestingly, Max has to stop every now and then because of something he has stepped on. He’s a tough dog, so he doesn’t act hurt when he steps on sticks or rocks or thorns, but he does stop, sit down, and dig around to find what is irritating him.

Since Max does not wear shoes, this reaction comes immediately.

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I, on the other hand, do wear shoes. And I also often get rocks or other painful things in my shoes. However, my guarded feet do not always experience the pain immediately. And because it would be such a task to stop and take off my shoes when I start to feel the discomfort, I most often continue walking while ignoring the growing pain in my feet.

I force myself to live with whatever small thing is causing me pain for no reason other than I have convinced myself that it would be too much trouble to deal with it. And it only grows more and more painful until it impedes my ability to continue on.

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Max understands something I do not. And his response to these small pains in life seems much more reasonable.

Max walks without any insecurities or defense mechanisms and thus can immediately feel the pains of the journey. But that also means he immediately deals with them and does not try to carry on ignoring the pain.

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He has taught me that such a response of immediately addressing the uncomfortable realities of life helps him to get on with the journey in a much more wholesome way. He is not content to carry those thorns with him.

He has taught me not to ignore those discomforts and pains, expecting them just to go away, and he has taught me to let down my psychological guards that really just keep those pains in my heart, unresolved.

So thank you Max for teaching me to walk without shoes. Thank you for teaching me to own up to and deal with the discomforts and pains in my life that are so easy to ignore and to continue walking with.