Bath Time

Max got a bath yesterday, and it was long overdue. He was very smelly and my hands would get dirty after petting his fur.

Max does not like baths. In fact, he does not like water much at all. He’s just weird that way.

So, it was a struggle to get him in the bath. We’ve done it just enough that he knew it was coming and refused to come into the bathroom. Then, when I came over to him he went limp. I’ll at least give him credit for being smart enough to know how to make the process the most difficult.

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But once I finally carried him into the tub, he gave in and was very compliant. Granted he wanted to be done about halfway through and I had to bar his escape, but he seemed to know there was no use fighting anymore.

In all this Max taught me that it is much easier to let ourselves live with our filth than to find ways to cleanse ourselves from it.

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This filth is a mixture of the things I’ve done wrong and the extensive wrong in the world which effects me everyday. Just as Max’s dirtiness comes from his own decision to roll around in the dirt and from the rain that falls on him or the dirt that is kicked up when he walks, so I experience dirt that is both within and beyond my control.

And sometimes I even go to great lengths to hold onto that filth. I convince myself that that filth is a true part of me and that my life is incomplete without it. Or I think that it is mine to bear – that I brought it into the world and it is my responsibility to take care of it.

But I still know it is filth and that it can be harmful to my own health and others’.

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While Max helped me realize that it is much easier to hold onto this filth than to be cleaned, he also taught me a couple of important things about getting clean.

First, it involves paying attention to friends and people around you who see the filth and destruction and tell you (hopefully lovingly) that you need to do something.

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Next, it involves a letting go. If Max had kept jumping out of the tub, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything – he had to let go and accept that he could be cleaned. He had to turn toward the good and healthy things that would replace the dirty unhealthiness.

He also taught me that baths are needed regularly. I don’t think he or I really want to get dirty, but it happens and therefore we have to let go and turn toward cleanliness again and again.

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Finally, when Max was done with the bath he was full of life and energy. That energy showed me that there is something about shedding the dirtiness that makes me feel more whole and rejuvenated. There is freedom in letting go of the destructive habits, the negative thoughts about self and others, the evil and hate from the world that seeps in and begins to direct thinking and action, the things we are ashamed of that paralyze us against acting in better ways.

So thank you Max for finally giving in to the bath. And thank you for teaching me more about my reluctance to be cleaned and the rejuvenating newness that comes from letting go of the dirt that builds up in my life.

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Routine

Max and I have a pretty established daily routine at this point.  Everyday is a similar rhythm of walking, feeding, playing, walking, feeding, playing…

And yet, Max seems to be endlessly excited about it. It is as if each time we are discovering or experiencing something truly new. Maybe he absolutely loves the routine or maybe he is able to look past the structure of the day and discover something new within the activities.

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I, on the other hand, often get bogged down by routine. Whether it is the routine of living with Max (which does take out a lot of spontaneity from my life since I have to come back and take care of him at certain times of the day) or the routine of work, it seems my life is smothered by endlessly repeating cycles of activities.

Granted, my work is often not routine, and even this week has been refreshingly chaotic, but through most of the year it tends to settle into a structured progression of tasks. While this is often for the best since I have to plan regularly scheduled weekly events and the routine of tasks throughout the week allows me to plan efficiently, it can begin to feel rather mundane.

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But I am still struck by how Max, who has an even stricter routine than my own, can not only refrain from being bored in it, but can even find joy.

Max has taught me that even in going to similar places at similar times to do similar things for similar reasons every day, he can still experience an exciting newness.

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And I think it is because Max is attuned to the details of dirt where exciting little things happen behind a thin veil of brown, boring mundaneness.

Max takes the time to really explore the nuances of his surroundings no matter how routinely he experiences them. And so Max is immersed in the exciting newness of the world – a newness that breaks into all structures.

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Max walks the same paths each day but seeks new ways to walk them, new smells to smell, new sights to see. He eats the same food everyday but, through what I believe is a high level of gratitude, encounters it with renewed appreciation and a joy for the life and satisfaction it brings him. And he plays in the same place with the same person each day, but finds new adventure in those moments and new ways to share and experience love.

So thank you Max for teaching me how to find newness in routine. Thank you for teaching me to be attuned to the details of dirt so that I might begin to transform my perception of the mundane to discover the exciting little bits of newness all around me.

Fascination

I am fascinated by this new method of sitting on the couch…

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But, more to the point, Max and I have now walked every path surrounding our apartment many, many times. I am glad there are many options, but after several months we have exhausted any new places in walking distance.

And that bothers me because I really like new adventures. I like seeing new places and doing new things. About the only thing I could do everyday is watch the sunset and drink jasmine green tea.

Yet, I still have to walk Max and there’s only so far we can go.

But Max has a different outlook on these walks.  No matter how many times we walk by the same patch of grass or the same tree, he is endlessly fascinated by it.  So much so that I often have to drag him away.

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How can he have such wonder at something so mundane? How can the same thing, day after day, still capture his attention?

As I thought more about how he gives himself over to such fascination, I began to realize that there is always new beauty and new adventure in every moment, in every blade of grass or tiny snowflake.

You don’t have to go to Hogwarts to find magic, for it pervades the world.  You don’t have to travel to the Lonely Mountain to find adventure – it bubbles up throughout Middle Earth, even in the Shire. (Though don’t get me wrong, if I had the chance to go to Hogwarts or the Lonely Mountain, I wouldn’t hesitate.)

Moreover, Max has helped me realize that fascination keeps us from being arrested in our routines. We may still do the same things, but they have the potential to be interesting in new ways everyday.  And because things fascinate us, we explore their intricacies, which leads to inspiration and innovation.  For without a fascination with the key of D flat major would we ever have gotten…

(Or, fill in with whatever great composition you prefer.)

Instead of trudging along or blindly pushing past meaningful people, events, and things, fascination leads us further up and further in!

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So thank you Max for not only being fascinating, but also teaching me to take notice of what is around me, to allow fascination to rise within me.  Thank you for teaching me to look for and expect the wonder, beauty, and life that is everywhere in this world we inhabit – especially in the paths I walk everyday.