Disturbing the Peace

This past week, Max woke me up in the middle of the night twice on Monday and once Tuesday. And by middle of the night I mean right in the dead center of what would have otherwise been some really peaceful sleep.

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He usually does not wake up in the middle of the night, but he had spent all weekend with some other dogs and had partied a little too hard.

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He had all kinds of stuff making his stomach turn that he normally doesn’t – other dog’s food, lots of bones, and even probably some people food. I expected it to be rough for him, but I did not expect to be woken up in the middle of the night. And on multiple occasions.

Max disturbed my peace.

And I have realized he disturbs my peace quite often, even when not in the middle of the night. I often work from home when I have things to do that require more focus than I am afforded at my job. And most days, while I am trying to get a lot done at my computer, Max comes up to me desiring some attention. Whether he is wielding a toy or just forcing his cute head onto my lap, it is clear that Max is on a mission to disturb my peace.

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While I understand the behavior, I usually get annoyed and let him outside. But the thing about having my peace disturbed is that there is another byproduct that I am beginning to notice. The community I help lead has been digging into the notion that when peace is disturbed, often inner thoughts are more fully revealed.

Max has been teaching and reinforcing that lesson as well. He has revealed that I have many assumptions and default motivations that rest just under the surface and which I often don’t really notice. And Max has taught me that I need a little disruption in order to bring those thoughts more fully into the light.

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When Max disturbs the peace I construct around myself in order to get more work done, he reveals that I don’t take enough time to slow down and really be present to what’s going on around me or especially to the people and dogs in my life. Max has taught me that my actions show that I value productivity over meaningful time spent with others and that my inner thoughts are focused far more on accomplishing tasks than on compassionately and lovingly attending to those around me.

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But Max has also taught me that there is some hope. In disrupting my peaceful sleep so much this week, Max has also revealed some more positive inner thoughts. Max has revealed that I care deeply for him, because I am convinced that a sure test of what people most value is what we will wake up for in the middle of the night. And Max has taught me that if I am willing to forego sleep to care for him, perhaps that level of care and compassion can influence all of my life, even when my inner thoughts seem locked in the little world I create.

So thank you Max for disturbing my peace, and in so doing revealing some of my inner thoughts. And thank you for helping me direct those inner thoughts in a more caring, compassionate manner.

But, I’d also be grateful if you didn’t disturb my peaceful sleep anymore…

Star Wars: A New Pup

In honor of the return of Star Wars to the big screen, here is a short tale of young Max Tailwagger, a jedi pupawan. Don’t worry, no spoilers for any who have not yet seen the new movie.

Meet Max Tailwagger, one of the bravest and most loyal jedi in the galaxy!

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Though he is still a young pupawan, he is excelling quickly in his studies under Jedi Knight Patrick. He is often overeager and rash, but what he lacks in patience and thoughtfulness, he makes up for in quick action and enthusiasm. Not to mention the force of cuteness is strong with him.

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Pupawan Max and his mentor have been on several daring missions to scout out those causing mischief and to keep peace throughout the galaxy. Through their journeys, Pupawan Max has taught his mentor that such peace cannot be kept from a distance. Rather it requires actually getting to know other beings and being open and friendly with all. Establishing and protecting peace requires the initiative that this young pupawan naturally possesses.

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And Max has learned that sometimes one has to go to great lengths to bear that peace in all circumstances. Establishing peace involves not only breaking out of one’s comfort zone, but also laying down one’s own comfort to help other creatures. It can even feel like carrying around some strange green being on your back through a swamp…

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Young Tailwagger knows that this hard work cannot be accomplished alone and has wisely demonstrated that he needs the support of many others, even those with whom he is very unfamiliar. And so, he is (usually) pretty open, even to pushy droids.

Max tailwagger has a long journey ahead of him, but with further training, good friends, and trust in the force, he will establish peace in the galaxy and one day become a jedi knight himself…

Balcony Life

Max loves sitting or laying out on our balcony. At our previous apartment, the balcony was so tiny that he could barely fit out there by himself, but he still tried to get out as often as he could. Now, at our current place, he as plenty of room to stretch out and enjoy, and he makes even more effort to constantly be out there.

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Since we are in that little window of time when the temperature outside is actually pleasant, I have been leaving the door to the balcony open whenever I am home. That means Max can go in and out to his heart’s delight. And when I forget to open it, or I close it because it is too noisy, Max notices. He gets a little upset and bothers me until I open it again.

I don’t know why he likes it so much. Perhaps he enjoys seeing all the things going on around the apartment (though the view is not really that great). Maybe the concrete floor and the breeze blowing by make a nice, cool environment. Or maybe there is just something about being outside that soothes him.

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I don’t often accompany Max out there. I usually have too much to do between cooking, eating, working, and watching TV. I like the idea of going out there and sitting with him, but it just does not happen very often.

But when I do follow Max’s lead, I learn again how important it is to go outside and sit and listen.

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Max has taught me that I need those breaks from all that I am doing (especially breaks from sitting in front of a computer or TV screen). And he has taught me that sitting outside and listening is far from a waste of time.

He has taught me to pay closer attention to the beauty of the sounds of life – whether that is birds singing, squirrels rustling in trees, wasps buzzing around, or even the distant drone of cars on the road. All those sounds remind me of the beauty of this world. And as I rest and turn my attention to those sounds, I experience that soothing feeling that Max must experience too.

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Max can be a very hyper, active dog, but in these moments he teaches me how to be still and restful. He teaches me how to better attune my senses to the world around me so that I can better appreciate all that is going on. He teaches me a practice of peace that I desperately need in my sometimes chaotic life.

So, thank you Max for reminding me of the need for rest. Thank you for leading me to be better attuned to the beauty of this world and for sitting with me out on our balcony.

Sometimes you just gotta sit and stare (version 2)

Often, Max just sits and stares.

I’ve noticed it more lately because we have both been stuck at home more often with all the snow and ice.

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The first version of this observation had to do with a response to the overwhelming amount of tragic events occurring in the world. That is unfortunately still very true, but I see another element to Max’s sitting and staring now.

When I join Max, I find the practice to be quite peaceful and healing. When we sit and stare we let our minds wander and rest, something that happens far too infrequently in my busy life.

I am often coming and going rapidly for work or personal matters and it never seems to stop. There is never a reprieve or a perfect time to get away from it all.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my job and I like to be busy, and I even get restless very very easily. But staying on the move is tiresome especially when event bleeds into event and there is no time for a breather in between.

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Then, the snow and ice fell and I was stuck in the apartment for several days the past two weeks. I still had plenty to do, but I also had a little more time to observe Max and see the benefits of a life at rest.

And I joined him in his sitting and staring and let my mind relax. In fact, I’ve been able to intentionally set some time aside everyday to push aside responsibilities and duties and just sit and stare and be.

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Max has taught me that sometimes I just have to sit and stare. Sometimes my mind needs a break. Sometimes my mind needs the freedom to explore things in new ways. And most of the time that does not naturally happen.

Max has taught me that I need to allow myself the time to wander through thoughts and experience the peacefulness of the moment.

Sometimes I have to buckle down and get things done, but that is surprisingly much easier than taking time to sit and not worry about things. Sometimes I need to sit back and know that things will be ok and that I am not defined by all the things I get done.

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And sometimes I need just to be present, resting with my friend.

So thank you Max for sitting and staring with me. Thank you for teaching me the importance of resting my mind and wandering through peacefulness.

Being Barked At

I often wonder how Max perceives the world. Both how he actually senses things and also how he understands all that is going on around him.

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I have wondered this about all animals, but I am especially intrigued by Max because he is such a chill dog. Sure, he gets riled up when he is ready to play, he obnoxiously seeks attention, and he is very eager to smell new things on walks, but in general he has a very even temperament.

For instance, Max encounters other dogs pretty frequently on our walks. Just this morning we walked by three dogs whom all barked very ferociously at Max. The humans walking these dogs had to pull tight on their leashes and walk well out of our way.

The ferocity of the barking startled me each time, but Max trotted right on by. He noticed it and seemingly acknowledged the other dogs, but he neither ran from them nor returned their barking.

This is something for which I am incredibly grateful as Max’s human companion. I rarely have to hold him back unless he really wants to play with another dog and I never have to scold him for barking at others ferociously.

But today I also learned something from Max’s reaction. In the face of a rather chaotic encounter where others are barking at him, Max retains a remarkably centered peacefulness.

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Granted, I do not know all that is going on in those interactions between dogs, but from my human point of view I see much worth applying to my own interactions with others.

When I enter chaotic situations and face those who oppose me or ideas and beliefs I hold dear (whether this is a face to face interaction or, as seems increasingly the case, on the internet), there are two reactions that immediately bubble up within me.

First, I often want to return the barking that is directed at me. I feel that power or control in the situation can only be gained through being louder. I want to fight back. Second, I want to run away and put the situation behind me. I feel like it is a pointless encounter and nothing good will be gained from it. I want to flee.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that those evolutionary responses of fight or flight are experienced even in non-physical encounters. And yet, neither option really deals with or helps the situation.

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So, I come back to Max, who has taught me a different way of responding. Max has taught me to encounter the barking (or quacking or whatever is directed at him) without returning it and without turning away from it. Rather, he has taught me to be open to it and take it in and show a little compassion. He has taught me to understand that the barking is an honest expression of the other. It is not to be judged or run away from, but rather accepted and maybe even appreciated.

Max does engage the other dogs, but in a way that demonstrates he accepts them and their barking while choosing not to reciprocate. Thus he engages them in a way that redefines how power and control in a situation can be realized – not in force but rather in understanding.

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In this way, Max has taught me a little more about what it takes to bring peace to chaotic situations.

So thank you Max, for your chill presence. And thank you for teaching me how to react to the barking in my own life with patience and acceptance rather than fight or flight.