Zen + Dogs: The Three-Headed Daimon

This post is part of the series “Zen and Dogs” (a project I’m doing for my PhD study) and experiments with forms from Zen story-telling, traditionally used as means for moral education. I’ve become interested in Koan practice. Koan is a public story or dialogue that relays an interaction between a Zen master and student and may describe a test to the student’s Zen practice.

Sept 26

threeheaded

  • Lesson from Tom: no use getting frustrated by not being able to control the emotions or expressions of others.
  • Tom says, “Find something to do together that is enjoyable!”

It’s 8:30am. There is nothing to be done about the pouring rain and the reality that we have to go for a walk. My turn, with Tom and Sugi and Bruce whom we’re baby-sitting (last day) for Greg’s daughter Lauren who is traveling. Baby-sitting, an appropriate term here because the dog is brattishly balking every few feet in protest to being forced to walk in the rain, and worse, having to wear a raincoat. I am irked by his ingratitude towards my good intentions…

Pierre Hadot’s Philosophy as a Way of Life discusses the philosophy of  Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD) and his proposition (from his written Meditations) that the Daimon —nature’s laws and ways, the force indispensable for all creation, the natural spirits— can seen as a guiding principle towards freedom and a moral life.

En route beside Britannia High School, it occurs to me it’s the time when kids are on their way there. Tom and Sugi, both off-leash, head towards the school grounds. I yell that I do not approve. Tom comes back, Sugi continues to browse, ignoring me. I realize frustration linked to the dogs expressing their own desires [contrary to mine!] Anger now directed at Sugi. In different locations, Bruce pooping and Sugi too. Pick up Bruce’s, locate Sugi’s, while keeping track of Tom.

Aurelius proposed three philosophical exercises intended to confront life for its reality. 1. Desire and aversion: People are unhappy because they desire things they can not obtain or control. The task is to develop temperance and to cultivate desire that has moral virtue. “Keep the daimon within you in a state of serenity…”

I try leashing Bruce to Sugi so that Sugi can lead Bruce. Normally this works, allowing for keeping track of two better than three. Today, Sugi doesn’t have enough strength to pull stubborn Bruce, or maybe it’s Sugi’s lack of will…

2. motivated action should be “right action” in the service of community. Inclinations should be towards social justice. “…neither saying anything contrary to the truth, nor doing anything contrary to justice.”

Tom now calmly out in front. Bruce on leash, Sugi browsing close at hand. That’s better. Continue walking, thankful for the pack formation.

Once Tom’s done, we head back. Bruce now moving with purpose. Can’t seem to shake the frustration. Feel surprised by my lack of equanimity at such mundanity. Reflect, searching for a deeper reason. Can’t find any…

3. assent; give ourselves to only that which is true.

Later, Tom reminds me of a special treat the four of us can share. I open a pack of Seaweed Snax. All four of us enjoy the salty, oily flavor. I feel contented through this small act of mutual enjoyment.

seasnax

Follow..twittervimeoinstagramtwittervimeoinstagram

Zen + Dogs: Dogs + Beans

As some of you know, in my PhD I’m researching compassion as a means for improved awareness and relationships with nonhuman beings and their worlds, and the larger ecological context. In this semester’s course “Everyday Enlightenment” with Dr. Heesoon Bai we are examining Zen Buddhism for wisdom towards the everyday. For this course, I have began a weekly project on the Tom and Sugi Blog as a contemplative practice. This first post is a bit late because I was gathering courage to post these publicly. Here is the first in a series of posts on Zen and Dogs.

Sept 4

beans

 

  • Lesson from Tom: practice being in the moment including non-annoyance!
  • Tom says, “Bruce shit on the deck”

The first reading for the course is Pierre Hadot “Philosophy as a Way of Life”. Today, I’m reading Hadot in the dining room. Dogs are tucked into blankets after their slightly chilly morning walk. Note taking: historical texts portray the philosopher as outside of daily ‘bios’ or life… For the Greco-Roman philosopher ‘meditation’ was not linked to a physical practice as in Eastern thought, but towards rational, imaginative, intuitive practice including the assimilation of ‘rules for living’ which could be available ‘at hand’ in order to apply to life’s daily circumstances…

I hear dog nails on hard surfaces in my office. I go look. Tom is laying on the work table stretching his nose and forelegs towards the triangle of sun on the south-east corner of the table. Bruce, Lauren’s dog we’re baby-sitting, is on the floor under the table, his body in the sliver of sun reaching the floor. They’re after sun-heat.

I climb the too-steep-for-dogs stairs to open the trap door to the sunroof. They’ll enjoy laying in the sun. Tom barks impatiently as Bruce places his forefeet on the first 2 steps. Tom first. I help him climb the steps. Bruce next but slower (he’s smaller). Sugi says he doesn’t want to go. I return to Hadot: Theory is never considered an end in itself; it is clearly and decidedly put in the service of practice…

Tom, through the roof opening: bark, bark, softly: “bring me down”

...Every school of philosophy practiced exercises aimed at spiritual progress…Plutarch: controlling one’s curiosity, speech, consumption, anger, etc...

Bark, Bark, more insistent.

[annoyed] I climb the ladder, step through the opening onto the deck. The air is clear, warm, perfect temperature. A great day! [no longer annoyed]

Tom elaborates, “Bruce took a shit on the deck”, he points

[annoyed] I go get a bag, clean it up, hose down the deck. I should harvest the beans which haven’t been picked since the recent rain. Start on the red-runners on this end of the fence. They need to either be snapped off the stem, or given a forceful tug to get them off. Move around to the other end of the fence and proceed with the stringbeans. Rule for living: “The joyous acceptance of the present moment.” I tug at a stringbean. I notice I’ve pulled off the end of the vine [argh! too much force!] ….On either side it has a white flower + a tiny forming bean…perfect symmetry…[I feel bad]…

beanvineS

Follow..twittervimeoinstagramtwittervimeoinstagram

Tom’s rug works

tom-rug

  • Lesson from Tom: Dogs are creative!
  • Tom says, “I like to arrange a rug into a cozy shape for me to lay on”

When we’re making dinner or otherwise ignoring Tom, he likes to scratch and dig on the rug in the dining room. He keeps at it until he bunches it up into a creative shape that’s comfortable for resting. This shape will usually have some wrinkle that supports his back and side…

 

Follow..twittervimeoinstagramtwittervimeoinstagram

Tom Zen Nap

Tomzen

  •  Lesson from Tom: Dog’s like a cozy place to sleep
  • Sugi says, “sometimes I like to get small!”

I like to photograph Tom and Sugi when they’re napping. Like humans, dogs can seem more vulnerable when they’re asleep. Inspired by my recent interest in Zen (I think there’s a connection but not sure what it is yet…), here Tom is trying to make himself small.

Follow..twittervimeoinstagramtwittervimeoinstagram