Friday, April 23, 2010

Dance When There Is Music/Eat When There Is Food

I had no idea that picture taking could become a training exercise. Jason grabbed his camera this morning and thought he'd take some pictures of me while we went for our morning walk. I of course had other ideas. There were three other dogs walking around. They needed to be played with. There was a family going for a run around the reservoir. They needed to be chased after.There were the squirrels. Yum. They needed to be eaten as I find them irresistible. Lastly, with spring here, there are birds galore. They are the most interesting, distracting, and amusing creatures I've ever met. They flutter around and always seem to be just out of reach. I sure do like trying for them.

Anyway, can you see the dilemma? Jason expected me to sit still. I most clearly had other plans. Who do you think won out? We both did, of course. How'd we manage that? I thought you might ask.

When Jason had a good night sleep, is well fed, and generally not crabby, he seems to subscribe to the notion of dancing when there is music and eating when there is food. He goes with what is rather than what he thinks he wants. He tells me this is radical acceptance. I've got no idea what that means, but I know when he is doing it things go smoothly. He doesn't lose patience with me. We have fun. Everything in the world seems right. When he isn't radically accepting things as they are he gets upset, I get scared, and we generally don't seem to have a very good time.

This doesn't mean Jason gives up and does whatever I want. He's not a push over, and I don't rule the roost. Take his photo shoot this morning as an example. The spring flowers are up and he wanted to take some pictures. Aren't they lovely? Do you have any idea what he went through to get this one rather average image? Let me tell you: a lot.

You see, I kept walking into the shot. For every single shot of flowers Jason took there were about ten that were either sideways because he was trying to hold me out of the picture or had a blurred image f my ear or tail off to the edge. Why? Flowers after all aren't just interesting to people. Dogs like them too. I'm particularly fond of biting the flowers of daffodils (much to Jason's horror as he is told they are poisonous to animals). I also like sniffing them. Sometimes I find exciting things like butterflies or bumblebees on the blossom. This is my first springtime so this is all new and exciting. It's natural that I want to sniff and explore. That and since I have no idea what a camera is I don't know that I'm supposed to stay out of the image.

So what do you do? Do you get mad and yell at your dog? Have you tried that? Doesn't work very well does it? When people yell at us dogs we understand there is a problem but have no idea about the nature of the problem. If I got yelled at during the photo shoot I'd be just as likely to think that I get yelled at every time there is a camera in view, or that sniffing flowers is bad and I shouldn't ever sniff. That wouldn't be very good.

Here is where radical acceptance comes into play. Dogs sniff. Dogs get in the way. Dogs get distracted by all sorts of things and want to explore. Jason eventually got around to accepting this. Once he did, he had a choice: get mad at me, leave me at home and go take pictures, take me for a walk and take pictures, or accept that he won't be able to take the pictures he wants and instead take pictures that he can take when I am around. He selected the last option.

Now I'm sure you all have encountered these sorts of dilemmas all the time. Maybe you even feel bad because you can't "control" your dog. Maybe you even yell at your dog, or hit your dog in an attempt to exert some sort of control of the situation. It happens to all of us. It's not pretty, and it exposes cruel parts that we all have. It also provides a precious opportunity to discover a deep sense of playful and peaceful compassion toward ourselves and others.

Dance when there is music. Eat when there is food. That's what I say (yeah yeah yeah, I don't actually speak, but you know what I mean). So many wonderful part of life pass us by while we are busy complaining about not being able to do the things we want to do. So many opportunities to change our experiences pass us because we are too occupied denying what is happening in the moment.

Take a moment, find your feet, find your breath, and most importantly find the moment. It is in that exact second when you truly become alive, become powerful, and become able to change.

By the way, birds and squirrels turn out to be great training tools. I quickly discovered that if I stared at them without moving, they didn't run away from me. As a bonus, when I sat and stared intently at them for a period of time, Jason rewarded me by letting me run after them and chase them around the field. Jason got rewarded by taking this head shot of me, staring longingly off into to the distance at a robin. I was totally in the moment and he was too.


  1. This is the best post ever! I loved every aspect of it. The photographs are fantastic & they truly captured the essence of the "story. Both the photos & the text convey a wisdom that is both simple & profound at the same time. I am inspired to radically accept dancing when there's music & find joy that exists in the present moment. Happy first spring, Maggie! It sounds like both you & Jason are dancing to the music of a glorious springtime of discovery.

  2. Awesome post. Just what I needed to hear today :) Thank You to you both!