How “the story” effects us

Monday I finished work around 9 pm.  I took a load out to the car and let Chispa, my dog, out so she could enjoy a few sniffs around the parking lot.  I went back into the spa for a few last things.

When I came out I called her name and a young fellow asked me, “Do you have a dog?”  I answered in the affirmative and he responded, “Sorry she took off running that way.”

I was jovial and replied, “You scared her, didn’t you?”

He said, “I didn’t mean to”.Chispa

I went off in the direction he indicated confident that we would be reunited in a second.  The parking lot is long, as it sits behind a “strip mall” type shopping center.  Chispa is familiar with it.  Now that the weather is cool, I bring her to work and walk her off leash on my breaks.  She is a little fearful of the world, so she never goes far without me.

I couldn’t see her anywhere so, I called her name and was surprised when she didn’t come running back to me.  I turned the corner to go up the street at the end of the parking lot.  She was no where in sight.  I was perplexed.  I’d only seen her bolt once in fright before and I imagined that is what happened this time.  Yet, certainly after running the length of the parking lot she would have stopped.  Maybe when she slowed down she caught the smell of something good…

Anyway, I spent an hour walking around the neighborhood calling her name and an additional half hour driving in a wider circle through the neighboring streets.  The whole time I was monitoring my thoughts and emotions.  I noticed that I was perturbed with the man that had scared her and I had a tendency to blame him for my predicament.  However, I was also aware that I could just as easily blame myself for leaving her unattended.  Parallel to these thoughts, I held the knowledge that correct view is that neither one of these things was responsible for my situation.  Buddhist correct view claims that this situation was a result of my previous thoughts and actions and that those thoughts and actions must be similar in nature to my current predicament.

Approaching a situation with correct view and mindfulness can serve to prevent a recurrence of unpleasant circumstances.  So I continued to monitor my thoughts and feelings and refused to be a slave to them.

Early on in the adventure I had an automatic thought about how I was losing sleep and needed to get up early in the morning to go back to work.  I felt a fleeting moment of desperation and the need to rush to find the dog.  I analyzed that impulse and easily dispersed it by telling myself that I could handle a sleepless night and that I need not be in any hurry.  Life is not in the future, it is in the moment.

The mind has a tendency to get ahead of itself and make up a story.  For instance, I imagined Chispa scared, confused, and cold or perhaps dying by the side of the road in the shadows.  I could feel the mind trying to make up a story in order to figure out where she was.  It took some awareness and discipline not to allow these stories to become real.  Yes, it was a possibility that I would never see Chispa again, but in the present I was simply without my dog.  That was a circumstance that happened all the time.  I am often without my dog.

I was able to stay remarkably calm.  This ability is evidence of a strong mindfulness practice.  I was acting and not reacting.  Since peace is my spiritual goal, I am always pleased when I am able to see the fruits of my practice.  I reminded myself of Master Shantideva’s advice:

If there is nothing you can do about it, why get upset?

If there is something you can do about it, why get upset?

I was doing what I could.  I knew that I would not be able to rest without a thorough search.  I also knew that I would not be able to sleep at home with Chispa still at large.  Once, I had satisfied my need to comb the neighborhood I left Chispa a blanket in my parking spot, went home, packed my food for the next day, grabbed my sleeping bag and headed back.

I had expected to find her waiting for me in her blanket, but she was not there when I returned.  I set up my bed in the minivan and lay down to sleep.  I checked in with myself and acknowledged my feelings of loss.  In my mind’s eye I could see her running up all wiggly and I longed to see her again.  I imagined I never would and the story got the best of me.  I released by feelings with tears and was unable to let her go in that moment.  I sat back up and looking in the direction she had run off, I willed her to come back.  After what seemed like forever, I was able to convince myself to let her go and lay back to sleep.  I replaced the story that was playing in my mind with a prayer and was quickly asleep.

Just before 2 am she scratched on the car door.  Without much fanfare I let her in and we drove back home.  She seemed warm and content.  Whatever her story was, she was tight lipped.