I wrote this to honor my best friend Champ, who is currently battling some health issues. He is making a recovery, like you would expect, because he is the Champ. He is also the dog of my current tenant, Anthony Ranaudo.
(Insert deep-breath/mantra here)
There are a few things working in my favor that make this take—these comparative words of dog and Zen—both unique and something to consider; two reasons why these won’t be just more saturated sentences. I’ve listed them below, to be helpful:
- Champion (full, legal name) is a remarkably unique dog. Anyone who has been around him knows this. Seeing the world through his lens, or even imagining it, is something worthwhile.
- Me. As a pretty safe rule, most people who write about Buddhism, or dogs, or both, are boring. Boring and a little unhinged. I’m not. I’m cool. This type of comparison (dogs and Zen) hasn’t been made in oratory or written word with any jokes mixed in. I’ll make some. They will be good. Out of respect for Champ
To pull any merit from this connection, regardless of the presence of Champ and myself, it is essentially kind of important to know what Zen is.
Isn’t, I think, is most important. Too many people become consumed by the wrong things, in pursuit of the wrong stuff. They assume a set way will lead them to Zen—or an understanding of it. But to really find Zen, and to live in it, you need to make it yours. You need to embrace the process.
(Jokes coming, ambiguity fading, dog connection approaching)
To understand that Zen process, and to familiarize with it, think both about a “journey” and then a “beginner’s mind.” Think beginner in the sense of someone that is new to something: a being motivated by experience, ripe with curiosity, and eager to learn. Japanese Zen Buddhists masters, who have meditated on the reg for years, live with a beginners mind. Expert, or complacency, no matter how seemingly earned, are not things. Not in Zen. A commitment to the present, seeing things anew—even things you’ve seen and practiced for thousands of hours—and curiously living, as a beginner would, is Zen. The constant process and a lens of opportunity is something found in all Zen and probably the best way to both understand and experience it.
Dogs, if you ever intentionally watch them, live completely in that process. Everything is new and everything is fun—thunder and Amazon Prime deliveries can fuck off. Everything to a dog is fun.
Routed in the present, and always curious, a dog is a true “beginner.” Where many strive to understand Zen on an esoteric level, or to master particulars, they can fail by missing the simplest things. One can become fixated upon the end game and the stages of enlightenment but miss what happens along the way—blind to the process. When you watch a dog, Champ in particular, you start to see things differently. A dog will revel in the mundane because it has no concept of mundane. Everything is new and nothing is ordinary. They see the world differently, as a beginner.
Basically, Champ chases and aggressively threatens my Vietnamese neighbor because he is mindfully curious. That’s what I’m getting at.
Now, to Zen, as lived/narrated by by Champ:
This is the best.
This walk is the best.
My best friend Anthony is walking me and he is the best.
I saw this tree yesterday. I am going to pee on it again today. Peeing is the best.
Walking is great.
My friend Anthony. He’s the best. I’m going to shit on the sidewalk because he is carrying one of those bags again and I want him to know I think he’s the best.
Those enlightened to Zen, and dogs, view the world with the same optic—the same lens. They see, and live, in determined appreciation. They also realize that their vision, as part of the whole sensory circuit, is just a way of processing experience. It is something that can be manipulated. Dogs, like Champ, process what they experience through a lens of appreciation. When I take him on the same walk I took him on the day before, he is just as excited that second time. I choose to believe he is living in a state of constant appreciation. Everything is the best because he is living what he is doing completely—present—and he appreciates it. He is seeing it that way. He is eager, and curious, because he appreciates the opportunity to live, eager, and curious.
He respects our ethnic neighbors and the seven chickens they raise in their backyard, in a quiet neighborhood, with HOA fees, and a Whole Foods just down the road if organic is that much of a priority, because he sees the world through a lens of complete appreciation.
Yep, that’s definitely a noise.
(I pull into my driveway after being gone a few quick moments. I left my wallet. Just spent the entire morning with Champ.)
Someone is here. Someone is at the door.
This is exciting.
Maybe it’s someone who is going to take me to the park.
Maybe Beau will have some food to give me.
Maybe another dog is coming over. I like sniffing and new friends.
(I enter kitchen door.)
Oh shit, it’s Beau!
I’m going to run and go see him.
He was just here but I don’t live in the past. I think he is going to take me to the park.
(Pet Champ. Leave for 6 hours.)
Oh yea, we’re going to the park today.
I’ll sit on my floor mat now. Excited!
He is going to be back any minute. Every sound for the rest of the day I will assume to be someone coming to take me to the park. What a day!
(Return in six hours to find that Champ peed on Anthony’s bed. He pees when it thunders.)
A foundation for Zen and for all mindful living is connectivity. Connectivity on a big, triumphant, veiny scale. This beautiful world we live in, and the universe around us, is connected. Everything. Whatever you believe, unless you’re a terrorist, you understand that we live a party to everyone and everything.
It’s also Zen.
The most amazing thing about Zen is something we cannot quantify. It is limitless. It is pure potentiality.
When you are grounded in connectivity, and you become aware of your connection to the universe, everything becomes opportunity. Everything that can be done, and everything that has been done, is connected to you. You are bound by nothing. That realization, and connection, leads to absolute joy. Champ becomes excited in everything he experiences because he knows opportunity is pervasive. Everything is an opportunity and everything is accessible. Zen, in it’s most baseline tangibility, is the connection to that opportunity. I learned all that by watching an 8-year old boxer chase his shadow and drool.
Anthony looks sad.
I can feel it.
Unless its about to thunder. I hate that feeling.
Fuck. I hate thunder.
My best friend is sad. I’m going to put my chin on his knee.
I won’t leave his side.
I wonder why he is sad.
Sometimes I feel sad because I’m single and do not have someone to call my own. But that is just me, Champ, a dog. I wonder why Anthony is sad.
I won’t leave his side.
As we are connected to everything around us, empathy is the best way to connect with everyone around us. Truly feeling, and trying to understand another, is empathy. When you watch a dog you realize there being is empathically driven. Completely. Devoid of the self, they care, and feel, for those around them. Champ cares, and feels, for Mr. Lo Ni Hanh, my neighbor.
I love running through the park.
I’m running through the park!
In the park!
I’m unburdened by social medial, mindless technology, and self-contrived perception.
The sun wakes me, permeating the translucent, glass double doors in the living area. I enjoy sleeping here because there is a natural, organic light that pervades the room. I notice it now, as small matter of dust dances in the beaming light. I wonder if the sun will remain a constant today, unadulterated by the overcast and precipitous clouds that accompany this time of year. I’m going to shit on the floor now.
I think Champ is a genius.