5 Life Lessons From My Four-Legged Friends At The Animal Shelter

5-Life-Lessons-From-My-Four-Legged-Friends-At-The-Animal-ShelterYogis and doggy lovers: my latest post on DoYouYoga!

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Fall with grace, get up with dignity. Yeah right…

yoga-bs-300x300As she rolled up her mat and headed for the door after a 90-minute yoga class I taught a couple of weeks ago, I assumed that would be it. Class over. Mission failed. No one would be back.

And then…”wow – that was awesome. I loved your class.” This from a daily yogi who rarely gives praise.

Huh? How could that be? It sucked. I was sure of it. An earlier sequence slip up, a groan from the back row as I called out another Crow pose, and dead silence from the room full of yogis save for the wave of Ujayi breath (at least I got that part right). It just didn’t feel like one of my stronger classes. I mean, I pride myself on never f***ing up a left side vs. right. And hell of all hells, midway through a hip opening set, a sea of left legs launched into the air when I actually meant right. “Right leg yogis!!” Big ole break in the flow. Class must have been a bust, right?

Wrong (or is it left? Grrr.) But here’s the thing. The longer I teach, the more I realize that, the class I’m teaching is not about me. It’s about them. My students. Who are human. And on some level, probably appreciate a mistake on my part every now and then just to assure them that yeah, I fuck up too sometimes.

And that’s part of the flow of life. Failing is part of the process of growth. How can I honestly encourage my students to fall, shake it off, get back up and be totally cool with it if I can’t do it myself? Even in the role of teacher?

I was thinking about this during a recent class when one of my teachers reminded us to “fall with grace, and get up with dignity.”

I’ll try to keep that in mind going forward – even if I inwardly curse should a left inadvertently turn into a right. It’s alright, Shannon. Right?

Or do I mean left…

My Lesson From A Bulldog: Don’t Rush The Process

bulldog image“When you’re here, you’re on dog time,” she not so gently reminded the room full of volunteers. As I sat between two other dog lovers intent on learning how to improve our canine socialization skills at Main Line Animal Rescue the other night, I realized, that if I had a tail, it surely would have been tucked under to its lowest point.

Because just 30 minutes prior, in my failed attempt to get Luka, the English Bulldog, out of her crate and into the field to do her business, I was operating on Shannon time, which went something like this:

  • open crate door, reach for Luka
  • Luka retreats, sticks her lower jaw out in protest
  • climb in crate, on all fours – much to the incredulity of another volunteer witnessing this absurd approach toward getting a shy dog to cooperate
  • attempt to speed things up with a treat: C’mon Luka girl! Yum yum!
  • get collar on, only to witness Luka’s impressive brake system. She is clearly not going anywhere with some idiot human who thinks a treat and pathetic coaxing will do the job

Time. No one, including me, seems to have time anymore. When we want something, we want it now. But as I prepared to teach my 90-minute yoga class this morning, I perused a chapter in one of my favorite books by Baron Baptiste (“40 Days to Personal Revolution”) and thought about my recent lesson from Luka. The chapter is aptly titled, “Don’t Rush the Process.”

I’ve done a pretty good job reminding myself not to rush my yoga practice, or my students’ practice by introducing certain poses too soon, or moving through poses too fast. But how easy it is to forget to take this lesson off the mat, as I learned the hard way volunteering with rescue dogs the other night.

Don’t rush the process. Positive transformation, for the dogs, and me, will happen on their time, not mine.

A clump of dirt or something more?

brown toadI thought it was a clump of dirt. Until it leapt a good foot or so onto the sidewalk. It’s almost as if the little brown toad was testing me. “Ha! Fooled ya! Are you always so quick to judge? Was I really not worth a second glance?” the little critter taunted me.

My intention was to go for a pre-dawn ‘nature’ walk and take it all in – the little buds forming on the trees, a bird or two chirping, the inevitable a-hole blowing past the 30 mph limit toward some corporate parking lot. You know, to be present and ‘in the moment’.

That was my intention. Reality was another matter. iPhone in pocket, my hand danced around its edges trying to resist the urge to escape what was right in front of me in favor of the latest FB post. My mind couldn’t stop oscillating between yesterday’s weird encounter with a student in my yoga class, and a fear of forgetting a friend’s birthday tomorrow. So no, Mr. Toad, I wasn’t paying much attention to you. I nearly kicked the small brown mass in front of me out of the way.

Until it jumped. And with that leap of toad-like faith, I got yanked right back into the present moment. And realized, in this awesome news flash from nature, how important, and how damn hard it is, to stay present. But certainly worth the effort, as Mr. Toad reminded me today:

Drift off and you risk treating others like dirt. Literally, in this case, as I nearly missed the life form in front of my foot. Figuratively, when I fail to connect with the barista looking back at me across the counter with a cool pair of glasses I could either notice, compliment, and lift their spirits, or stay glued to my phone and behave like just another spaced out caffeine addict.

Reminisce and miss the opportunity to find joy now. Different time. Different dog. I had to remind myself of this as I walked Mr. Rider, a handsome standard poodle I’ve recently befriended at the animal rescue I volunteer at. He rocks the same prancing gait, big pouffy ears and soulful eyes as my late standard Mr. Bentley, who died last year. I could either stay in the moment with Mr. Rider, paying attention to everything he was experiencing right now – a treat in my pocket he’s salivating over, another dog barking nearby – or allow memories of Mr. Bentley to spew forth. To walk Mr. Rider down Bentley’s memory lane would have robbed him, and me, of the opportunity to form a cool canine/human connection.

Life doesn’t exist on a screenI thought of Mr. Toad as I reached for the iPad before getting into bed. Body and mind exhausted from an active day of teaching yoga, practicing yoga, and getting big, strong, high-energy dogs out of the kennel to play meant I needed rest. Now. Not after mindlessly scrolling through a log of FB posts of what other people, someplace else, at some other time, were doing.

So next time you see a clump of dirt. Look twice. It might be life looking back at you – pleading with you to experience it, as it is, right now.