This is my dog Abbe the day she arrived in my home five years ago: Jan. 3, 2007. Almost four months old, and a 7 lb. bundle of energy and curiosity, she didn't understand me too well, and I didn't understand her. She didn't understand collars and leashes and commands to sit. Neither did I. She didn't understand why she couldn't just pee in the corner and gnaw contently on the doorframe. I didn't understand how to get these points across in her language. We walked in the park while it snowed, and her little paws iced over. We made a lot of mistakes. We both thought the other was kind of goofy, so we accepted the mistakes with good humor. We didn't hold them against each other.
She got sleepy a lot. She could go from full tilt to full out snore in less than a minute.
Now, we understand each other much better. For instance,this past New Year's weekend, I traveled with Abbe to Port Townsend, stayed in a little apartment by the bay. When we arrived, Abbe clearly asked me for something. And I understood, after a few daft minutes, what it was she wanted. I then fulfilled her need—it was a simple one after all—and then we took a nap.
We had traveled from Bellingham, by car and by ferry, bought groceries at the co-op, and Abbe had waited (not so patiently) all that time to get out of the car. I brought in our things while Abbe sniffed out the place, then immediately headed to bed. I put the lavender eye pillow on my face, tried to settle into a nap, but Abbe whined—a distinct, urgent whine—from the kitchen.
I got up. She got up and stared at me intently. I moved toward the sink and Abbe moved with me, hurried around to plant herself squarely in front of me, whined again. Of course: water. I filled her water bowl, set it down, and she lapped it all up, gulping as if she were dying of thirst. Back to bed: now we could all relax. She settled herself against my legs, let out a sigh. No reproach. No, why didn’t you take care of me earlier? Just happiness that now she’d gotten what she needed. No more, no less.
I would like to be so accepting. I’ve found often I don't really know what I need and so become vaguely dissatisfied with everything I receive. I mutter in my head a list of grievances. Whining, but not the clear, unambiguous whine of my dog. No, this whine is petulant, childish. And if I do finally receive what I think I need, it is tainted with this aura of complaint.
So now, in 2012, with little Abbe as my guru, my intention is to recognize when I am whining and to turn that whine into something clearer, more conducive to exchanges of truth: no grudges, no miffed complaints.
In yoga I've learned to listen to the truth of my body, but also to what my heart so clearly communicates. It can be so nuanced, this listening: you need to grow very quiet and concentrate at that edge between striving and acceptance, the boundary line between productive and unproductive pain. The other day, as I tried to push myself up from full belly into a hovering plank, I involuntarily let out a loud “ooof” as I found myself stuck on the ground. I started laughing, my neighbor started laughing, and soon the entire class was laughing at this simple truth, this acceptance: the pose is hard. All we can do is try.