This flu season continues to prove to be one of the worst ever, and unfortunately I am participating personally quite unenthusiastically. Still, there has been a great benefit to this in how many things I am learning through observation of my own mind and body.
This morning was especially interesting and entertaining to me. With little physical energy to sit and meditate, my determination (viriya) to sit and practice, for even a short time, moved me toward the cushion. My fever seemed to be coming and going from minute to minute. Hot and clammy, then feeling cold with chills. Body aches, one of my teeth is bothering me for days, a terrible pain in one shoulder, stomach is a little upset, and even though I have not eaten yet I seem to have indigestion as well. Still, I persevered and gently placed my rear-end on the cushion in front of the Buddha. I closed my eyes and began centering and adjusting my body to be as comfortable as I could under these circumstances. Having found a good position, I took a few deep long breaths to begin my attempt at relaxing my body. What happened next was the most amazing and unexpected lesson.
In typical manner, I brought my palms together and raised them to my forehead. At this point, I typically focus my mind on offering my thoughts, words and actions to the benefit of the self and all beings and then bowing as I take refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. My hands go from my head to my lips, to my chest as a symbol of thoughts, words and actions.
Being fully focused, I made my three hand movements and then began to make my first bow in refuge. But halfway down to the floor my head banged abruptly into our giant Golden Retrievers head. Somehow he had quietly moved into position right in front of me, and our two heads collided. For a split second I was going to be upset, but then burst out in laughter. Our Chow Chow was on my left side just watching me, and the Golden had to be right in front I guess. If I was going to meditate, then gosh darn it, so were they!
So where is the unexpected lesson in this? Because all of the aches and pains, fever and chills, were instantly gone once I bumped heads with the dog and began to laugh. I could see so clearly in that moment that the mind and the body are completely on their own when it comes to suffering. And it is really only because we allow our minds to create stories about our physical condition that we suffer mentally. It is not something that we have to do, but suffering that we bring on ourselves by a lack of understanding. The understanding that as long as we are alive we will be subject to aches and pains, sickness and disease. But with mindfulness and complete understanding (sati-sampajañña), we do not have to suffer mentally at all. That suffering is completely optional.
I suppose once again my animals have been my teacher. I am so grateful how they continue to teach me and ask nothing in return. Well, perhaps a few biscuits now and then and some hugs and kisses that I gladly offer.
But bottom line is that I am grateful for this life. Even for this achy, feverish and sickly body.
May you be well, happy and peaceful.