|Posted on January 12, 2017 at 9:55 PM|
I pulled my plastic container of winter clothes from the attic. The temperature started falling and our house, with its inadequate insulation, started to feel like it was being squeezed into the icy grip of yet another winter. It was time to find the warm and cozy things I love so much that keep me warm and comfortable during soup and stew weather. The container of clothes has had pretty much the same contents for the last few years. I rarely invest in new clothes and my body cooperates fully by staying roughly the same size year after year. But this year was different. For the first time in a long time my pants were very tight. I mean, I could button and zip them, but the uncomfortable pressure on my expanding waistline meant it was time to do something about the flab that menopause was depositing on my middle. I decided there and then that it was time to get a new healthy habit started. I began walking in the morning.
Without having a plan, I just decided to bundle up and head out. I downloaded an app on my phone so I could track my steps then stomped out the front door. As I meandered down my street, then rounded the corner and started down the long sidewalk that runs alongside the Cinnaminson Middle School athletic fields I had no idea where to go or how long I should walk. Before long I found myself at the end of that sidewalk and absentmindedly wandered across the street to where a tiny church stands with its ancient grave yard. American flags fluttering next to granite and marble headstones, the graveyard silently honors life while affirming our very temporary existence here on earth. The wind picked up and I pulled my scarf a little tighter around my chin, slid the cuff of my winter hat down a little lower over my ears and headed down the street toward the park.
As I walked I realized this was the perfect time to do my Vedic mantra chants. I had spent a good part of the last year and a half learning Vedic mantras as a spiritual practice. Before I started walking, my usual morning routine would be to get up, throw on some yoga pants and a big sweater then head downstairs to the living room where I had set up an altar containing statues, pictures, crystals and other sacred objects that help me connect to the other realms. I would dutifully sit on my meditation cushion, light some candles and begin breathing to relax and center my attention on my interior world. Then I would begin chanting mantras, first focusing on the root chakra and invoking Ganesh, then the sacral chakra and Vishnu, going chakra by chakra chanting the mantra for each Hindu god or goddess until I reached the crown chakra and goddess Saraswati. The more mantras I learned the more chanting I did and the practice grew to a full thirty minutes of mantra chanting. Since now I decided to shift things around a bit and start my day in motion, the mantras would just have to be chanted while putting one foot in front of the other, facing the elements and taking in the changing sky as the sun rose higher in the sky. I loved it!
As I crossed the intersection and kept heading toward the park the mantras came easily. I carried a mala with me, a set of prayer beads, so that I could lose myself in mantras while I walked. I could feel my spirit delighting in this new practice and as I walked and breathed, chanted and prayed I could feel myself getting lighter and lighter. What started as a desire to lose some inches around my waist ended up becoming a very enjoyable way to start the day, connect to my angels and guides and get some much needed fresh air.
When I arrived at Memorial Park, the entrance was being renovated to construct a new parking lot and there were huge mounds of asphalt gravel and rock. Construction vehicles dotted the area and tall chain link fences kept kids from climbing up on those piles. I watched day after day as the parking lot started to take shape and each day the piles were diminished a little more slowly becoming incorporated into the paved lot. Winding my way around the construction zone I found my way into the park where the athletic fields reminded me of the days long ago when my kids played softball and soccer there. This park was designed to host tournaments and the main attractions are the fields of play. It is ringed by an asphalt walking track and beyond the paved areas it is ringed by waterways that connect in one way or another to the Delaware river. There isn’t a whole lot of wild space there, but what is there hosts many birds and creek dwelling critters. A blue heron can sometimes be seen majestically perched in the middle of the water balanced on one leg and looking statuesque. Bald eagles nest nearby and often perch high atop the power lines that run directly across the entire park. It was here that I first caught sight of Joe.
At first I thought I was seeing my dog Misty who passed away years ago. I saw a black dog off in the distance that had the same shape and carried himself the same way that Misty did. They could have been siblings. Aside from the color, they were so much alike. A man was standing still, keeping vigil over the black dog and another hound dog who sported a little sweater. They were a little family these three, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the park and enjoying just being outside. As I continued walking along the asphalt track I got closer to the trio. Joe must have caught a whiff of a stranger. He bounded toward me but seemed to head off track. As he got closer I could see that he was missing his right eye. It was just like fur covered over the place where his eye should be. The other eye was cloudy with a cataract and now I could tell he was almost completely blind. Still he found me and I reached down to say hello to him. He pushed his body into my legs and reveled in the attention. His person came over and we struck up a conversation. I learned that the one-eyed dog was Joe and that he was in a shelter for two and a half years. Joe’s person, Terry, told me that no one wanted him because he was missing an eye and because he was so old. That made him more endearing to Terry and he just had to take him home.
As I got to know more and more about Joe and Terry, I was introduced to the hound dog, too. His name was Lucky and he was Terry’s neighbor’s dog. I think he’s Joe’s friend and companion and he gets to tag along whenever Terry takes Joe to the park. I could tell right away that Joe was a very special dog. I believe he has magical powers. Terry said that Joe has to be petted by a stranger or at least by someone new every day so he can earn enough pets to get into heaven. Terry’s not sure what the rules are, but it’s something like that. He also told me that he’s had dogs his whole life and all of them were named Joe. This little guy is Joe 25. We laughed about it and I pictured Joe with his little tally sheet proving to St. Peter at the heavenly gates that he’s got a right to enter Paradise as the 25th Joe.
I don’t think any dog has to earn his way into heaven. They come from heaven to give us love, unconditional love, and they teach us how to be compassionate, loving, patient and kind. Dogs are God’s way of proving that we are simply here to enjoy life for they give us plenty of examples of how to live life free from stress and worry. Sure some dogs are nervous and anxious and need someone to be patient with them. But then so do we.
As Christmas time approached, I felt compelled to give Joe a gift, a box of Christmas cookie doggie treats. It was December 23rd and I went out for a walk with the cookies in my coat pocket. Sure as the sun rises, there was Terry with his buddies and a few other park-loving dogs and their people. I got to know a few more wonderful people and make lots more doggie friends with the cookies. I gave the box of cookies to Terry and he opened them up and gave them out to all the dogs that were there and there were quite a few!
I think God directed me to go out walking by making me put on a few pounds. Somehow He knew that I was missing my dog and that I needed to make a few new friends. He wanted me to do something kind for my body and for my mind, too. This walk gives me a chance to pray without thinking about how long it will take. It is the same route every day and it takes about an hour and it covers 2.75 miles, or roughly 5, 300 steps. Not a bad way to start the day! When I say goodbye to Terry, Joe and Lucky I exit the park and start the trek back to my house. I start talking to myself out loud. I tell myself what I want to be true and I know that by saying it out loud with confidence that it will become my truth. I am strong! I am powerful! I am creative, loving, kind, generous, charitable, intelligent, motivated, inspired and inspiring. I am a writer, a speaker, a teacher. I am changing the world. I am Love in action. I am a divine being, whole, perfect, limitless and powerful. I am fearless!
By saying these words to myself and declaring it with my voice I am each day growing into the person I know I am but have yet to fully realize or experience. I can do anything with my energy and attention and my love. I choose to be a peace maker. Reaching out to new people I grow that circle of Love. Joe came to me with his sweet little face and furry smile and made me realize that we are all beautiful regardless of what we look like on the outside. I can feel the truth of our nature. He is a beautiful expression of God and so am I. I would have never expected a little thing like a morning walk to affect me so profoundly, but it has and I am eternally grateful.