Meditating with Labs

categories: Cocktail Hour


I have been meditating in the mornings recently. After years of mocking those who claim to want to “be in the present moment”–“Cows, for instance, are good at being in the present,” I wrote in one book–and agreeing with Ed Abbey that I liked Gary Snyder’s work “except for all the Zen bullshit,” I have embraced my inner monk. It’s really more of a return than a new beginning, however, since past versions of me have spent a good deal of time with my eyes closed and legs crossed. The first time was after seeing a psychiatrist as a twelve year old when an obsession with the idea that “everything is nothing” ballooned out of control.  The second was after my bout with cancer at thirty when none other than Mr. Mindfulness, Jon Cabot Zinn, led my post-operation meditation sessions in the hospital with a voice that was meant to be soothing but that I found annoyingly adenoidal.  My reaction to his commands to calm myself was an urge to strike him, though how much that had to do with my shock over my sudden turn of medical fate I am not sure. On neither occasion did the practice take. Unlike napping in the afternoon, a staple of mine, it did not fit my day’s rhythms. Sitting never quite fit my constitution the way the more active meditations of biking and running did.


Until now. Now, older and grayer, I find I can suddenly put in 40 morning minutes on the yoga mat, and head to my desk feeling as if I’ve popped half a Xanax. True, I have adapted the practice to fit to my personality by making it more active and athletic, adding in some sessions of Wim Hof breath holding.  And it’s also true that there are still challenges. One is the persistence of our two yellow labs, who seem equally amused and attracted by the fact that I, after feeding them and letting them out to pee, choose not to retreat to my writing desk, as I have since they have known me, but instead sit down on the floor and lounge with them, part of the pack. The issue is compounded by the fact that they, being labs, like to stay close. And while I try to focus on my breathing I hear not just my own inhalations and exhalations, but two others sets of the same echoing mine. And so my attempts at oneness start with three-ness. Luckily the sounds they make don’t spark the Pavlovian response that Zinn’s did. Together, sometimes in rhythm and sometimes not, we pant our way toward Nirvana.

  1. Rahul Dave writes:
  2. Bobby Riddell writes:

    Yes, but…beware the dog breath! No wonder you look comatose, Sheeba is venting in your airspace.

  3. Sharon writes:

    Yellow labs are the ultimate companions!