This being my first entry in this blog, and the blog being primarily about bodywork, you’d think I’d start of with some talk of massage or self-care, but instead I’m going to write about my dog, Lucy.
It’s a little strange sometimes to see certain aspects of my personality reflected back to me in my dog – the way she enters social situations, her interactions with people for the first time and the evolution of her relationships with people through regular meetings, and particularly the way she relaxes into situations that she inherently trusts in her system. Frankly, it’s pretty cool and a wonderful opportunity for me to see my own neuroses sometimes, for lack of a better word.
And today Lucy presented me with yet another learning opportunity. CranioSacral training starts again on Wednesday. Being the classic procrastinator that I am, I discovered that in the nearly 2 months since the last training, I haven’t opened my anatomy book to even entertain the idea of doing my homework. So, reverting back to high school, my Sunday was spent with my nose in good ol’ Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy (a mind-blowing work of artistic and anatomical beauty, by the way) studying the pelvis and diaphragms and the cervical spine. Occasional glances out the sliding glass doors to the backyard made me aware of the changing light as the day progressed without me moving from my perch at the dining room table. And Lucy, ever the constant companion, lounged blissfully on the floor, occasionally shifting positions to chase the moving sunlight across the floor.
Finally, inspired in part by guilt at having not gotten her outside to run around (nor myself for that matter), I took a break from drawing and labeling the Occiput, grabbed her leash and off we went to one of my favorite open space trails in North Boulder.
At the trailhead, I unclipped Lucy from her leash and off she went, running through the grass, pausing to sniff an unfamiliar smell, tearing up the trail and then bolting back towards me, skidding to a halt at my feet with a hopefully look on her face – eyes trained on my right hand in my jacket pocket, the one that in her 5 years she has learned always contains treats. And then off again.
As I settled back into my body, feeling the earth beneath my feet, breathing in the chilly early evening air and noticing the vague scent of manure (the lovely Boulder precursor signifying a storm a-brewin’), I watched Lucy and smiled to myself, ever-grateful to have a dog that forces me to get out and move, even when I’ve got a list of other things that need to get done.
And here’s the lesson that came to me as I walked down the trail, occasionally doling out treats. Lucy spent a majority of the day in a restful, sedentary state. It was a quiet day, that much was clear to her from my nearly total lack of movement, and she took that quiet to rest. Yet, here we were outside and she moved seemingly effortlessly from rest to movement – and quick movement at that. While I realize she’s a dog and it’s a little far-fetched (no pun intended) for me to personify or even psycho-analyze her mental state in any given moment, I found myself thinking about my own ease of movement – of moving between states of being. It took me a while on this walk to shake off a day of sitting at a table with my attention so narrowly focused on the task at hand. But eventually I found myself more upright, breathing deeply, and taking in my surroundings. My shoulders shifted back to a more relaxed position and as I moved I felt my body shift and release and settle. It was as if my body was taking the time to realize that, after a day of tasking at a table, I was now outside and moving and using different parts of myself.
Balance is a word that is tossed about so often these days it’s almost cliché. But watching Lucy tear through the field this evening I was reminded of balance. I’m a Libra – balance and the pursuit of it feels almost encoded in my genes. I’ve spent many years trying to achieve balance, to find that quiet, easy resting place between couch potato and frantic busyness. I’ve learned, however, that balance (at least in my experience) is not so much about finding that even-keel and maintaining it, but rather finding a way of moving with ease and grace, and a solid dose of compassion for oneself, between things. It is as if we’re all holding on for dear life to a pendulum, inevitably swinging between two extremes. Sometimes the swing from one to another is huge and fraught with hard challenges. And sometimes it’s subtle, softer, less difficult in some ways, but a shift nonetheless. And sometimes still there’s hardly any movement and we’re just hanging out in this very quiet space. These times tend to be the most short-lived, for me at least, because inevitably something happens to get the pendulum swinging again, the wind blows in just the right way and we’re off swinging – learning from each direction we’re catapulted in. So again I return to balance when thinking of this pendulum swing – that perhaps the pursuit of balance is not to always be in that stillness, but rather to find ease and grace in the swing, in movement between.
When we got home from our walk, Lucy promptly settled down into her bed by the fire to rest – finding movement once again, this time in the other direction.