The dog takes me for a walk tonight through warm darkening streets. Doves chuffing softly in the dusk. An old man treading the muddy shoulder of the road. Long, flowing grey hair, bare feet, sandals in hand. He squints a sideways smile at me and I look down, to his mud-painted toes. Beautiful. Serene.
For a moment the world seems flooded with compassion. The sky is pinkening overhead, deepening to rose and then red, navy, turquoise. I feel stones through my thin soles. The dog pulls gently at his leash, his nose poised delicately over a dead squirrel. Its soft beige fur somehow unruffled, eyes half-open like the Buddha, a study in stillness. Contemplation.
It's hard to turn my brain off. And I know it will never be off till I can be like that squirrel, eyes turned inward yet resting outward, nothing in my head, my outsides as still as my insides. It won't happen until I am ready, until I can let go of the idea that I am responsible for everything, that I am to blame. Until I can stop analyzing, self-hating, turning things over and over in my mind. Put off the narcissism in favor of compassion.
This will happen slowly. Slowly as that old man padding along, feeling stone and softness alike beneath his feet, saying Yes to the night sky, Yes to the road, Yes to people passing by.
I try it. With my next breath, I inhale No and exhale Yes. No to the hamster-mind scrambling in its endless wheel, Yes to the Buddha-mind allowing all to flow through. A thought: maybe I don't have to die in order to be still. Maybe I just have to stop caring so much. It's alright to stop caring. It's alright to say, "I can't," and leave it at that.
Dog, deciding the squirrel is not after all very interesting, moves on, and I go with him into the night, toward home and the everyday/everynight that is life. One moment at a time.