Meditation, Einstein and Living in the Moment: Has Your Life Gone to the Dogs?

I have an assistant at my work named Einstein. He's a yellow lab and he's been coming to work with me for about twelve years now, since he was a puppy. Though he's a great help with children and other clients that I see in private practice, helping them feel comfortable; he's an ever greater asset to me. He's very intelligent, kind, gentle, and incredibly sensitive to people's feelings. The two of us go on a walk almost every day. We walk anywhere from a couple of miles to three or four miles; he's very healthy, but now that he's twelve years old he's slowed down quite a bit. When he gets in the car I usually have to give him a little boost to get in. Before I sat down to do this pod cast, Einstein and I went for a walk. I'm in my office in Newport Beach today and behind my office there is a staircase that goes up to the cliffs where Einstein and I like to walk. I was walking ahead of Einstein and the leash that I was holding started tugging and Einstein wasn't following me anymore. He had collapsed on the staircase and was looking up at me rather pitifully. Periodically his legs give way and they had collapsed underneath him as he was walking up the staircase. I, of course, turned around and went down, lifted him up and carried him up the rest of the staircase. We kept on walking, he started sniffing around and we both enjoyed the walk as we always do. As I was walking, I was thinking that what had happened made me realize something about us as humans. What many of us do when something tragic happens is create a story; a story that can run down a very dark path and ruin our day.

For example, in this instance I could have thought: "Oh no, Einstein's getting older, he's not going to be able to walk some day. He may die some day soon. This is horrible. This is terrible. What am I going to do?" But I didn't do that and neither did Einstein. Einstein just walked, he didn't' even think about what had happened. He went on and just did his typical sniffing, walking around, talking to other dogs and having a really good time; just as I did, although I didn't sniff around quite as much as he did. What we didn't do was create a story. Today, right now, Einstein was able to get up and keep walking. He's healthy today. Tomorrow may be different, in a few weeks it may be worse; but right now he is doing fine and we are doing fine and we enjoy our walks together. When he reaches a point where he won't be able to walk anymore, Einstein and I will both adjust to that. If there comes a time, and it will as it comes in all of our lives, where Einstein will head on over to the other side we will adjust to that too. Of course, if Einstein hadn't gotten up and I needed to take him to the hospital I would have done that. I would have done what I had to do to make him well, keep him safe, and have him not suffer. But still, even in that, we would just live in the moment. This is how it relates to mediation.

If you've been reading my articles for a while you know that meditation, from my perspective, is about quieting the mind and living in the present moment basically one breath at a time. There are so many beautiful, wonderful things to be with and meditation teaches us to do just that. When we meditate we concentrate on our mantra, our prayer word, our breath and we don't create stories in our head. We just follow our breath, be present with the moment, and enjoy the meditation experience. When we stop meditating, the goal is to keep this going by being present with what is and trying to keep our minds fairly clear and empty. It's a very child-like approach to living. Just enjoying life one breath at a time, being present with what is, and not creating stories. Einstein is so good at doing this. He has something to teach all of us and we can learn from it.

Meditation is another way to learn how to live in the present moment and really enjoy life's journey. Yes, there will be tragedy. Yes, there will be dark times, but they're much, much darker when we create a story; a story of negativity, a story of what will happen, what might happen instead of just focusing on what is happening.

There's a distinction in the medical community between pain and suffering. Pain is the physical sensation that occurs when we have something physically happen to us that causes us physiological pain. For example, in Einstein's case when he was looking up at me from the stairs he probably was in a bit of pain because he had collapsed and fallen on all fours and couldn't get up. It was probably a bit painful. The suffering would be the mental part; the mental part that we create... "Why did this happen? What's wrong with me? Is this going to get worse? Oh no, oh no, oh no!" We do often do that, creating our own anguish. That is suffering. Suffering is mental and it makes pain far, far worse than just the pain in and of itself. I think that's why meditation is so effective in treating pain because it eliminates the stories we create in our heads.

When Einstein's in pain he doesn't' create a story in his head. When I first got him and he was a puppy, he had a very allergic reaction to something he ate in the backyard. We took him to the pet emergency center because his head had swollen to at least two to three times its normal size. Einstein always loves to meet new people; so even though his head was completely swollen, his tail was wagging away because he was so excited to meet all these new people at the veterinarian emergency center. Meditation teaches us to live in the present moment, not to create stories, and just be. It's a beautiful way of life and I encourage all of us to try it. We will forget, of course, but if we keep going back to it and keep remembering "Oh, I don't have to create a story. All I need to focus on is that there's a problem, can I fix it?" Einstein was stuck on the stairs, I picked him up, and we went for a walk. That's all it was. All of us have things happen in life. The one thing in life that is guaranteed is that life will change; but by not creating a story we adjust to change so much better. We respond instead of react, when we don't create a story. Life can go pretty well when we don't create a story and we just enjoy life one breath, one moment at a time. Meditation is our tool for teaching us how to do this.

Remember, after you stop meditating in the morning and in the evening keep your mind in that meditative state, that state of present awareness, of just being throughout the day. Of course we need to use our minds to make decisions and other things throughout the day but far, far, far less than we actually need to use it. What I believe we will find is that if we just quiet our mind, live in the zone by just being, life actually goes much, much better.

Let's try to live like Einstein; not create stories out of tragedies and just get up and start walking again. I think we will find that this is a healthy way to live our lives.

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