Meet my teacher, Zuzu… On a bright, crisp day this past autumn, Zuzu came along for a walk with my friend Lynn and me. As the photo suggests, Zuzu is a delight - young, friendly and highly energetic - and as we wandered about at a pace which allowed us humans an easy conversation, she eagerly sniffed and wagged, sometimes stopping abruptly, sometimes straining the limits of her leash by darting in another direction entirely. Well practiced at walking, talking and attending, Lynn monitored this enthusiastic exploration with firm and consistent voice cues, a deft maneuvering of the adjustable leash, and a generous, loving reward of both voice and touch when Zuzu responded. We three enjoyed a lovely afternoon.
Days later, I was taking another walk, this time alone. More often than not, I’ve found that the natural world in combination with physical movement quiets and settles my mind and offers a welcome respite from nagging or distracting or worrisome thoughts. This day it was not to be so. There was something insistent on my mind and the beauty of the outdoors was mere background. I walked as thoughts spun and tumbled, repeating and enlarging themselves in a way that catapulted the narrative well beyond the initial source of my concern and that which I actually knew to be true. And as the thoughts proliferated, what had begun as wondering turned to fretting which quickly devolved into a state of worry. I was caught…caught as surely as Zuzu’s attention had been captured by an intriguing scent or a stray candy wrapper carried by a gust of wind. My body was walking, but my mind was in the future where everything had “turned out” and not only wasn’t the outcome to my liking, it was certain to lead to even more devastating consequences. Until…
I became aware… and what arrived in that moment were the words “Leave it”… the simple instruction Lynn had given over and over again on our walk when Zuzu had latched onto some inedible or potentially harmful bit. Fast forward a few days and there was a sudden recognition that my mind was ensnarled in a thought loop and there was the possibility that I, too, could “leave it.” Remarkably, there was no need to wrestle with anything. There was nothing harsh or demanding or restrictive. For that moment, the thoughts released and with that release came increased contact with my body and with the sensory world.
Over the years, I have become familiar with many useful meditation instructions. “Leave it” is now among them.