Many of you know that I wrote a book called “Short Leash: A Memoir of Dog Walking and Deliverance” in 2013. You might not know how much I struggled coming up with a title. For a long time, I planned on calling it “The Spiritual Practice of Dog Walking, which, to me, fully embodied the heart of the story. Those four years walking Barney were a transformational experience on a soul level.
Dogs are still my anchor to the earth. On my walks now with a still-young (and super-active) pup, I don’t always get a chance to slow down and immerse myself in the natural world like I did with Barney, but it’s always there just the same. When I do take notice of this amazing world, it still surprises me how much I am rewarded for paying attention.
Let me tell you what happened to me back in early March when all of this change began changing everything. At the time, I was preparing a workshop “Writing Your Spiritual Memoir” which was going to take place at the Unity Spiritual Center of the Florida Keys in mid-March. The class filled up quickly and I was excited about teaching it. When it became apparent we were facing a pandemic, the church made a decision to cancel. We talked about doing it online, but I didn’t feel Zoom-savvy enough to consider it.
Not soon after that decision, I woke up one morning at 7 am, which is quite early for me. I thought about getting up and riding my trike to see the sunrise over the ocean, something I’ve wanted to do for some time now. Instead, I lay in bed and thought about this predicament we’re in. All of us. I ruminated about this for a good hour before getting up. Then I checked in on all the latest updates on incompetency and suffering.
For an hour, maybe two, I dawdled for too long in a kind of trance of aimlessness. By the time I got out to walk my dog it was not only too late to see the sunrise but too late to meditate and center myself. I felt out of sorts and unsure and at the same time, paralyzed. Not sure what to do.
It was not a new thing, but at the dawn of the Pandemic, I felt this way a lot.
Ozzy and I kept walking farther and farther east, lured by the promise of an expansive horizon (me) and an expanse of dog park (Ozzy). I stopped to fill his water bowl in the shade of a church at the corner of Johnson Street. While he drank, my eyes drifted across the street and to a bare tree on which shocking pink flowers, spiky as sea urchins, bloomed against a clear blue sky. It was so beautiful it shook me out of my trance of unease, filling me with a needed sense of awe and gratitude.
When I got home, I sat down and wrote about that shock of pink against blue, and how it turned everything around and connected me again with the world. At the time I saw the blossoms, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you that. I just knew I had experienced something out of the ordinary. Something sacred.
“The job of the writer,” author Francine Prose tells us, “Is to say, Oh, that’s how it feels.” Language helps us embody experience. And more fully understand it. As I wrote, it became clear that those blooms were the world touching my soul.
Writing can do that for us, give us an understanding of how even the hard times can hold and shape beauty. How we are connected to each other and everything around us. We have all felt those moments of connection. And disconnection. It’s been the story of our sacred journey of being alive.
Since March, it feels like I’ve been taking a master class in staying connected – with friends, with students, with my spiritual community. I’m sure you’ve had this experience too. Now that I’m over the bump of connecting online, I’d like to revive the workshop “Writing Your Spiritual Memoir” as a Zoom class. Writing is a great way to embody what we are experiencing and to discover and honor the truth of our experience.
There is no charge to attend. I’m doing this as a fundraiser for the Unity Spiritual Center. Donations are welcome, but not necessary.
To register, simply email me and I will send the Zoom link.
Here are the details:
“Writing Your Spiritual Memoir”
Thursday, June 25th, 2020
2-3:30 pm EST, On Zoom
By Zoom invitation only
To register, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
There will be writing examples, quick prompts to get you getting started on documenting the key moments of spiritual movement in your life and exercises to generate further writing.
The writer Maxine Hong Kingston says, “In a time of destruction, create something.” I encourage you to create intentionally - whether writing, painting, cooking, arranging flowers or whatever calls to you. Give back to the world your voice and vision.
Still letting go of the leash,
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“The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth…the named is the mother of ten thousand things.” ~Tao Te Ching
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