Sunday, May 5, 2013

Susan Browne: "Buddha's Dogs"

I'm at a day-long meditation retreat, eight hours of watching
      my mind with my mind,
and I already fell asleep twice and nearly fell out of my chair,
      and it's not even noon yet.

In the morning session, I learned to count my thoughts, ten in
      one minute, and the longest
was to leave and go to San Anselmo and shop, then find an
      outdoor cafe and order a glass

of Sancerre, smoked trout with roasted potatoes and baby
      carrots and a bowl of gazpacho.
But I stayed and learned to name my thoughts, so far they are:
      wanting, wanting, wanting,

wanting, wanting, wanting, wanting, wanting, judgment,
      sadness. Don't identify with your
thoughts, the teacher says, you are not your personality, not your

then he bangs the gong for lunch. Whoever, whatever I am is
      given instruction
in the walking meditation and the eating meditation and walks
      outside with the other

meditators, and we wobble across the lake like The Night of the
      Living Dead.
I meditate slowly, falling over a few times because I kept my
      foot in the air too long,

towards a bench, sit slowly down, and slowly eat my sandwich,
      noticing the bread,
(sourdough), noticing the taste, (tuna, sourdough), noticing
      the smell, (sourdough, tuna),

thanking the sourdough, the tuna, the ocean, the boat, the
      fisherman, the field, the grain,
the farmer, the Saran Wrap that kept this food fresh for this
      body made of food and desire

and the hope of getting through the rest of this day without
      dying of boredom.
Sun then cloud then sun. I notice a maple leaf on my sandwich.
      It seems awfully large.

Slowly brushing it away, I feel so sad I can hardly stand it, so I
      name my thoughts; they are:
sadness about my mother, judgment about my father, wanting
      the child I never had.

I notice I've been chasing the same thoughts like dogs around
      the same park most of my life,
notice the leaf tumbling gold to the grass. The gong sounds,
      and back in the hall.

I decide to try lying down meditation, and let myself sleep. The
      Buddha in my dream is me,
surrounded by dogs wagging their tails, licking my hands.
      I wake up

for the forgiveness meditation, the teacher saying, never put
      anyone out of your heart,
and the heart opens and knows it won't last and will have to
      open again and again,

chasing those dogs around and around in the sun then cloud
      then sun.

"Buddha's Dogs" by Susan Browne, from Buddha's Dogs. © HarperCollins Publishers, 1995.  

Image credit: "Running Beach Dogs," acrylic painting by Marie Mason, 2013 (originally color).


  1. It's Monday and this was just what the dr. ordered. I'm going to try to stop letting my own mind chase the same negative thoughts around the park today. This just made my day begin positively. Thank you!

  2. "I notice I've been chasing the same thoughts like dogs around
    the same park most of my life,"
    So, so true. Thank you for this.


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